Ever since Twitter announced it would join the fraternity of public companies, one of the biggest concerns among Wall Street investors has been its underwhelming monthly active user base, which at last count sat at 255 million, and its even more underwhelming growth rate of that figure. Prior to last quarter when user growth accelerated slightly, the growth rate had been slowing for five consecutive quarters.
But many argue that, as a public network where not every user has an account, monthly active users is not a sufficient metric for measuring Twitter’s full reach. For example, plenty of people saw Ellen’s selfie tweet embedded around the Web even if they didn’t have a Twitter account. Therefore comparing Facebook’s billion-plus monthly active users to Twitter’s 255 million is not exactly at apples to apples comparison, many argue.
That’s why Twitter, according to a Wall Street Journal report, had planned to unveil new growth metrics as part of today’s earnings statement:
The new metrics will measure the breadth of the audience that is exposed to Twitter’s content but not logged in, the people said. Executives hope to shift the perception of Twitter from a social network to a broadcast platform in the likeness of Google Inc.’s YouTube, whose videos are often embedded on other sites.
Now Re/Code has reported that there will no new growth metrics after all, just the same old monthly active user count.
Granted, Twitter had declined to comment on the Journal’s original report, so the new growth metrics could have been mere rumors from the start. That said, it’s hard to imagine Twitter’s top brass not discussing better ways to quantify its impact.
Analysts predict that Twitter will post a modest increase in users reaching somewhere between 260 million and 269 monthly actives. In any case it’s been an eventful quarter for the company during which the insane World Cup match between Germany and Brazil shattered the record for the most-tweeted sporting event of all time, generating 35.6 million tweets and handily beating the former record of 24.9 million tweets sent during last February’s Super Bowl.
Even if Twitter’s user growth continues to sputter along, the company has only now begun to monetize its existing user base so it may not matter for the health of the company in the short-term. But if it keeps failing to hit a tipping point for user adoption, Twitter may eventually find itself on Wall Street’s shit list, no matter how many selfies Ellen posts.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]