How many people use Twitter? Many fewer than Twitter would lead you to believe.

According to its “about” page, Twitter has 175 million registered users. But “registered users” is a funny term. What it really means is the number of accounts. So, according to Twitter, 175 million Twitter accounts have been opened during Twitter’s history.

That’s nice to know, but it doesn’t really answer our question, does it? Fleshed-out a bit, our question is: How many individuals are active users of Twitter?

Facebook has a simple answer to this question. It says 600 million people visit Facebook each month, and that half come back every day.

Twitter doesn’t share this number.

Fortunately, we know someone with full access to Twitter’s API. Even more fortunate, this person took it upon himself to have an engineer write up some code and actually count the real number of users on Twitter.

Well, that’s sort of what he did. What he actually did was look at follower/following statistics, to see how many users are following or are followed by a certain number of people.

Using data that is now just one month old, he found out that…

  • There were 119 million Twitter accounts following one or more other accounts.
  • There were 85 million accounts with one or more followers.

With these figures, and Twitter’s claim of 175 million accounts, a little subtraction shows us that there are 56 million Twitter accounts following zero other accounts, and 90 million Twitter accounts with zero followers.

Those are some interesting figures, because they show us Twitter is much smaller than the “175 million!” number might lead us to believe.

But they still don’t answer our question: How many active users does Twitter have?

To get close to answering that question with this data, we have to take a guess at how many accounts an “active” Twitter user follows.

At Facebook, a company source tells us, they believe that a user is not going to end up sticking around unless they make friends with 10 people.

So let’s say an “active” Twitter user is someone who follows at least 10 other accounts.

How many such “active” Twitter users are there? Our source’s API data shows that there are 56 million accounts on Twitter following 8 or more accounts. There are only 38 million following 16, and just 12 million following 64.

Your author, by the way, follows 700 people. There are only 1.5 million accounts on Twitter following 512 or more accounts.

Some context:

  • Facebook has more than 600 million monthly active users.
  • Foursquare has 7.5 million registered users.
  • The Huffington Post reaches 30 million people each month.

By Nicholas Carlson