“Is Twitter dying?” billionaire Elon Musk mused in April, five days before offering to buy the social media platform.
The reality, according to internal Twitter research seen by the Reuters news agency, goes far beyond the handful of examples of celebrities ghosting their own accounts. Twitter is struggling to keep its most active users – who are vital to the business – engaged, underscoring a challenge faced by the Tesla Inc chief executive as he approaches a deadline to close his $44bn deal to buy the company.
These “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 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, the document said.
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, the report found.
At the same time, interest in news, sports and entertainment is waning among those users. Tweets on those topics, which have helped Twitter burnish an image as the world’s “digital town square,” as Musk once called it, are also the most desirable for advertisers.
Twitter 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, some analysts say.
The platform earned more advertisement revenue from the United States alone than all other markets combined in its fourth quarter, according to its investor letter, and most advertisements in the US are likely targeting English-speaking users, said Jasmine Enberg, an analyst at Insider Intelligence.
Twitter’s study examined the number of heavy tweeters in English who displayed an interest in a topic, based on the accounts they followed, and how that number of users changed over the past two years.