Twitter’s first quarter in the post Jack Dorsey era seems to have gone okay, with the platform adding 6 million more users, and posting a 22% YoY increase in revenue. And while it’s still a long way from its ambitious growth targets, there are some positive signs – here’s a look at the key notes from Twitter’s Q4 2021 earnings results.
First off, on users – as noted, Twitter added 6 million more users in the quarter, taking it to 217 million mDAU.
As you can see here, the vast majority of Twitter’s growth is coming from international markets, with the platform adding just 1 million US users over the past year. In fact, Twitter’s US usage has remained virtually flat since the start of 2020, when it reached 36 million American users. Since then, it’s fluctuated between 36 and 38 million, but it hasn’t been able to gain more significant momentum among US audiences.
That’s a concern, considering the majority of its revenue still comes from US users.
As you can see, Twitter reached $1.57 billion in revenue for the quarter, with ad revenue at $1.41 billion, dominating its income.
But the lack of growth among its US audiences remains an issue, with Twitter gaining momentum in India and Asia, which have thus far been lower-earning regions for the company.
But even so, the numbers here are solid - especially when you consider that Facebook lost a million daily users in the US in the most recent quarter, and Pinterest’s usage continues to decline.
In some ways, it seems we’ve reached social media saturation point in the main markets, with people either signed up or not ever going to be. TikTok is bucking that trend, as it continues to gain momentum, but most other platforms are slowing, or declining, in western markets, which means their future growth momentum will need to come from outside the US – which also means that they’ll need to establish better revenue opportunities in these regions.
For Twitter, it’s still aiming to add 100 million more users by 2023, in line with the growth goals it established under Dorsey, and communicated in February last year.
Those goals were set after Dorsey came under pressure from an activist investor group in 2020, which essentially bought up Twitter board seats in order to pressure the company to replace him.
With Dorsey stepping down in November, it was initially unclear whether those same goals would stand, but Twitter has re-committed itself to these targets in today’s announcement:
“We made meaningful progress in 2021 against our 2023 goals: doubling development velocity by the end of 2023, delivering at least 315 million mDAU in Q4’23, and delivering $7.5 billion or more in revenue for the full year of 2023.”
Both of those will take significant effort – and as noted, the majority of that growth will need to come from outside the US, its biggest earning market.
For comparison, Twitter added 18 million users throughout 2021, and will need to add another 98 million over the next two years to make it to 315m total mDAU. So it essentially needs to more than double its user growth rate (+49 million per year) moving forward, which seems like a pretty steep hill to climb, especially with its newer experiments not looking likely to win over a heap of new users.
Most of Twitter’s new projects, like Super Follows and Twitter Blue, are more focused on revenue growth, another key element in the plan (Twitter full year revenue reached $5.08 billion), though it is also looking to improve relevance and discovery for users through the expansion of Topics, while Spaces continues to be a key focus for increasing user engagement.
Topics, at least in theory, could be a winner for usage growth, and Twitter’s continued to build on its Topic tools – which could also have benefits for advertising:
“In Q4, we began integrating signals from organic Topic follows on Twitter into our ads targeting algorithm, with early results showing an almost 10% increase in the average targetable interest segment size.”
Twitter says that 280 million accounts now follow at least one Topic, while it also now has more than 14,500 Topics available to follow in the app, across 11 languages.
Improving relevance could help the platform maximize engagement, and that could, by extension, get more people to sign up, and it’s interesting to consider the potential of Topics as an advertising and segmentation tool too. But still, how, exactly, Twitter plans to bring in 98 million more users over the next two years remains unclear.
In terms of other areas of development, Twitter also says that more than 2 million profiles have now converted to Professional Accounts, helping to segment business users, and highlight new opportunities for potential ad customers, while it’s also experimenting with using search query data as another ad targeting tool, helping to showcase relevant ads to users who search for certain topics.
And like every other social platform, Twitter’s also experimenting with live-stream shopping:
“Walmart kicked off Cyber Week with the first-ever Live Shopping event on Twitter, driving 2M+ total livestream views and exceeding engagement expectations.”
It’s difficult to say what potential these elements hold, but it is interesting to note Twitter’s enthusiasm for its new ad targeting and business options, which could see them get more focus within its broader growth push.
Overall, it’s a good report card for Twitter, which highlights rising areas of opportunity – though it remains to be seen whether the platform will actually be able to reach its 2023 growth targets, and where, exactly, all that growth is going to come from.
In many ways, its new elements are still in development, and none of them are likely to become significant drivers of usage growth, unless it can tap into a key market segment or use case, and connect into a whole new audience because of that push.
But I don’t see that happening, so while Twitter’s growth seems reasonable and steady, it’s almost beating itself down by pushing for these big targets.
Maybe it has to - maybe, despite Dorsey moving on, Twitter’s shareholders and board are still holding the platform to these goals, and if they don’t meet them, further change will come.
It’s hard to say, but the bottom line is that Twitter is doing reasonably well, just not as good as it would like.