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Twitter has 175M users? The scam of the century

Follower counts

In a meeting the other day, someone spoke up and said “yeah, but that guy’s big time, he is all over Twitter! His blog says he has thousands of followers.” We found the person on Twitter and found 1,415 followers which is technically more than a thousand, but less than two thousand. Our first thought was “what a liar” followed by “well maybe he only connects with people he knows in real life” followed by “who cares? The numbers are bunk anyway, half of those are bots.”

So we set out to discover the difference between a user and an active user and what we learned will shock you.

Twitter claims 175 million users

Twitter’s about page claims 175 million registered users. We thought that was a clever way of not claiming legitimacy of users- they’re technically not lying that 175 million accounts exist, but an account is not the same as a user. Period. We questioned how many are actually using Twitter? How many are not just parked handles?

According to a Business Insider report, they engineered a code that would analyze Twitter users’ followers and following stats.

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The results were shocking. There were 119 million Twitter accounts following one or more other accounts and 85 million accounts with one or more followers. That’s it.

So of the 175 million “registered” users Twitter attempts to impress the public and investors with, there are 56 million accounts following zero other users and 90 million with zero followers.

The report also revealed that there are 56 million accounts following 8 or more accounts, 38 million following 16 or more and only 12 million following 64 people or more.

We would consider an account following 64 or more an active account, meaning that of the 175 million registered users, only 6.8% are legitimate accounts.

How much has been invested per active user?

Twitter has received $360 million in investment over the years and now has 12 million active users, so if we do a little math, the cost is $30 per head which is a far less appealing proposition than $2.05 per head with 175 million users. Bad news, investors.

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Twitter’s value proposition

Recent studies show that 50% of all tweets are produced by less than 0.5% of Twitter users. Some would even argue that the 0.5% is in large part marketers and social media experts, not so much consumers looking to connect.

Facebook now sees over 600,000 visitors monthly from around the globe, half of which visit every single day.

If you’re good at math, you add 12 million legitimate users plus high volume by a low number of users plus Facebook’s superior numbers and your result might be that it’s time to jump off of the Twitter ship.

Although we wouldn’t go that far, we would remind the real estate world that cavorting with peers will close far fewer transactions than really digging deep into Twitter and connecting with locals who share your interests, otherwise time is better spent on Facebook or your traditional marketing efforts.

We know of a few agents whose entire referral base is from Twitter and that is great news, but for people short on time wondering why they haven’t hit a homerun on Twitter yet, it’s because there are NOT 175 million users, there are NOT more than 0.5% of the users even tweeting.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Mexican From Mars

    April 6, 2011 at 11:29 am

    not so sure about the scam of the century part, as we have a couple of multi-billion dollar wars that we’re in debt for, but i see what you’re saying.

  2. Indianapolis Homes

    April 6, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I am one of those who actually loves Twitter and will not be jumping ship. Great resource to get my daily Indianapolis real estate news.

  3. Kelly Leeson

    April 6, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Have to agree with you about connecting with your target audience through twitter or even facebook.
    Both need to be used right and it is difficult to find among the 175m registered accounts the kind of people you need to connect with.

  4. MH for Movoto

    April 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    @Mexican from Mars – HA. You’re quite right.

    While I agree that Twitter has been absurdly over-hyped (it’s not really that interesting, or practical for real people in real life), I wouldn’t call this a “scam”. For one thing, they’re a corporation, a corporations stretch the truth to make themselves look good. It’s so common these days that it’s almost not offensive anymore. For another thing, Twitter CAN still be very useful to those tiny elitist pockets of consistent tweeters – maybe even more so than we thought? Maybe a smaller audience allows a certain focus?

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