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Data Suggests People Don't Tweet as Much as They Used To

By Adam Levy - Feb 8, 2016 at 7:00PM

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Users tweet less than half as much as they did in 2014.

Image source: Twitter.

It's no secret that Twitter (TWTR -0.23%) has been struggling to boost engagement for its flagship product, but new data indicates just how bad it's gotten. Business Insider received data from an app developer showing the number of tweets per day has fallen more than 50% from its peak in August 2014. Twitter officially responded saying, "This data is not correct."

The data is taken directly from Twitter's API, or application programming interface, which allows developers to access Twitter's data to integrate with their own apps. If it's not accurate, Twitter is providing misleading data to its developer partners -- and it already has a shaky past with developers to begin with. At the very least, comparing the "inaccurate" data stream to itself in a different period should provide a good view of the trends on Twitter.

Stamping out spam
A declining number of tweets per day isn't a complete disaster. In fact, there's at least one good reason for tweets to decline: reducing the amount of spam on the network.

The peak indicated by the API data in August of 2014 coincides with Twitter's development and deployment of BotMaker, an anti-spam tool that prevents and deletes spam. BotMaker is based on machine learning algorithms, which allow it to detect spam, and prevent those types of tweets from being sent out in the future. As a result, BotMaker gets better at stopping spam over time.

Indeed, the sharpest decline in tweet activity, according to the API data, took place in the six months between August and February, suggesting that BotMaker prevented a lot of spam. Note that Twitter saw a natural increase in activity in August and late February due to the FIFA World Cup and Winter Olympics.

Still, engagement seems to have continued its decline through 2015 despite various efforts from Twitter to keep users engaged.

Teenage rebellion
In the Fall of 2013, Twitter was considered the most-important social network for teens in the United States, according to Piper Jaffray's semi-annual survey of American teens. Since then, however, Twitter has been surpassed by Facebook's (META -1.40%) Instagram, and  it's followed closely by Snapchat. A Pew poll from 2014 and 2015 found that more teens use Instagram and Snapchat more often than Twitter.

Teens are some of the most-active social media users. As they spend less time on Twitter and more time on Instagram and Snapchat, it makes sense for the number of tweets on the platform to decline, even if the total number of users is still increasing.

Snapchat saw a huge increase in engagement this year, with video views reportedly reaching 7 billion per day. Meanwhile, Instagram surpassed 400 million monthly active users, although its reported metrics show a decline in photos uploaded per user.

Focusing on consumption-first Twitter
Twitter doesn't have to fear a decline in tweets on its platform. During the last year or so, Twitter has been making an effort to make Twitter a consumption-first platform -- where users go to check news and find entertainment.

The most notable change came last October, when Twitter rolled out Moments. The feature curates top tweets, photos, and videos about a specific event or topic. Additionally, Twitter revamped its homepage for logged-out users, making it easy for them to find something interesting on Twitter.

Twitter has shifted its focus from monthly active users to its "total audience," which includes users, logged-out visitors, and those who see tweets syndicated on other websites. Wherever and however people consume its content, there's an opportunity for Twitter to generate revenue.

Focusing on the consumption of Twitter content over the production of content is an appropriate response to the trend at Twitter. But whether Twitter can effectively monetize that consumption remains to be seen.

Adam Levy has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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