Exclusive: Twitter is losing its most active users, internal documents show

Oct. 25 (Reuters) – “Is Twitter dying?” billionaire Elon Musk pondered in April, five days before offering to buy the social media platform.

The reality, according to internal Twitter (TWTR.N) research seen by Reuters, goes well 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 company – engaged, underscoring a challenge facing the Tesla (TSLA.O) chief executive as a deadline nears to close his $44 billion deal to buy the company.

These “big tweeters” represent less than 10% of global monthly users, but generate 90% of all tweets and half of global revenue. Heavy tweeters have been in “absolute decline” since the start of the pandemic, a Twitter researcher wrote in an internal document titled “Where Have the Tweeters Gone?”

A “heavy tweeter” is defined as someone who logs into Twitter six or seven days a week and tweets about three to four times a week, according to the document.

The research also found a shift in interest over the past two years among Twitter’s most active English-speaking users, which could make the platform less attractive to advertisers.

Cryptocurrency and “not safe for work” (NSFW) content, which includes nudity and pornography, are the most growing topics of interest among heavy English-speaking users, according to the report.

At the same time, interest in news, sports and entertainment is declining among these users. Tweets on these topics, which have helped Twitter restore its image as the world’s “digital town square”, as Musk once called it, are also the most sought after by advertisers.

Twitter declined to specify how many of its tweets are in English or how much money it makes from English speakers. But demographics matter to Twitter’s business, some analysts say.

According to its letter to investors, the platform generated more advertising revenue in the United States than all other markets combined during its fourth quarter, and most advertising in the United States likely targets English-speaking users, said Jasmine Enberg, analyst at Insider. Intelligence.

Twitter’s study looked at the number of large English-language tweeters who showed interest in a topic, based on the accounts they followed, and how that number of users changed over the past two years.

Twitter was motivated to investigate “worrying” trends among users that may have been masked by overall daily active user growth and better understand the decline of the company’s most active users, the documents say. The study did not draw any specific conclusions as to why heavy users of the platform are in decline.

Asked to comment on the findings of the internal documents, a Twitter spokesperson said on Monday: “We regularly conduct research on a wide variety of trends, which evolve based on what is happening in the world. Our overall audience continued to grow, reaching 238 million people. mDAU in Q2 2022,” the spokesperson said, using an acronym for Monetizable Daily Active Users.

The Twitter application is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

“NOT SAFE FOR WORK” CONTENT

The number of power users interested in NSFW and cryptocurrency content has increased, according to the research.

Twitter is one of the few major social media platforms to allow nudity on its service, and the company estimated that adult content constitutes 13% of Twitter, according to a separate internal slide presentation seen by Reuters. The presentation did not specify how the figure was calculated.

Advertisers generally avoid controversy or nudity for fear of damaging their brands. Major advertisers including Dyson, PBS Kids and Forbes suspended advertising over accounts soliciting child pornography on Twitter, Reuters reported in September.

In response to the September story, Twitter said it “has zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation” and is investing more resources in its work against such material.

Twitter’s most active English-speaking users were also increasingly interested in cryptocurrencies, reaching an all-time high in late 2021, according to internal documents. But interest in the topic has waned since the crypto price crash in June, and the study noted that cryptocurrencies may not be an area of ​​growth going forward.

Current and former Twitter employees who spoke with Reuters said they were concerned about Musk’s calls for less content moderation and his announced plans to fire staff, which they said will worsen the deterioration in the quality of the contents.

“DEVASTATING” LOSSES

Topics that have traditionally made Twitter a popular platform for its millions of users are now on the decline among the most active English-speaking users, the documents show.

Interest in global news, as well as liberal politics, showed spikes during major events such as the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. But the categories have since lost the most heavy Twitter users and showed no signs of recovery, the report said.

Twitter is also losing a “devastating” percentage of heavy users interested in fashion or celebrities such as the Kardashian family. These users are likely switching to rival platforms like Meta Platform (META.O) ByteDance’s Instagram and TikTok, wrote a Twitter researcher.

The study also expressed surprise at the declining interest in esports and online streaming personalities, which previously grew rapidly on Twitter. “Large communities are now in decline,” the report said.

“There appears to be a significant gap between what I imagine to be our company values ​​and our growth models,” wrote a Twitter researcher.

Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas Editing by Kenneth Li and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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