A day after Facebook sparked market concern by reporting that growth at the platform is slowing, Twitter has reported much the same in its Q2 numbers – though the reasoning behind Twitter’s shift in momentum is slightly different.
And the impact in Twitter’s case is also more significant – Facebook, while seeing a slow down in user growth (and even a decline in Europe), still added 38 million new users, overall, for the quarter. Twitter actually went backwards, though only slightly.
The reasoning for this in Twitter’s case largely relates to the platform’s efforts to crackdown on spam and misuse. As you may recall, Twitter recently removed inactive accounts from its Follower metrics, and while these accounts are inactive - and therefore not included in MAU counts - they are part of Twitter’s broader efforts, which have impacted on their performance stats.
“As a result of our health work, decisions not to renew or move to paid SMS carrier relationships in certain markets, and our decision to allocate resources towards GDPR and health, MAU could decline on a sequential basis in Q3. Based on our current level of visibility, we expect the decline to be mid-single-digit millions of MAU.”
The market did not take well to that explanation, and the warning of further declines. In response, Twitter shares declined 19% - their biggest dip since October 2016.
But while Twitter’s overall growth rate dropped – and that is significant – that was really the only negative news stemming from the company’s latest results.
In terms of daily users, Twitter reported an 11% increase, its seventh consecutive quarter of double-digit growth on this front.
That shows that Twitter is doing something right, and while the market is concerned about overall growth – because more people means more opportunity to show more ads – increases in active users and time spent on platform could arguably be just as effective in this regard.
Granted, Twitter’s inability to expand does raise some longer-term concerns - especially with so much focus on the platform due to tweets from President Trump. But if Twitter can continue to increase time spent in the app, they may be able to eventually shift that narrative, while the removal of spam and bots could improve the value of its ad offerings, attracting more investment over the journey.
But that, of course, is a bit more of a speculative bet than solid growth.
In terms of revenue, Twitter brought in $711 million for the quarter, at a growth rate of 24% year-over-year.
Again, that’s a positive sign, but Twitter did also warn that third-quarter earnings would likely come in below market estimates.
There are concerns too that Twitter isn’t growing revenue in its main market (North America) in any significant way, though international results are steadily increasing.
Again, with the U.S. President so keen on tweeting his thoughts, you have to consider what else can Twitter do – if there’s not more opportunity to monetize American users now, will there ever be?
But then again, the positive is that Twitter sees its international expansion continuing. On Japan specifically, Twitter’s second largest market, the company's working to adjust its offering to boost appeal.
Overall, it seems like a fairly good result for Twitter, even with the market being down on the numbers. Most who’ve been watching Twitter’s efforts in recent months expected to see a drop in user counts because of Twitter’s shift in focus to remove bad actors – but as noted, that, in the longer term, should be a positive, even if it does take longer for the results to filter through.
And that, really, seems like what the market results are saying. Rather than relying on the safety of increased overall user counts, long-term Twitter investors will be putting their faith in the vision of the company, and the potential for improvements based on their refinements.
Will the company be able to attract more ad investment if it removes the bots and spam? Will the user numbers actually decrease to a point where Twitter loses ground to other platforms on ad spend?
There’s more speculation involved from an investment standpoint, so while Twitter’s results seem mostly positive, for users and advertisers, they do come with some risk.
Your view on that will be influenced by how much you trust in Twitter’s leadership, and the platform's position as a key element in our modern interactive process.