Definition of Active Users

How are Active Users Calculated for Social Networking Sites Facebook, Twitter and Google+

How are Active Users Calculated for Social Networking Sites Facebook, Twitter and Google+

In the race for social networking supremacy, the top 3 social networking sites, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter all want to say how many users they each have to promote themselves as being the most popular, but what about the number of active users they claim to have? Is there such a definition? Is monthly active users defined uniformly for all the social networking sites and can this be defined for all websites?
These were some of the questions I started with, then set about trying to find the answers – it was harder than it should have been!

Definition of Active Users

There is no uniform definition of what an active user is. At first I was disappointed, then after some thought, realised that there can’t and shouldn’t be uniformity, just as you really can’t compare social networking sites Facebook and Twitter for example because they operate differently, offer different services and people interact with them differently; they provide a different approach to how we wish to communicate with someone else at different times.

It does make sense then to acknowledge that each social networking site will have a different way of calculating what constitutes an active user and monthly active user from the number of registered users they have.

Definition of Active Users For Facebook

Facebook active users are defined by Facebook as:

An active user is someone who has visited and logged-in (or been logged in) or who has taken an action with a Facebook feature (e.g. clicked ‘like’, etc…).
If the user doesn’t do any of those things for 30 days, they aren’t considered an active user (and therefore are not monthly active users either).
If they only see social plug-ins across the web, even if those social plug-ins include social context such as friends’ photos, friends’ likes, friends’ recommendations, but doesn’t click anything, they are not an active user on Facebook.

So if you happen to be reading an article on a website with social sharing buttons that include the Facebook ‘Like’ button (as this article has at the end) and you click on it (I’m sure you will want to do that here) but do not visit your Facebook page, or log in to your Facebook account to add something directly from there, you are still classed as an active user for that month because you had to log-in to register the like.

Note too that Facebook’s belief is, that unless you have made friends with at least 10 other people you are not likely to use the site much.

Definition of Active Users For Twitter

Twitter doesn’t actually count a user as an ‘active user’ until they are following at least 30 accounts, as explained by Twitter’s Head of User Retention – Josh Elman.

the team has identified an ‘aha moment’ when a casual user turns into an active user. That moment happens when users follow 30 accounts, and when one-third of the people they follow also follow them back.

Twitter had their 7th birthday this month and claims to have passed the 200 million active users milestone. Twitter active users send over 400 million tweets per day.

Definition of Active Users For Google Plus

Google Plus defines their active users as anyone who interacts in any way with Google+. It is harder for Google to be transparent about how it calculates what an active user for Google+ is for two reasons.

  1. Google+ wants desperately not to be in Facebook’s shadow,
  2. The number of products Google has that all interconnect with Google+ does make it difficult to work out what a user is actually using and for what purpose.

Google’s core strength has always been search, and recently announced that Google Authorship Markup will play an increasingly important role is how a website page ranks within their search results. one of the criteria for this is – you guessed it, the creation of a Google Plus account. This has seen millions of content writers signing up; in fact Google announced that 400 million people have upgraded to Google+ since it has been available, with Google Plus active users spending 12 minutes, on average in the ‘stream’.

So Google+ count account creation as being an active user.

Active Users for Your Website

Now that you have seen how active users are calculated for the top social networking sites, How would you measure an active user for your website?

Most website owners, or the website designer would have installed some analytics tracking software. Google Analytics is the most popular tracking software, it’s free and can be very comprehensive, allowing you to monitor and see a lot of information about your visitors and their behaviour on your site. With this in mind, Would you start to look more closely at repeat visitors each month? A monthly active user could be a visitor to your site that has returned in the same month, or you could say you have an active user if they subscribe to your newsletter or mail out and open it to read each time it was sent. If you have social sharing buttons and a visitor liked, tweeted or g+1 your article, Would that qualify them as an active user?

Another, perhaps more practical approach would be to say how often do you want visitors to come back. If you post a new article once a month, you can’t expect people to return more than that because there is nothing new for them to see or do on your site. If however you post a new article daily or weekly, you are hoping for repeat visitors of that frequency. An active user could then be defined as a visitor that comes back each time you post a new article.

Knowing how to increase traffic to your website is important for those that are wanting higher search engine ranking positions, that have services or products for sale, realising the power of having their business online and will adopt on-page seo techniques and off-page seo techniques as part of their overall seo strategy.


Despite the differences in how each of the top 3 social networking sites calculate active users, they are all experiencing phenomenal growth with registered users; even Facebook is showing strong growth as it penetrates into new countries and developers new products.

So the next time you see figures on how many active users a website has, see if the way the number was calculated is a true indication of what you believe to be active.

Does your website have tracking software installed? If not…

Contact Thinking IT

Website developers at Thinking IT can install tracking software, enabling you to track customers and their behaviour on your website, providing a myriad of data and reports that will help you better connect with your visitors and customers.

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Article written by: Nigel Brookson

Website Designer, SEO Expert, Philanthropist, Entrepreneur. Follow me on Twitter, plus me on Google+, like me on Facebook and visit my personal website.

What Readers Have Said:

  1. Thanks to Nigel, from Thinking IT, our website for Shianne Durdin is attracting active users from all of the top 3 social networking sites.

  2. Thank you for installing tracking software on the Trades Check website Nigel. I will be discussing with you how we can define active users for Trades Check.

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