If you didn’t like Twitter’s recent move to throw random tweets into your timeline, you’re going to hate the future. Twitter is still struggling to make the service more accessible to the masses, a point underscored by its third-quarter earnings report—and that means more tinkering with things like the timeline Twitter fans have grown accustomed to.
While Twitter continues to grow, particularly on mobile, it’s not growing fast enough to make investors happy. Twitter now has 284 million monthly active users, up 23% compared to the year-earlier quarter. The majority of those—80%—access the social network on mobile. Timeline views reached 181 billion, up 14% compared to a year earlier.
But the microblogging service’s user growth slowed over its previous quarter, and Wall Street was not impressed. Investors knocked down Twitter shares roughly 10% in after-hours trading.
Growth, Growth, Growth
Twitter otherwise turned in an unexceptional quarter. Its revenues more than doubled to $361.3 million compared to a year earlier. So did its losses, which expanded even faster than revenue, to $174.5 million from $64.6 million a year earlier. Those losses, however, weren’t larger than expected.
Twitter, which wants to position itself as a real-time information and discussion hub, remains small by the standards of major social-media networks. Its 284 million active monthly users are dwarfed by the billion-plus on Facebook, for instance.
In order to appeal to a broader audience—one that isn’t already familiar with the quirky and not completely user-friendly argot of tweeting—the company will have to make it easy to better understand how and why people need to use it. That may well current Twitter addicts who are happy with the way things are.
The company has made some significant changes in recent months, including dumping suggested tweets into your timeline. These posts might include favorited tweets from people you follow or tweets from accounts your followers follow. It might seem convoluted from that description, but the aim is to help newbies find interesting accounts to follow and, eventually, figure out how people and brands tweet.
Twitter said on Monday that new iOS profiles—a complete revamp of the Twitter profile that makes it easy to navigate by putting tweets, photos and favorites in three separate tabs, and the profile bio clear and up front—accounted for an 83% increase in “profile impressions.” That means people looked at other users’ profiles almost twice as much as they did before.
So What Will Twitter Do?
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo laid out some vague plans for change, some of which echoed what he’s been telling investors for the last few quarters.
That includes improving things for new users by providing a “high-quality” timeline when they sign up for an account, likely by suggesting tweets and accounts to follow by forcing tweets in the timeline. That could also include an upgrade to Twitter’s direct messaging function, which has been in a dire need of an upgrade for years.
Costolo said Twitter will continue to “innovate on ways to better organize content to deliver best experiences.” Translated from the original Martian, that means more experimentation and continued shuffling of the timeline.
Anthony Noto, Twitter’s CFO, reiterated those expectations. He said on the third-quarter earnings call that while Twitter will continue to be a real-time social network by showing tweets in chronological order, it will begin to distribute tweets and updates that might be hours hold, but that the user might find helpful. Hello, algorithm-based feed!
The company is also working on improving the number of people that use Twitter that don’t actually have a Twitter account. That includes where tweets appear on third-party services like news websites or in applications. According to Twitter, the “logged out” audience, or people who see tweets outside of Twitter proper, is easily as large as the “logged-in audience”—and perhaps as much as twice that size.
Lead photo courtesy of Twitter