Twitter's Hockey Stick Moment?

Over the weekend, TechCrunch postulated that with a frenzy of election-related activity, Twitter hit its hockey stick moment in late October. The theory goes that Twitter saw a 25 percent increase in U.S. visits from September to October and is thus about to experience the sort of explosive growth that will propel it into mainstream consciousness.

That could well be the case. In the course of researching our new report, “Twitter and the Micromessaging Revolution,” we found that Twitter’s user base grew more than 500 percent from October 2007 to October 2008. But we were even more interested to discover that the service has enjoyed an usual effect: as more and more people have joined, the percentage of active users has remained constant [updated:] at about 20%. Among active users (those who post at least once a month), approximately 20 percent post daily and about eight percent post more than 100 times a month (not including known bots and feeds). Though web services usually see a drop in the rate of use as lots of tire-kickers come and go, Twitter’s steady usage suggests that a jump in visitors during October could correspond to a big increase in regular users.

Yesterday, a Twitterer asked Tim O’Reilly why “Twitter and the Micromessaging Revolution” would be money well spent. Here are ten solid things the report provides (most explained in 140 characters or fewer):

1. Highly readable investigation into why Twitter works–and why it’s important

2. Growth statistics from Twitter, synthesized with stories and analysis to give you a comprehensive picture of the Twittersphere

3. Examines the entire micro-messaging ecosystem, including the various players, where Twitter fits and some new developments

4. Clever and useful tips on how to integrate Twitter into your business, backed up by stories about how others are using Twitter successfully

5. Why follower counts may not be the best way to measure Twitter influence, and an alternate model, analogous to Google Page Rank, for identifying influential users

6. Why and how Twitter’s loose social graph and the default public nature of Twittering make for a remarkably intuitive and interesting social network

7. Exclusive interviews with Twitter founders and leading users

8. Gentle introduction to using Twitter for the newbie

9. Twitter business models and why Twitter data is important

10. Dozens of links to key resources and examples

We’ve also created a free webcast that pulls from the report’s Twitter Primer to give you an introductory overview of the service. (The presentation also has tips and examples not included in the report.) Nearly 450 people watched when we broadcast it live last week, and more than 1,800 have viewed it since we posted it to YouTube four days ago. Perhaps we’ve hit our webcast hockey stick moment?

  • How does Twitter make money?

  • When my mother starts asking about how to use Twitter, then you’ll know the hockey stick moment has arrived. What was interesting about the TechCrunch post was how it didn’t spark a flurry of related-posts. Perhaps this suggests that most tech people recognized the hockey stick moment had already arrived before TechCrunch made is proclamation.

  • Sarah, heads up,the video link you provided says video no longer available. Would love to see it. Thanks.

  • Oop, here’s a link that works:

    Thanks for the heads up!

  • You mention that the percentage of active users on Twitter is constant. What is this percentage?

  • Twitter’s hockey stick moment is a compelling argument for social media, for sure. That perception of Twitter as just being a navel-gazing narcissistic platform is clearly going to change as more and more people discuss the business benefits of Twitter. But it will be interesting to see how quickly the backlash follows as all those who love Twitter exactly because some people saw it as a venue to express random thoughts will find it is harder and harder to break through the “Dell for $699“ clutter.

    For a zen-like view of the current conversation on Twitter – try

  • Matt

    Are micro ads a viable revenue stream for micro blogging? Other people have hinted at non-ad revenue streams for micro blogging services such as twitter, but will not expand on their hints.

    No one answered Greg’s question.

  • Nathalee, I mis-wrote in the post: about 20% of users are active, and about 8% of them are very active. Thanks for the question–I’ll update the original.

    Greg, while there’s a lot of speculation about how Twitter might make money, the company doesn’t yet have a significant revenue stream (it’s VC-funded).

    Matt, are you asking whether ads that are themselves messages in somebody’s timeline are a viable source of revenue for bloggers in a system like Twitter? If so, I’d say probably not. Because people can easily stop following anybody who sends unwanted messages, ads are likely to turn users away from those accounts. If I misunderstood your question, please take another shot at it.

  • Matt

    Sarah, yes, that’s what I meant, and I mentioned it because people are talking about it (ads as messages in a timeline) as a viable revenue stream, which I do not see working at all. But (to confirm) I meant it as revenue for Twitter.

    Sp the point is, if they choose to go this route and it fails, or they choose not to go that route, what other types of revenue streams are available for the company Twitter?

    Outside of funding, how is it expected to make money?

  • Ok, Matt, so it sounds like you’re wondering whether Twitter can sell messages as ad space. It’s possible that that could work if it were system-wide (and maybe users could pay either to not see ads or not have ads included in their outgoing timelines). But since that might drive people away, and Twitter is currently looking to bring people in–after all, a lot of other possible business models rely on their scaling the user base–I doubt they’d go that route.

    As noted in the original post, we do discuss potential business models for Twitter in our report. If you’re looking for an overview of possibilities, this Businessweek article is good. I don’t agree with the conclusions, but it lists many of the better ideas that have been floated: .

  • From the horse’s mouth:

    How do you make money from Twitter?

    Twitter has many appealing opportunities for generating revenue but we are holding off on implementation for now because we don’t want to distract ourselves from the more important work at hand which is to create a compelling service and great user experience for millions of people around the world. While our business model is in a research phase, we spend more money than we mak

  • Michael

    Does O’Reilly have a financial interest in Twitter?

  • No, Michael, O’Reilly doesn’t have a financial stake in Twitter. (We generally disclose any investment relationships we have.)

  • Matt

    Thanks for the link, Sarah; that’s pretty much what I wanted to know.

  • Echoing the comments already made, it seems we have so many great technologies that have to eventually reveal their profit model. And when that happens, the most appealing parts start to fall away–particularly because their plan is usually focused around straight advertising. Google made it work, so it has become the norm. I would hope Twitter could figure out better way.

  • I think Twitter’s investors should start to think long and hard about cashing in. Social networks remind me of the old Boston Common. A place where everyone gathered, but is now a tourist attraction.