Twitter Details Mobile Growth, Third-Party Client Use

One might think that from the start, Twitter should have been a natural match for mobile devices, considering their suitability for short text messages and Twitter's 140 character limit on tweets.

But while the microblogging service has always had mobile users, it hasn't achieved the kind of traction its creators envisioned when they first launched Twitter, they admitted this week.

One of the issues was simply figuring out how to find the service on mobile devices. "We did iPhone user tests and confirmed that even though there was a plethora of third-party Twitter apps, people were having trouble finding and selecting one because none were called 'Twitter,'" Ev Williams, Twitter's CEO, noted in a blog post Thursday.

Back in April at its first Chirp developers conference, the company said that making Twitter easier to use for mobile users was a top priority. Shortly before Chirp, it announced the purchase of Tweetie, a client for the Apple iPhone, which it ultimately renamed Twitter for iPhone. Shortly thereafter, the company also launched Twitter for Android.

Third-party developers and carriers have also jumped in with a number of applications designed to simplify Twitter use on mobile devices. The trend comes as social media use is growing among consumers and enterprise users right along with a new crop of mobile devices that include easy access to social networks.

This week, while reporting that Twitter now has over 145 million registered users, the company also described the significant progress it's made in its mobile efforts. In his blog post Thursday, Williams said the number of Twitter mobile users has jumped 62 percent since mid-April. He also said 16 percent of all new Twitter users are using the service on a mobile device -- a big jump from the five percent the company said started on mobile prior to the launch of its first Twitter-branded mobile client.

"As we had hoped in April, these clients are bringing more people into Twitter, and, even better, they are attracting and retaining active users. Indeed, 46 percent of active users make mobile a regular part of their Twitter experience," Williams said.

The post includes a chart of the top ten most popular applications people have used to access Twitter in the past 30 days. While Twitter's own mobile clients for iPhone and BlackBerry are the two most-used mobile clients at 8 percent and 7 percent respectively, more (14 percent) use Twitter's mobile Web client and 8 percent use SMS (define) messaging services. "We've been seeing strong growth in both of these areas," Williams said.

Another popular Twitter client, TweetDeck, only came in seventh on the list, with a 3 percent share. But Williams said third-party apps are a very important part of the Twitter ecosystem.

"It should be underscored that users of programs like TweetDeck are some of the most active and frequent users -- which is why, along with the nature of how these clients work, a disproportionate amount of the traffic from Twitter runs through such tools," he said, also noting that there are many other popular Twitter applications not on the list that are used to create or view Tweets.

"These new services help people get the most out of Twitter, contributing to user growth and new business opportunities -- both of which are critical to the long-term viability of the ecosystem," Williams said.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Twitter, mobility, social media