Twitter’s second quarter results show it can make more money from its users, delivering over $500m in revenue, but it’s still struggling to bring in new ones and is hunting for a chief marketing officer (CMO) to come up with a definitive solution.
A growing advertiser base, an increase in ad engagement and the arrival of new ad products reflect Twitter's “good progress in monetisation” in the quarter, said interim chief executive Jack Dorsey, who replaced Dick Costolo last month. However, the site is at risk of driving away users with a slew of ads if new users do not temper its ad growth.
International ad revenue and US advertising revenue were up an impressive 75 per cent and 57 per cent in the quarter, while Twitter's core users grew less than one per cent. It’s an “unacceptable” predicament for Twitter to be in, added Dorsey on an earnings call yesterday evening (29 July). “We do not expect to see sustained meaningful growth in monthly active users (MAUs) until we start to reach the mass market.”
The company's solution is to turn to marketing to convert what it claims is “enormous” awareness of over 95 per cent across its key markets into actual users. Just three in 10 users in those markets actually use the service, a discord that bears all the hallmarks of a poorly communicated brand proposition. As a result, Twitter is hunting for CMO to build the brand, in a move that suggests chief financial officer Anthony Noto’s brief spell as its top marketer was not able to deliver the big changes needed.
“We’re working as rapidly as we can to put us in a position to launch an integrated marketing strategy and marketing campaign before the end of 2015,” added Noto on the same earnings call. “In the couple of months since assuming responsibility to lead marketing, we’ve done a deep dive into the issues driving MAUs and usage and are developing a marketing strategy and plan to address this.”
Any campaign the company concocts will need to address these two issues; a clear proposition around Twitter’s unique value and a simplified user experience. Twitter may have changed the way people communicate but its low level of penetration implies that only early adopters are aware of its value
Jerry Daykin, global digital director at Dentus Aegis Network, added: “Twitter clearly remain resolutely focussed on improving user experience and making the platform more accessible to new users, which ultimately can only be a good thing for marketers. If you look closely at Jack’s comments its clear he’s starting to build a new narrative for Twitter, one which aims to show you interesting & relevant content even if it’s not the latest thing one of your connections Tweeted. From a general user perspective it’s certainly compelling, though purists are sure to dislike the direction and want to cling to the real time nature – no doubt Twitter will look to offer both in some way.
"Whilst Facebook’s algorithm tends to conjure up very negative connotations it’s precisely because of it that the platform has grown to have such a large audience, and in fact contrary to popular belief the algorithm actually means content from Pages gets more exposure than if it was a purely real time feed. Even without an algorithm Tweets are still only seen by 5-10% of the audience which happens to be online at the right moment, so the platform already necessitates a paid media approach to drive meaningful scale.”
That Dorsey and Noto spent much of their time with the analysts outlining their marketing aspirations shows the pressure both are under to pull in new users. Twitter is in trouble. Its latest results spotlighted the failure of recent product launches such as Instant Timelines and Logged-Out experiences to take it mainstream. And while ad growth continues to rise, the rate is slowing, which consequently heightens the need for a broader base of people to monetise.
Ad revenue growth slumped to 72 per cent in the quarter, down from 129 per cent a year ago and 72 per cent in the previous quarter. The slowdown is still less than that at key rival Facebook, which saw ad revenue increase 46 per cent in its first quarter, albeit from a significantly larger base. The world’s biggest social network accrued $3.3bn in ad revenue in its first quarter, and counted 1.44 billion active users as of 31 March, a 13 per cent year-on-year increase.