Nonsensical headlines aside, I thought this piece by Abbey Klaassen over at Ad Age was an interesting read. She notes:

While those numbers are important, the breathless reports have not accounted for what people do after they sign up for a Twitter account. Creating a Twitter account doesn’t equal becoming an uber-user, or even a casual user, of the micro-blogging site. Nielsen Online data released today suggest more than 60% of people who sign up for Twitter abandon the service.

Of course you can read the rest of the article, but the gist of it is that, according to a Nielsen Online study, only 40% of the people who post on Twitter this month will still be there next month. But… but… Oprah and Ellen and MC Hammer use Twitter. Surely Ashton Kutcher can’t be campaigning for global prominence on a service that can’t even keep an audience. That’s what you’d be saying if you’re one of those people who actually cares about celebrities and their one-way communication on Twitter.

But really, I don’t think this is an unexpected revelation. After all, it took me months to figure out what the hell Twitter was for. I had Facebook for status updates, AIM for chatting with friends and colleagues, and LinkedIn as a useful networking tool. And… well… uhh. I still don’t know what Twitter is for, but I know that I use it a lot more now, and I can more readily see the appeal. But Twitter’s usefulness isn’t immediately clear to the new user. If you don’t have followers and aren’t following anyone, it seems like a useless blog-to-myself app that has a ridiculously restrictive character limit.

I even went through a spell of following everyone who followed me, just so I could see my internet popularity soar to staggering new heights. And that may be another reason Twitter is seeing low retention rates: faceless marketers. For every two useful people I followed, I had about 10 guys (and gals) trying to tell me how I could gain 20,000 followers in just 30 days! My reach would be huge! Oh, what’s this? An endless supply of highly insightful and strangely irrelevant quotes from dead celebrities? Wonderful. Unfortunately it’s these “marketers” that do a lot of the outreach to new users. A total noob (yeah, I went there) might be thrilled to see 10 new followers in their first day, only to be completely put off by the flood of ridiculous marketing messages. At least I can bask in the fact that all of these marketers are hovering around the same follower numbers… leading me to believe that they’re all just following each other, sharing their own secrets to Twitter success with other secret-holders.

What about you? Did you immediately understand Twitter? Why do you think the site/service is having such a tough time retaining users? Are colored jeans from the 90s still fashionable?

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