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So, How Many Active Users Does Twitter Really Have? 200 Million? 100 Million? 50 Million?

Answer: Less than 21 million.

That’s the findings of a new report from Business Insider that looked at the total number of Twitter users that were following 30 or more people, which is the level that Twitter themselves uses to rank an account as active.

And if true, that’s a pretty shocking state of affairs for Twitter, especially when held up against Facebook (or even MySpace), and could have huge ramifications for the viability of the network as an advertising platform.

Explains Business Insider:

Thanks to a source with full access to Twitter’s API, we were able to report there are 56 million accounts on Twitter following 8 or more accounts.

We came up with that number, 8 accounts followed, because at Facebook, they believe that a user is not going to end up sticking around unless they make friends with 10 people.

But it turns out that Twitter doesn’t actually count a user as “active” until they are following many more than 8 accounts.

Josh Elman, Twitter’s”product lead in charge of user retention,” told AllThingsD as much March:

Elman, whose goal is to make Twitter users stick around, said his team has identified an “aha moment” when a casual user turns into an “active user.” That moment happens when users follow 30 accounts, and when one-third of the people they follow also follow them back.

Business Insider concluded that just 21 million accounts on Twitter follow 32 or more people. Contrast this with well over 600 million active users on Facebook (although I’d debate that number – I believe Facebook’s idea of active is logging in at least once per month, which seems pretty inactive to me), or even MySpace (44 million) and any perspective on who’s winning becomes a lot clearer.

Couple of caveats here:

  1. ‘Source’. I realise that sharing user data in any kind of official capacity seems to go against everything that Twitter stands for, but it’s always nice to have a name, if only for accountability
  2. That > 30 number, official or not, seems a little arbitrary

Still, with most reports indicating Twittter has over 200 million registered profiles (although you should probably take that with a pinch, too), an active user number of 10 per cent is very, very worrying.

(Hat tip: Business Insider.)

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