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Twitter Growth Slowdown Shows We're Sick Of Shouting

Twitter may have to find itself a new business model, if recent numbers are any indication.

Michael Hickins

October 13, 2009

3 Min Read

Twitter may have to find itself a new business model, if recent numbers are any indication.Facebook and Twitter are in the midst of their first actual traffic slump, and it's no June swoon, according to Mashable's Stan Schroeder.

Somewhere in June, however, Twitter stopped growing, at least according to Compete. The same thing happened to Facebook at the exact same time; at first we've attributed the traffic numbers to the summer slumber, but now that Compete's numbers for September are out, there's no doubt that both Facebook and Twitter are no longer growing, at least in the eyes of the (admittedly US-centric) Compete.

Big deal? Maybe not for Facebook, which, as Schroeder notes, is already pretty huge. Maturity happens. The site is so large that even 2 percent growth represents some real numbers.

Twitter, though, is another story. It grew by over one thousand percent over the past twelve months, but actually experienced a decline of almost one percent in unique visitors in September, indicating that the Twitter backlash today is stronger and more rooted in reality than the Twitter backlash of early 2009.

Maybe we've simply gotten sick of all the shouting.

Twitter used to be unfairly tarred as a way for people to tell their friends what they had for breakfast. Now it's broadly understood that it's mainly a way for Miley Cyrus to get too much attention and Antonio Cromartie to complain about the food at Chargers' training camp.

People like to lurk and stalk their favorite celebrities at a safe distance, but it doesn't mean they want to emulate their every pratfall and disgrace. And while Twitter allows zealots to echo the quips of their political heroes, most of us are simply more and more turned off and tuned out to the ravings of the lunatic fringe.

Companies are just now beginning to understand the value of social media (like Twitter) as a way of listening to and communicating with their customers, and that too is leading savvy consumers to keep away from yet another corporate listening post. I mean, do I really want Big Corporate Brother butting in when I rail about its lousy product or service? I want help when I ask for it, not when I'm venting, thank you very much.

Facebook, on the other hand, allows me to communicate with my friends meaningfully. With Facebook, my status update hangs around a bit, I see comments to the comments I make to my friends' status updates, I can play games, and I can chat. In other words, there's a real interaction and reaction going on.

Twitter doesn't have those features, unless you consider parallel ranting to be a constructive exercise.

A few months ago, Twitter was still being disparaged for all the wrong reasons, as an exercise in myopia and egocentric trivia. Now, however, I suspect it's being discarded for many of the right reasons. There was a limit to even Oscar Wilde's capacity to crack wise, and the machine-gun cadence of modern communications technology makes it impossible for even the brightest wag's ability to keep pace.

So the jokes and digs and endless self-promotion are getting old, while Facebook seems like a quaint old refuge, plenty useful enough for most purposes, soon to be augmented by the integration of FriendFeed.

Maybe it's not too late for Twitter to find a better business model. But to misappropriate the words of Yogi Berra, who is an especially apt pundit during this time of year, it gets late around social networking pretty quick.

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