There’s something that doesn’t add up about Twitter’s claimed usage numbers at present.
As you can see in this chart, which Elon Musk presented at the Morgan Stanley Tech, Media and Telecommunications Conference in March, as of Q4 22 – the period ending in December last year – Twitter was up to 253 million daily active users.
Musk has also claimed that Twitter’s now exceeding 8 billion total user minutes per day, which means that, on average, Twitter users are spending 31.6 minutes per day in the app.
Which is not radically different from Twitter’s performance updates in times past – Twitter has been steadily growing its daily active user count over time, and was at 237.8 million daily users as of July last year, before Musk took over at the app. Various reports have also indicated that the average Twitter user spends about 30 minutes per day in the app - so it’s not a crazy leap to see Twitter’s usage stats increase, especially given the hype and attention given to Musk’s activities at the app.
But the total user numbers are interesting when you also consider Musk’s own claims around the number of fake profiles in the app, which his legal team submitted as part of Musk’s effort to get out of his agreement to buy the app last year.
As you’ll recall, in July last year, Elon tried to renege on his $44 billion offer for the app, because based on his team’s analysis, Twitter wasn’t actually worth that much due to the high amount of bot profiles that were included in its active user figures.
Twitter had long held that the number of fake profiles in the app didn’t exceed 5% of its total mDAU count, based on its own sampling, but Musk claimed that it was actually much more, with around 33% of its active profiles being fakes, based on his own research and analysis.
Musk eventually settled on it being a more modest 20%, while noting that it was likely much higher.
20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 17, 2022
My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate.
Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%.
This deal cannot move forward until he does.
Part of Elon’s stated motivation for taking over Twitter was to rid the platform of bots, which he believed had skewed conversation in the app, and at the rates that he was referring to, that would be a significant amount, which could indeed sway topical discussions.
Musk’s plan was to take Twitter private, which would reduce market scrutiny on the app. That would then enable it to address its bot problems without being concerned about the impact on its user count - but since then, and following various claims that Musk has killed bots in the app, which definitely account for at least 5% of its daily actives (equal to 12.65 million accounts), Twitter’s actually added some 15 million more users?
In raw numbers, that would mean that if bots accounted for 20% of Twitter’s mDAU count as Elon claimed (50.6m), Twitter’s actually added 65 million new daily actives since July last year, replacing the bots with real people as Twitter has theoretically eradicated them.
Which is possible, but not very likely when you also look at Twitter’s growth chart over time.
As you can see in this chart, Twitter’s user growth has been pretty slow and steady, with a jump in Q2 2022 to 237.8 million mDAU, its final update before Elon took over. If Twitter actually added 65 million more users between Q2 and Q4 last year, that would mean that it replicated almost 3 years worth of growth, within a span of 6 months, its fastest growth rate by a long way.
Again, that could be within the realm of possibility, but it seems like a very rapid acceleration – which means that Twitter is either really, really popular under Elon Musk, it hasn’t removed bot profiles at the rate that it claims, or it’s not actually seeing 253 million active users.
We don’t know for sure, because Twitter no longer has to provide transparency over its calculations, or report its performance updates, as it’s not a publicly listed entity. But it does seem strange that Twitter claims to be eliminating bots, which would bring down its active user count, based on all past metrics, while its active user figures are actually jumping to new highs.
Something doesn’t add up, and it does seem like Elon has decided that Twitter’s bot problems are not as big as they seemed, now that he’s the one in charge at the app. Again, at one stage, he was claiming that 33% of Twitter accounts were bots, which would mean that he would need to eliminate almost 84 million profiles to free the app of bot activity.
But its mDAU number hasn’t gone down, at all, it’s gone up.
Does that mean that millions of bots are still active? That more bots have flocked to the app? Or does it show that many, many more people than ever are now logging into Twitter every day?
Somewhere, there’s a mismatch in the story that Twitter’s presenting.
And the question I would have for Elon is: ‘What percentage of Twitter’s mDAU count right now is actually bots?’