State of Social Q3 2015: Twitter Flatlines Growth

The 140 character social network released its Q3 2015 earnings. How is everyone’s favorite blue bird doing?


The growth story is what has investors spooked: growth in the user base has been flat for the last two quarters.


As shown above, the growth in the last two quarters hasn’t even cracked 1%.

Mobile growth tells the same story:


The ratio of mobile to all users remains 80%.

Should marketers and communicators who rely on Twitter be concerned? It’s too early to tell, but the ouster of former CEO Dick Costolo and re-engagement of founder Jack Dorsey may help Twitter find a path back to user growth. New features like Moments were rolled out this quarter to make user adoption easier.

Ad Revenue

The bright spot for investors and marketers is Twitter’s ad growth:


Investors are pleased with the orange line for obvious reasons, but marketers and communicators should be pleased as well. Why? The more effective Twitter is at advertising, the more ad revenue it collects. The more effective Twitter is at advertising, the more marketers can rely on the service to ensure that marketing messages are reaching audiences.

In fact, when you examine year over year ad revenue performance, the increases are substantial:


Note above that not only are there increases year over year, but the gaps between the lines are growing wider and wider as the years go by.

Looking Ahead: What It Means for Marketing and PR

Twitter’s audience growth problems are beginning to change how the channel functions. Certainly, almost every social media influence tool uses Twitter as its database of record for influence calculation, and barring significant changes to Twitter’s data APIs, that’s unlikely to change soon. However, the way in which Twitter interacts with your audiences may be changing.

Twitter Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics.jpg

Above, we see that in my personal web analytics, Twitter brings my audience back, rather than being a source of new audience. For comparison, above I put Twitter and Facebook side by side to showcase new vs. returning audiences by channel, this year and last year.

Strategically, your Twitter audience may be more of a loyalty/nurturing play than an awareness/growth play, especially as the social network struggle to grow its user base.

Looking further ahead, expect Twitter to continue adding more options for advertisements, including Sponsored Moments (which have already been tested at least once). The recently announced conversion lift/brand lift metrics will help companies to understand how Twitter is impacting their digital communications and marketing, and new eCommerce options will benefit B2B and B2C marketers who have products which are transactional sales.

Should you change your Twitter strategy? If it’s working, no. However, one of the tests you should do on a quarterly basis is examine your year over year traffic from each of the major social networks, especially if you haven’t made significant changes to how you use a social network to promote your business. For example, here’s my year over year Twitter analytics for my personal website:

Twitter 2Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics.jpg

Above, you can see that Twitter has generated 12% fewer visitors than the previous year, with roughly the same strategy. This is a clear indicator that I need to change my Twitter strategy.

Take a look at your own Twitter metrics to see whether your strategy is due for a change or not; if it is, begin testing to identify what will work for you!

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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