Nielsen Online reports that more than 60% of the people who sign up for Twitter leave within a month. This finding provoked lots of conversation on blogs and listservs about whether Twitter is a fad or here to stay. Some used the study to validate their perception that Twitter isn’t worth their time.

I’m not surprised by the low retention rate. New users of Twitter leave for the same reasons new members leave associations, online communities, chambers and other groups — they never learned how to use Twitter or their membership effectively, therefore they don’t see or get the value.

  • They enter the “room” and can’t find anyone to talk to. They don’t know how to find the right people to follow.
  • They fall in with the “wrong crowd.” There are a growing number of spammers, multi-level marketers and idiots on Twitter. They follow everyone, hoping someone will follow them back. They’re only after numbers and provide nothing of quality. Many new users follow them or people who only broadcast, never interacting, like celebrities. The new user remains lonely in a crowded room and hears nothing of substance.
  • They don’t look to see how others use Twitter effectively. They don’t know what to say and, believing all the hype about Twitter, they talk only about what they’re eating for lunch. Nobody cares. Or they use Twitter as a therapist and whine about their life or crazy siblings. Nobody cares. Or worse, they become broadcasters themselves, talking only about their company or product. Nobody cares. Don’t answer the Twitter prompted question — what are you doing? Instead tell us what you’re thinking about, what you learned toda, or what you read that’s worth sharing. Aspire to be interesting — easy to say, hard to do.
  • They don’t know how to manage the barrage of tweets. They don’t have time to read it all. Besides, so much of it is crap. Yes, it is, if you follow the wrong people and don’t have tools, like Tweetdeck, to help you manage your updates.

    (photo by mhalon/Flickr)

    (photo by mhalon/Flickr)

These poor souls never learn how to use Twitter as a knowledge and networking tool. They don’t get any value from it and they leave. Who can blame them? I’ve written about this before — it’s the same challenge with new members. If we don’t teach them how to use their membership appropriately and effectively, they’re not going to get the resources they need or develop the relationships they desire. We won’t meet their membership expectations and we’ll lose them after one disappointing year.

There is a great opportunity here for organizations to be their members’ social media coach and teach them how to effectively use not only Twitter, but also RSS readers, Facebook and LinkedIn.

If you know of someone who’s struggling with Twitter, tell them about your experience – how you learned to use it and what you get out of it. The web is full of resources about Twitter. I think one of the best directions you can point them is Darren Rowse’s TwiTip blog. He and his guest bloggers focus on how to use Twitter effectively. Or, for a more amusing (but helpful) introduction, show them the Twitter Rule Book.

Twitter has turned out to be more educational and rewarding for me than I ever expected, and my passion (there, I said it) for Twitter reminds me of the same passion some of our members had for my old association. Once they figured out (or were taught) how to “work” their membership, their opportunities to learn and develop relationships were unending. Many of those members learned from others – they had unofficial mentors. Maybe it’s time for us early adopters to be Twitter mentors to others, to share how we use it and help them find the same rewards we have. Reach out and save a Twitter Qwitter!