I am an active Twitter user. I hop on every day, but not nearly as much as I used to. As a business owner, I am spending less time on social media in general, and when I do spend time I find myself gravitating to LinkedIn for business, particularly the groups and to Facebook for personal. I just assumed it was because I was busy and that I would return to my twitter community when I had more time, but maybe not.

According to our 2016 small business social media survey, Twitter use as a business tool is down significantly among small business owners. This was probably one of the biggest surprises in this year’s study. While it has been declining almost every year since 2012 this is the first year it has fallen below 10%.

Why? I think the fact that Twitter requires significantly more time than either Facebook or LinkedIn, with a lesser return for small businesses is a major contributor to this shift in online behavior. Through out the study, we saw indications that business owners are spending less time on social media in general. As time is a finite resource, twitter is the obvious platform to go without.


Other sources, same conclusion.

This trend was so surprising, I wondered if it was an anomaly in our data. But we are not the only people seeing evidence of Twitter’s decline

  • Tom Webster, writing for the Convince and Convert Blog – In late 2014 he found Twitter growth had slowed as visual tools like Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Vine were starting to eat into their share. People may not want to write blog posts, but we all love to share pictures. Sure Twitter has improved their image management, but is it too little too late?
  • Jim Edwards, writing for Business Insider – Like Tom Webster, he saw Twitter peaking in 2014 with declines in both the total number of users and people actually creating content declining slightly as total account creation seems to have stalled.
  • Carrie Morgan, writing on her blog, Rock the Status Quo –  Has some smart suggestions for Twitter management to use the PR facets of the tool they created to reenergize their community, but it doesn’t seem as if they are listening.

Over the years, we have seen lots of platforms come and go. Plaxo, FriendFeed and several other Google platforms have all bit the dust, or settled into relative obscurity like Four Square. Is this really the end of Twitter? It is too early to put the last nail in the coffin, but I do think the next year will be critical. If they can’t figure out a way to carve out something only they can offer it will be harder and harder to hold onto their share as a business tool.

After I wrote this post, Twitter announced their intention to test longer messaging options in an attempt to stay relevant. Initial community reaction is not very positive.

About the Study:

When we conducted our first study in 2010, we simply asked if people had social media profiles on the most common networks, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Plaxo, which still had a community. Over the next few years we saw networks come and go. As they did, businesses raced to set up profiles on every emerging platform just to grab the name. After a short burst of activity, all but a few of the platforms were abandoned.

Starting in 2012, we modified the question to ask which network was their primary business account. LinkedIn, once the primary business network declined significantly in 2013 and has remained fairly constant after that. In contrast, Facebook has risen to within a point of LinkedIn. The new Facebook business manager tools clearly have many small business owners spending more time on that platform.

Google+ now represents 4% of the total. Many business owners are beginning to see the SEO value of the G+ platform, but they are still not jumping in and trying to engage on this platform as their primary network. And, as businesses become more sophisticated in their online practices, we are seeing a little fragmentation as niche sites like Houzz, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube each grabbing 1 – 2% of the total.

We are collecting data for the 2018 study. share your thoughts now.

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