Twitter capped ’an extraordinary year’ in the last three months of 2020, as new users signed on in droves to follow global events in real-time despite the challenges of election misinformation and intensifying calls to ban ex-President Donald Trump.
On the back of this success, Twitter ad revenue grew 31% year over year to $1.15bn, with total ad engagement growing 35% over the same period. Across the quarter overall revenues grew 28% to $1.29bn, up from $1bn in over the previous three months.
‘An extraordinary year’ for Twitter
In its latest financial update, Twitter confidently predicts that it will maintain momentum into 2021, with revenues growth outstripping expenses with the caveat that this is predicated on the pandemic stabilising and a ’modest impact’ from Apple's looming iOS14 privacy changes.
This latter cloud on the horizon has already proven to be a great source of consternation over at Facebook, which has bemoaned the privacy update at every turn, warning that its ability to target ads will be constrained.
Twitter’s more sanguine outlook comes as its daily user base surged to an average of 192m in the third quarter, a jump of 27% for the year. This significantly outpaced Facebook which rose by an equivalent of 11% year-on-year to record an average of 1.84bn daily users in December.
Early signs for 2021 back up the optimism with user growth in January standing above the average of the past four years – despite the unceremonious banning of one of its erstwhile stars, a certain former president by the name of Donald Trump.
Trump banned ‘forever’
Twitter served a permanent suspension on Donald Trump in the aftermath of the Capitol Hill riot which saw a mob of supporters raid the seat of US democracy.
Chief financial officer (CFO) Ned Segal said that Trump would never be permitted to return irrespective of subsequent behaviour.
Speaking to CNBC’s Squawkbox Segal said: ”When are removed from the platform, you are removed from the platform. Whether you are a commentator, you're a CFO, or you are a former or current public official.
”Remember our policies are designed to make sure that people are not inciting violence. And if anybody does that we have to remove them from the service. And our policies don't allow people to come back.”
Twitter‘s hardline stance will apply to any public official similarly removed from the service.
Twitter previously justified its exemption of Trump‘s volatile outbursts from its house rules as he was a holder of public office and a newsworthy figure. In a notable hardening of its stance, Twitter now appears to have closed the door on the Trump-era for good, even if he did return to public office.
Informing investors that Twitter was more than a one-trick pony, co-founder Jack Dorsey said: ”We’re a platform that is obviously much larger than any one topic or any one account.”
Dorsey went on to point out that 80% of its userbase hailed from outwith the US with the service ‘not just dependent upon just news and politics‘.
Twitter‘s actions can be set against a backdrop of hardening attitudes among both regulators and the wider public to crack down on misinformation and hate speech, with all major platforms now engaged in a race to safeguard audiences and advertisers.