The number of Twitter users has climbed to a lofty 75 million, but the growth rate of new users is slowing and a lot of current Twitterers are inactive, according to a study released today.
The rate of new user growth peaked last July at about 7.8 million a month. That number has dropped to about 6.2 million new users a month now, according to a study from RJMetrics Inc., which develops online metric analysis software. The past six months, the study also noted, have seen a steady falloff in the number of new accounts.
"When you look at new account registrations, no one can deny that Twitter is still growing like a rocket ship. That's good," wrote Robert J. Moore, CEO and founder of RJMetrics. "However, upon closer inspection, the rate of new user sign-ups has dropped meaningfully from its peak and many new users never do anything with their accounts. That's bad. Furthermore, the percentage of accounts sending out tweets has steadily declined over the past six months. That's worse."
Actually, the study shows that a lot of Twitter accounts aren't active, and the number of accounts that sent even one tweet in a given month hit an all-time low in December.
According to the findings, only 17% of all Twitter accounts Twittered last month. That's down from more than 70% in early 2007 when Twitter was a fledgling company with far, far fewer users.
However, because of Twitter's "rapid user growth," Moore noted, there are still more Twitterers than ever before, even though only 17% of the accounts tweeted last month.
Twitter, according to the report, has between 10 million and 15 million active tweeters.
Today's RJMetrics study echoes a report released last week by HubSpot, a Cambridge, Mass.-based Web analytics company, which found that the number of users joining Twitter started to drop off dramatically last fall. While Twitter grew rapidly during the past couple of years, HubSpot said in its latest "State of the Twittersphere" report that the company's growth rate dropped to 3.5% in October, compared to 13% just seven months earlier.
This slowing growth rate stands in stark contrast to the microblogging site's staggering growth numbers just a year ago.
Last April, Web analytics firm ComScore Inc. reported that the number of people using Twitter in February 2009 had jumped a dramatic 700% compared to the same month in 2008.
Twitter also saw a 131% increase in U.S. visitors from February to March of last year, according to another study by ComScore, which reported that Twitter had 9.3 million visitors in March of 2009 -- a whopping 5 million more than it had the month before.
According to today's RJMetrics report, people who have joined Twitter aren't creating much of a presence there. The average Twitter user has 27 followers, which is down from 42 followers in August, according to the new study. About 25% of users have no followers at all; that's up from 20% with no followers last August. Upward of 40% of users only have one to five followers.
"A third of Twitter's user base has joined up in the past four months, and we know that users acquire more followers the longer they are on the system," wrote Moore in the report. However, he added that it's "impossible" to tell at this point if so many users have few followers because they're new to the site or because they're simply not engaged.
And a lack of engagement is showing up.
The study noted that about 80% of all Twitter users have tweeted fewer than 10 times, up five percentage points from just five months ago.
Moore pointed out in the report that if new Twitter users stick with the microblogging service through just one week, they have a much higher rate of engagement with the site over time.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed .