I’m a long-time Twitter skeptic. One of my major frustrations with Twitter is that its true size is grossly overstated. This point was best articulated by Ian McKee in “How Many Users Does Twitter REALLY Have?” As he stated:
According to its “about” page, Twitter has 175 million registered users. But “registered users” is a funny term…
- There were 119 million Twitter accounts following one or more other accounts.
- There were 85 million accounts with one or more followers.
With these figures, and Twitter’s claim of 175 million accounts, a little subtraction shows us that there are 56 million Twitter accounts following zero other accounts, and 90 million Twitter accounts with zero followers.
Those are some interesting figures, because they show us Twitter is much smaller than the “175 million!” number might lead us to believe…
But they still don’t answer our question: How many active users does Twitter have?
To get close to answering that question with this data, we have to take a guess at how many accounts an “active” Twitter user follows…
So let’s say an “active” Twitter user is someone who follows at least 10 other accounts.
How many such “active” Twitter users are there? Our source’s API data shows that there are 56 million accounts on Twitter following 8 or more accounts. There are only 38 million following 16, and just 12 million following 64.
Now, a couple of disclaimers before I go any further: first, McKee’s column is a few months old, so the numbers would likely be a little higher if he wrote it today. In addition, McKee admits that some guesswork is required to determine “how many accounts an ‘active’ Twitter user follows.”
This much is indisputable, however: when it comes to an objective view on the number of active Twitter users, an analysis like McKee’s is much closer to reality than Twitter’s official stats.
Now, here’s the interesting thing: yesterday, Mashable reported that Google Plus now has more than 25 million users, and that users are spending more time on the site. Obviously, not all of those users are “active.” But if you buy into McKee’s logic at all, it’s clear that Google Plus–at just over one month old–may soon have half as many “active” users as Twitter, which was launched more than five years ago. And given the cautious approach Google has taken to opening the gates to Google Plus, it’s likely that it will continue to grow rapidly over time.
That’s just one reason why I’m spending less time on Twitter, and likely to spend even more time on Google Plus. What’s your opinion? Do you think McKee’s numbers are “fuzzy math,” or do you agree that Google Plus is already starting to challenge Twitter when it comes to the real numbers?