Daily Archives: May 19, 2009

I still think this is a goofy debate re: Twitter & retaining users

Disney - Main Street Goofy Statue - B&W

Image by Joe Penniston via Flickr

I wrote about this recently here, but just saw this as I was eating lunch: Twitter is retaining more users than Nielsen thinks » VentureBeat.

I agree with the conclusion—Twitter shouldn’t worry—but I find the logic goofy.

Sure retention is important, but it really doesn’t matter as much for Twitter as it does for FBK or MYSpace if a Twitter joiner is an active “Tweeter.”  This is because, as with YouTube or Flickr, a Twitter account holder gets access to the search of the ‘real time web’ or whatever it is we’re calling the sum of all the tweets the user can search. 

In other words, the consuming non-tweeter gets value from the size of the twitter network.  If he or she never tweets, he’s still getting value.  So long as the total audience of twitter continues to grow its account size, and so long as a non-zero percentage of that audience is tweeting and adding to the unique content asset Twitter has, then Twitter is in stellar shape.

The right metrics are not about retention or number of tweets, IMHO.  I think its about # of total tweets, # of accounts, and in time, # of searches in short-term.  Over time, the retention number will go up as more people figure out how to tweet. 



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What I’ll watch for with MySpace: progress on bite-size chunks

Tech Crunch’s article, MySpace Is In Real Trouble If These Page View Declines Don’t Reverse, provides a sobering view of the challenge in front of MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta and his newly installed exec team.

I’m going to assume that TC’s numbers are accurate, and I’m in general agreement with the conclusion—momentum is not on MySpace’s side.   This is a big task, as TC asserts, never been done successfully. 

Still, as with any big task, its important to split it up into smaller, bite sized chunks.  There are ton of things that could be focused on to read the tea leaves as to whether MySpace is making progress or not.  To make things simple, here are the 3 key bite size chunks I’ll be watching for to assess whether MySpace is making progress:

  1. Execs speaking about and delivering on useful, concrete customer scenarios.  I remarked in a prior post how vague and nebulous an ex-MySpace Chairman’s Richard Rosenblatt advice was, compared with a much more concrete, user-focused entrepreneur like Joel Spolsky.  This was a bit unfair as Rosenblatt shouldn’t give concrete advice.  At the same time, when the exec team now speaks, I’ll compare their words with his.  If its as vague and general, and it doesn’t have specific concrete customer scenarios that appear appealing, then it’ll be more of the same.  Creating value for users is vital here, as with anywhere else.  Watch for this—I’d say within 45 days, there should be relatively clear statements on what customer scenarios excite the execs and what concretely they’re doing.  If its general “own the spaces MySpace can own,” blather, then I’d say that’s a big red flag.   
  2. Execution.  Mr. Van Natta has assembled a strong core group of execs around him.  This is a great start.  It’ll now be interesting to watch what they deliver in terms of features, in specific timelines, relative to update cycles from Facebook, Twitter and others.  Given the inherent pressure of lost momentum, with the pressure that must be coming from News, the MySpace execs will get pulled in many different directions.  I’ll watch for what they are able to ship in specific timeframes.  If there isn’t anything substantial product-wise done by time school starts up in the fall, I’d say that this is a sign of real trouble. 
  3. (Any) cultural phenomenon created, fueled and fanned on MySpace.  The page view and traffic numbers won’t turn overnight.  What does and can shift quickly is passion around some trend or phenomenon or whatever.  A band must break there, a movie must be discovered there—the thing we all are talking about must be found once on MySpace.  This has happened on MySpace in the past I think, but now, this discovery happens other places more often—FBK(the election or the 25 things phenomenon) or Twitter (Sully’s plane).  When MySpace gets mentioned at lal these days, its generally only as one of several social media services where stuff like this happens.  MySpace needs to be central to some of these experiences.  If in 6 months there hasn’t been one of these, then I’d say its a sign of continuing difficulties for MySpace. 

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