Twitter finally has the chance to tell the world what it’s doing right.
The company reported an increase of users for the first time since the first quarter of 2018. User declines had been attributed to the company’s removal of fake accounts.
Twitter says its rising profits and user numbers are directly tied to efforts to clean up abuse and delete bot accounts from its platform. Moreover, it says it will change how it reports user growth (or decline).
Twitter now says it won’t offer monthly active user numbers (MAUs) but instead will measure its growth in “monetizable” daily active users (mDAUs), tracking users who are exposed to ads.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey promises that the company will continue to invest in cleaning up its platform and developing better targeting for its ad partners.
On a conference call with analysts Tuesday, CEO Jack Dorsey said improving the health of the platform continues to be “our number one priority as a company.” Right now, Dorsey said, Twitter is focusing on taking a more “proactive” approach to cracking down on abuse, by relying on machine learning and deep learning.
Earlier this month, the company said that “38% of abusive content that’s enforced” is now flagged proactively without relying on users reporting it. A year ago, none of it was flagged proactively.
Dorsey also highlighted ongoing product initiatives to make Twitter more “relevant” to users by surfacing events and interests as easily as it surfaces user accounts to follow.
Twitter says advertising opportunities will grow as it explores new ways for brand managers to reach customers.
New ad formats, partnerships with content providers like the U.S. National Basketball Association and efforts to patrol abusive content are helping Twitter better compete for advertising dollars, executives said.
Social media companies have been under pressure over privacy concerns and political influence activity. Twitter has removed thousands of spam and suspicious accounts, which it blamed for sequential declines in monthly users in recent quarters.
Twitter executives said they saw opportunities for selling ads that earn revenue when users visit websites or download apps, citing success with major brands like Walt Disney Co. The company is looking to grow its sales team in 2019 to better serve big advertisers.
“Something where you see a blending of performance and brand is the Star Trek ad that Disney is running right now, where I click through to make sure that I’d be notified when more information was available about the next Star Wars,” Twitter Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal told analysts.
As for measuring growth, Twitter might not be swaying analysts by switching to daily users from monthly active users.
In its place, Twitter would prefer we look to a new metric: daily users. This figure appears to be growing more consistently and substantially. It’s now at 134 million, up from 120 million a year ago and 126 million last quarter. On its earnings call, Twitter executives said multiple times that they’re focused on growing this stat, rather than the monthly usage figure, since it more accurately reflects users it can advertise to.
That’s a better trend for Twitter, but the number is comparatively tiny. Facebook had 1.5 billion daily users as of the end of last year, having added 28 million in the fourth quarter alone. Snapchat had 186 million daily users at the end 2018. Instagram has 500 million people just looking at stories every day.
Twitter previously said its daily user count isn’t comparable to other social networks because it’s only counting monetizable daily users, and not daily users who don’t see ads. It’s not clear how much other social networks are really inflating their figures with users they can’t show ads too, though — generally, social networks control the platforms their daily users are on (unlike Twitter, which has many people using third-party apps), so you would expect that most daily users can be monetized.
Still, the gain in users is good news for a company that hasn’t had any wins to share in a year. Twitter executives’ pledge to remove abusive accounts is a point of contention for users who say the company doesn’t listen to customer feedback.
In early April, CEO Jack Dorsey appeared at the annual TED conference, where users grilled him on the company’s efforts to remove abusive content and fake followers. Many users insist that the company isn’t working hard or fast enough to delete problematic accounts.
Other users claim—without much evidence—that the platform unfairly targets conservative voices. However, Twitter has been forced to respond to complaints from President Donald Trump about disappearing followers.
Conservative claims that the liberal leaders and staffers of technology companies treat them unfairly have been simmering for years and gained more steam heading into last year’s midterm elections. There’s little evidence to back up those claims, but companies have responded by scheduling a series of meetings with conservative leaders to reassure them. Several of the nation’s best-known tech executives testified on Capitol Hill about the issue last year.
Dorsey said in May of 2017 that it was “important” for Trump to keep tweeting.
“I believe it’s really important to hear directly from our leadership,” he told NBC’s Today show. “And I believe it’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than have them behind closed doors.”
According to Twitter, Dorsey “had a constructive meeting with the President of the United States today at the president’s invitation. They discussed Twitter’s commitment to protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections and efforts under way to respond to the opioid crisis.”
Twitter’s reports of user growth could be encouraging for marketers looking to reach new customers.
At the same time, people are engaging more with Twitter. The company said 134 million daily active users were able to view ads and promoted tweets on the service in the first quarter, an increase of 11% from the same period a year ago.
Twitter said in February that it planned to focus on this daily user number as it looks to build a service that people want to use every day. The monthly active user metric, long a focus of investors who track Twitter, will no longer be included with its earnings reports after this quarter.
More engaged eyeballs may mean more ad dollars. Twitter posted revenue of $787 million for the quarter, up 18% from the same period a year ago and more than Wall Street had expected. The company credited this growth in part to traction for video ad formats.
How are you planning to use Twitter in future campaigns, PR Daily readers?