For many people, Twitter is like Cinderella – the belle of the ball who will suddenly become a servant-girl again at the stroke of midnight. It explains why there’s a steady flow of reports that Twitter has plateaued or that Twitter is in decline whenever a report from Nielsen, comScore or Compete is published.
The latest “Cinderella” story comes from eMarketer, which breathlessly asks “Tweeting No More?” based on a 27.8% decline in unique visitors to Twitter.com in October, compared with September. While that number is large, there are likely several reasons to explain some or most of the decline.
The most obvious is the growing popularity of non-Twitter.com services and applications such as Tweetdeck, Seesmic, HootSuite, CoTweet, Thwirl, Tweetie, Twitterrific, Brizzly and SplitTweet. While Twitter has dabbled in making changes to Twitter.com, external developers are raced ahead with much better products that come with more useful and compelling bells and whistles.
For many people, Twitter.com is like a bike with training wheels. Once they have the hang of Twitter, many people move on to something else. While Twitter.com has added some new wrinkles recently such as Lists, it’s simply not good enough to maintain its place as the place where active Twitter users hang out.
In many respects, this is another one of those Twitter head-scratchers: the willingness to let others be innovative and, in the process, poach traffic coming to Twitter.com. Why, for example, has Twitter not used any of its venture capital booty to create an AIR application to compete with Tweetdeck or Seesmic. Where’s the ability to manage multiple accounts to compete against CoTweet or SplitTweet? Where’s the super-cool wireless application to battle Twitterrific? For all the talk about Twitter monetizing itself with ads, traffic to monetize those ads is slipping away.
Another interesting consideration is that according to a recent study by Sysomos (a client), Twitter.com’s market share has stayed flat over the past five months at about 46%.
So, how do you correlate flat market share with declining traffic?
Maybe it has to do with the data being crunched. Given the large ecosystem and the different ways people are using Twitter, it may be that getting view of the TwitterSphere is difficult, if not impossible. For all we know, the data collected by Nielsen, comScore and Compete may be inaccurate….or not.