Challenge for Elon Musk? Internal documents allegedly reveal Twitter is struggling to keep its most active users engaged
Twitter’s operational challenges do not seem to be getting any easier, in what has proved to be a tough year for the platform.
Reuters reported that it had seen internal Twitter research which revealed a more serious issue than examples of celebrities ghosting their own Twitter accounts.
According to the Reuters report, Twitter is struggling to ensure its most active users – who are vital to the business – remain engaged, underscoring a challenge facing Elon Musk as he approaches a deadline to close his $44 billion deal to buy the platform.
According to Reuters, the “heavy tweeters” account for less than 10 percent of monthly overall users but generate 90 percent of all tweets and half of global revenue.
Heavy tweeters have been in “absolute decline” since the pandemic began, a Twitter researcher reportedly wrote in an internal document titled “Where did the Tweeters Go?”
A “heavy tweeter” is defined as someone who logs in to Twitter six or seven days a week and tweets about three to four times a week, Reuters quoted the document as saying.
The research also found a shift in interests over the past two years among Twitter’s most active English-speaking users – that could make the platform less attractive to advertisers.
Cryptocurrency and “not safe for work” (NSFW) content, which includes nudity and pornography, are the highest-growing topics of interest among English-speaking heavy users, Reuters quoted the report as finding.
And it seems that at the same time, interest in traditional Twitter topics, such as news, sports and entertainment, is waning among those users.
It should be noted that tweets on those topics, which have helped Twitter build an image as the world’s “digital town square,” as Musk once called it, are also the most desirable for advertisers.
Twitter reportedly declined to specify how many of its tweets are in English or how much money it makes from English speakers. But the demographic is important to Twitter’s business.
Indeed, Reuters said the platform earned more ad revenue from the United States alone than all other markets combined in its fourth quarter, citing an investor letter.
And most ads in the United States are likely targeting English-speaking users.
According to Reuters, Twitter was motivated to investigate “disturbing” trends among users that may have been masked by overall growth in daily active users and better understand the decline in the company’s most active users, the documents said.
The study made no specific conclusions about why heavy users of the platform are declining.
However it seems that Twitter is also losing a “devastating” percentage of heavy users who are interested in fashion or celebrities such as the Kardashian family.
These users are likely switching to rival platforms like Meta’s Instagram and ByteDance’s TikTok, a Twitter researcher wrote.
Asked to comment on the internal documents’ findings, a Twitter spokesperson was quoted by Reuters as saying on Monday:
“We regularly conduct research on a wide variety of trends, which evolve based on what’s happening in the world. Our overall audience has continued to grow, reaching 238 million mDAU (monetizable daily active users) in Q2 2022,” the spokesperson reportedly said.
Unfortunately Twitter is well known for its at times toxic environment, but the micro-blogging service continues its efforts to make its platform a less hostile environment.
Twitter has given users a chance to rethink an offensive or hurtful reply to a tweet, by testing a prompt for users when they reply to a tweet using “harmful language.”
In January 2020, Twitter warned it would experiment with limiting replies to a user’s tweet, in effort to combat online abuse.
Indeed, co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey in April 2019, said he wanted to change the platform and move “away from outrage and mob behaviour and towards productive, healthy conversation.”
There is concern that Musk’s stated intention of less content moderation on the platform, and his reported plans to gut the workforce by up to 75 percent, will exacerbate the deterioration of the quality of content on the platform.