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Twitter Q1 2016 – Some Good News and Some Not so Good

Twitter's been pushing hard to reinvigorate the company under returning CEO, and founder, Jack Dorsey, introducing a range of new tools and options, including Moments, an algorithm-driven timeline, switching from stars to hearts for favorites, improving their integration with Periscope, and more.

So have those efforts paid off? Kinda’ – here’s a breakdown of Twitter’s Q1 2016 performance report.

A Question of Growth

So, first - the big question – has Twitter been able to generate any user growth as a result of their renewed efforts?

In short, the answer is yes. A little bit at least.

Twitter Q1 2016 – Some Good News and Some Not so Good | Social Media TodayTwitter’s total audience increased to 310 million monthly active users (MAU), for the quarter, up on the 305 million reported in Q4 2015. Twitter attributes this growth to “both seasonality and marketing initiatives”. Twitter also makes a point that their total MAU count no longer includes SMS Fast Followers, which was a questionable metric the company had used in some previous counts, adding up to 6 million extra users.

On their new initiatives specifically, Twitter says the response to their controversial algorithm-defined timeline (remember #RIPTwitter?) has been largely positive, with an overall increase in Tweets, Retweets, replies, and likes. Twitter says the ‘opt out’ rate for the new option has also remained very low, with only about 2% of users switching off the function. Twitter also notes that improvements to follow recommendations in the sign-up flow have prompted a significant increase in new follows (up approximately 48%) and mutual follows (up approximately 56%) on average across both iOS and Android, a positive sign for their new, data-driven initiatives.

Twitter’s also put a focus on improving their experience for logged-out or non-Twitter users, most notably via improved content discovery options on the home page. Those efforts have increased time spent on platform for logged out users by 1%, while almost 3% more people are now graduating into active users within 30 days of visiting. Moments, meanwhile, has driven a 6% increase in visitor time on site among non logged-in desktop users in the US, UK and Brazil.  Small figures, sure, but another step in the right direction – and shifts that can help boost the reach and relevance of the platform over time.

In addition, Twitter reports that the total number of unique Direct Messages (DMs) sent is up almost 50% year-over-year, once again underlining the ongoing rise of messaging, while Tweets shared via DM are up more than 75% quarter-over-quarter, no doubt assisted by the extension of DMs and improved DM options for sharing tweets.

Twitter also makes note of their new deal with the NFL and the continued growth of Periscope, through which people are now watching more than 110 years of live video every day on iOS and Android.

(And worth noting, just today, Periscope just today announced that Periscope streams on Twitter will now autoplay on Android, as they already do on iOS).

Business Sense

In terms of revenue, Twitter hit $595 million for the quarter, an increase of 36% year-over-year, though down on analyst expectations of around $607 million.

Twitter Q1 2016 – Some Good News and Some Not so Good | Social Media TodayIn terms of how that breaks down by geography, Twitter’s international revenue growth looks to have slowed, while US expansion has continued at a relatively steady rate (excluding the higher results in Q4 2015).

Twitter Q1 2016 – Some Good News and Some Not so Good | Social Media TodayTwitter says the lower earnings results were due to “slower than expected growth in brand advertising spend”, with revenue growth from large brand advertisers, in particular, being softer than expected.

“Revenue growth from SMB advertisers was once again the fastest, as we continue to focus on increasing the number of active advertisers we serve. Video was once again strong in the period, with revenue from video format ads on O&O sites nearly tripling year-over-year. Video continues to see rapid adoption by new customers, as well as improvements in ad format performance. While we continue to see great opportunity to refine our direct response ad formats, revenue from direct response and app install formats also performed well in the quarter, growing nearly 100% year-over-year on a combined basis.”

In regards to video, Twitter’s looking to introduce more detailed demographic targeting and verification, and reach and frequency planning and purchasing option in future, in conjunction with their new NFL broadcast deal. Such additions could prove significantly valuable for video advertisers who have long sought more effective ways to measure and track their ad efforts on the platform.

Twitter’s also looking to expand their Promoted Video with Periscope functionality, which has been used primarily at major events, with celebrities conducting live Periscope crosses from the red carpet, for example.

Overall, it’s not a bad result for Twitter, but it’s just not that good. But then again, no one would have expected much different. A slight bump in MAU is a good thing, even if it is only slight, while lower revenue figures are a concern, though you’d suspect many would be waiting to see what Twitter does with its new NFL broadcast rights before making any real judgment on that front.

Initial market response saw shares in the company drop 9.2% to $16.14.

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