from the fun-with-numbers dept
Over the last few months, Elon Musk and Linda Yaccarino keep trying to claim that exTwitter is actually growing and more used than ever. Yaccarino has talked about “largest usage days” without defining the term, and Elon says it’s “user-seconds per day of phone screentime as reported by iOS & Android” even though that’s not actually a stat that anyone uses.
Meanwhile, multiple other reports have suggested otherwise. Similarweb has repeatedly noted that its stats show exTwitter’s traffic trending downward. Apptopia, which tracks app usage, has said that the actual time spent on the Twitter app has tracked downward all year since there was an initial post-Elon bump:
And a new report, again from Apptopia, is saying that its app downloads have sunk to new lows as well. Looking at Data.ai’s app download charts, the exTwitter app… is barely in the top 100 downloads. At last look, it was 96th. Which is embarrassing. More people are downloading the Jersey Mike’s app and “GeometryDash” than exTwitter.
That’s for downloads. What about usage? Well, according to Data.ai, exTwitter is now 25th in active users… right after the Samsung Clock.
But… even more notably, Elon Musk may have accidentally revealed how much exTwitter usage had dropped himself — mainly by hoping that people won’t notice how he changed the metrics being used. You see, at the same time that Elon was talking about potentially putting exTwitter behind a paywall, he also claimed that he site now has 550 million users who generate “100 million to 200 million posts per day.”
During the livestream, Musk also divulged some new metrics from X, saying it now has 550 million “monthly users,” who generate 100 million to 200 million posts per day.
Some people took that to mean that his running of exTwitter was a success, since when he took it over, the ex-Twitter (as opposed to exTwitter) management were reporting 237.8 million users. But, that’s wrong. The two things are being measured very differently, and when you break it down, Musk seems to be admitting a pretty big drop in exTwitter usage.
The 237.8 million was “mDAU” or monetizable daily active users and the first two words there are important in how Musk’s number and old Twitter’s numbers are different. As we explained (and which Musk never seemed to understand), mDAU was actually a much more conservative estimate on users, because it excluded anyone they could not monetize (meaning bots, some foreign countries, etc.). The whole point of mDAU was to be more accurate in telling advertisers how large the potential audience reach is.
Second, Twitter’s number is daily active users. Musk’s number was monthly active users. DAU/MAU ratios are actually a useful tool in determining just how sticky an app is (basically it’s looking at what percentage of your monthly users visit every day). Years ago, Sequoia Capital noted that the “industry standard” for DAU/MAU is between 10% and 20% with it being very rare for a company to be over 50%. Andrew Chen from Andreessen Horowitz has shared similar numbers, noting that if you’re DAU/MAU is 20% that’s good. And “World Class” is 50%.
Of course, this differs based on the type of app, and exTwitter is more likely to be an app that people come back to use more regularly than something like Uber or whatever. So, it seems at least somewhat likely that its DAU/MAU is somewhere closer to 50% than 20% (giving exTwitter the benefit of the doubt here!). The last stats that I found that determined a DAU/MAU for Twitter came in 2020 from The Audience Project, which put Twitter’s DAU/MAU at about 52%.
But, remember, mDAU is significantly lower than just DAU, as mDAU excludes bots and other unmonetizable accounts (remember, Musk’s big complaint was that mDAU OVER counted bots, which is why it’s hilarious that the numbers he’s now trotting out don’t even try to exclude bots). So if we assume that mDAU is 80% of DAU (which is well below Musk’s own estimate of 33% bots!), that would mean that the DAU would basically be 300 million, and if we have a 50% DAU/MAU that would put the MAU pre-Musk at around 600 million.
And now he’s bragging about… 550 million (which isn’t even in any official report, so who knows how accurate it is, given his propensity to exaggerate).
That suggests a noticeable decline in users.
Even if the mDAU/DAU ratio is closer, the MAU was at a minimum somewhere close to the 550 million he’s now claiming.
Supporting this even further, the good folks at DataReportal do phenomenal work tracking data on social media platforms, and they’ve been tracking the market that exTwitter’s own internal tools tell advertisers regarding potential market reach. And they found… something weird.
When they looked in January, Twitter’s AdManager said that there were 556 million user accounts that could be reached via ads. In April… it said 177.2 million! DataReportal knew that was too steep a drop, and reached out to Twitter, only to see that number disappear from the AdManager tool. exTwitter re-enabled the tool later in April, again with MUCH LOWER figures on accounts: 373 million. DataReportal charted all of this, and it’s… eye opening:
They note that there are many possible explanations for this change, including problems with the data, human error, and other things as well. The report goes on to conclude that traffic appears to be “slipping” but not in freefall. This would be consistent with my back of the envelope calculation above that exTwitter at 550 million monthly users is likely somewhat below the pre-Elon high of around 600 million.
But… we’re not done yet. Because the other data point Musk revealed: “100 million to 200 million posts per day” also tells us something.
That is… below what Twitter used to have. Way below. A study in 2019, that had tracked tweets per day from 2012 through 2019 showed that in 2019 tweets per day were between 320 and 340 million per day. Or… somewhere around twice what Musk is claiming today.
If Musk is accurate in saying that there are between 100 and 200 million “posts” per day (he no longer calls them tweets), that would mean not only are users dropping by some amount, and download dropping by a noticeable amount, but the number of posts per day has fallen off a cliff.
None of this speaks well to exTwitter’s chances at survival. Beyond the advertising revenue, which the company already admits is down by 50%, downloads are dropping, users appear to be dropping, and the usage by the remaining users may be significantly down as well, based on Musk’s own statements.
No wonder he seems increasingly desperate.