Twitter Part 2: Converting Dark Users to Active Users

Yesterday I wrote about the advertising differences between Facebook and Twitter, one of the reasons that Facebook is more profitable than Twitter. Another reason that was singled out as being problematic for Twitter is the flattened growth of active users.

Twitter doesn’t report the total number of registered users, just the number of monthly active users (MAUs.) These are users that log in at least once a month, but don’t necessarily post their own tweets. Nevertheless, these are Twitter’s desirable users.

The problem seems to be, as quantified by Business Insider, that “only 28% of its user base was active” and that the “numbers suggest that, historically, most people who use Twitter abandon it.”

Given that percentage, it may be easier for Twitter to convert dormant users to active users than to sign up new ones. It also reinforces the often-heard complaint that Twitter is hard to understand.

I recently opened a new Twitter account for a new business and re-encountered the “new user” experience and I must admit, when you first encounter an empty stream it’s hard to understand the attraction of Twitter. It’s only after you build up your “following” list that it becomes interesting. It’s only after you learn how to engage on Twitter that it becomes exciting.

So how can Twitter speed up this process and help new users become active users? Two ideas:

1. One of the things Google+ did well was that they allowed users to share entire circles. That means that with one click you can be following hundreds of users and your stream comes to life. Instead of just presenting users with an empty stream and a strong admonition to “follow someone” Twitter can offer a few curated lists of active, verified twitter users that the new users can add instantly. It will be easier and faster for them to remove users from their following list than to create a new one. These lists can include celebrities and reporters from their respective fields and can focus on various sports, arts, news, politics and so on. Choosing even one list will instantly fill up the user’s stream with information they’ve chosen. Twitter already allows users to share lists but this needs to be something more aggressive, right after registration, even before the user has followed their first person.

2. The second stage of Twitter love is engagement. Most of the celebrities that may have been included in the initial lists may not be the most engaging of Twitter personalities. In fact, they’re probably not. My feeling is that twitter may need to actively encourage this as opposed to waiting for it to happen organically. One company that does this well is Yelp. By creating the Elite program they’ve found a way to reward those that are active in the community. Twitter can do this with their own community ambassadors, their newbie initiators, their own welcoming committee. One way to do this is to create a list of local, engaging twitter users that a new user can add to his following list. Once they’re added, they can reach out to the new user and try to engage or respond to the new user’s tweets. After all, there’s nothing more discouraging than having a run of unanswered tweets.

It may not convert every “dark” user, but it’s a start.

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