Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter closed on October 27, 2022, ushering in a new era for the social media platform. Since taking over Twitter, Musk has made several controversial changes, leading some to question if these decisions have led to a loss of users on the platform.
- Data on Twitter’s user numbers since Musk took over is limited, as Twitter is no longer publicly sharing monthly active user (MAU) statistics.
- Some third-party research firms have estimated declines in Twitter’s MAU, while others see user numbers remaining steady.
- Controversial changes under Musk like verification fee, layoffs, and reinstated banned accounts have raised concerns about impacts to Twitter’s user base.
- Advertiser pause over content moderation concerns has led to revenue impact, which could indirectly affect user experience and retention.
- Factors like World Cup activity and seasonal trends make exact user number changes since the acquisition hard to quantify.
The Data Dilemma
One major challenge in determining if Twitter has lost users since Musk’s takeover is that Twitter has stopped reporting monthly active user (MAU) statistics to the public. Prior to the acquisition, Twitter shared global MAU numbers on a quarterly basis as a publicly traded company.
However, in November 2022, Twitter stopped providing public data on MAUs as a privately held firm. This means there is no official confirmation from Twitter on how its user base has changed post-acquisition.
In the absence of transparent data from Twitter itself, analysts have been left to make estimates based on incomplete information.
Third-Party Estimates Vary
Third-party research firms have produced usage estimates that paint contrasting pictures on whether Twitter is losing users under Musk.
- Bot Sentinel estimates Twitter has lost over 1.3 million users in the weeks following Musk’s takeover.
- Forbes reports Twitter’s MAUs have fallen by 15% or more globally based on advertising data.
- On the other hand, Similarweb sees Twitter’s MAUs holding steady around 238 million in November.
Platformer editor Casey Newton estimates a 2.5% drop in daily active users based on internal data seen by Tesla engineers. Factors like different methodologies make these third-party analyses approximate at best.
Challenges in Estimating User Numbers
Some key challenges analysts face in estimating Twitter’s user numbers include:
- Lack of access to Twitter’s internal user data gives an incomplete picture.
- Changes happening on Twitter are recent, meaning longer-term impacts are unknown.
- Seasonal trends around events like World Cup affect user numbers.
- Understanding if decreases in ad revenue correlate directly to less users.
As a result, pinpointing exact user number changes is extremely difficult without access to Twitter’s closely-guarded internal analytics.
Factors That Could Impact User Numbers
While Twitter’s exact MAU changes remain elusive, Musk’smanagement decisions have sparked debate on their potential impact.
Verification Fee and Impersonations
Musk’s introduction of an $8 monthly fee for verification checkmarks led to a wave of impersonator accounts as the previous ID verification requirements were removed.
The ability of any account to get a “verified” checkmark for $8 led to confusion and misinformation. Some research suggests the impersonations may have led some users to tweet less or use Twitter less.
Layoffs and Product Changes
Musk immediately laid off around half of Twitter’s staff after taking over, raising concerns about the platform’s ability to maintain infrastructure and prevent harmful content.
The loss of key employees responsible for content moderation and product development could impact Twitter’s user experience over time.
Reinstated Banned Accounts
Musk reinstated previously banned accounts on Twitter, including former President Donald Trump. This rollback of previous policies against harmful incitement has caused some users to consider leaving the platform.
However, the return of previously suspended accounts could also increase user numbers if those joining or rejoining offset any departures.
Advertiser Concerns and Revenue Decline
Twitter has seen an advertiser exodus over concerns about content moderation and brand safety, with top brands pausing spending on the platform.
A major drop in revenue could force Twitter to make cutbacks impacting product development, potentially accelerating user declines. But any revenue bounce-back could provide resources to improve site features and user numbers.
World Cup and Seasonal Factors
When assessing if Twitter has lost users in recent weeks, key events and seasonal trends also need to be considered.
World Cup Drove Increased Usage
The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off just days before Musk acquired Twitter in late November. The World Cup likely boosted Twitter usage and complicated analysis on the platform’s organic user growth.
Holiday Usage Differs from Average
The acquisition took place right before the holiday season, when usage patterns tend to differ from Twitter’s daily norms. Comparing traffic around holidays to non-holiday periods can reflect skewed results.
Long-Term Impacts Still Developing
Some changes under Musk are still rolling out or too recent to determine long-term impacts. Continued analysis over months, not weeks, may provide clearer data.
In summary, quantifying Twitter’s exact user numbers following Musk’s acquisition is not currently possible without access to internal Twitter data.
Third-party estimates provide a mixed picture, with some seeing user declines and others stability. However, factors like World Cup and seasonal usage, timing of changes, and lack of transparency in methodology make exact figures speculative.
While the true impact on users remains ambiguous, Musk’s decisions regarding verification, moderation, product direction and revenue generation have clear potential to influence user retention and growth. But whether negative impacts materialize, are offset by gains elsewhere, or are reversed by strategy changes is still unfolding.
With the public no longer able to rely on Twitter’s own MAU disclosures, understanding the platform’s user base health will require patience for now. Only time will tell if Twitter usage ultimately declines, stabilizes or grows under Musk’s leadership.