Twitter is a real-time microblogging platform, publicly launched in July 2006. Its defining feature is the tight limits on the length of each post – known as a ‘tweet’. Initially this stood at 140 characters, though this figure was doubled in most languages to 280 in 2017.
Twitter is one of the most recognisable names in the contemporary tech and media landscapes. At its peak in Q1 2018, it reported 336 million MAU. December 2013 saw the financial peak, with a market cap of $39.34. It has, however, fallen from grace on both counts somewhat in recent years. User numbers fell to 321 million by the end of 2018. We saw a recovery to 330 million in Q1 2019, after which point Twitter has switched to reporting ‘monetizable daily users’, of which there were 145 million in Q3 2019.
The Twitter market cap was down to $23.04 billion as of November 2019 – having been as high as $35.01 billion in September 2019. It was rated 11th in the world by the Alexa global website rankings in 2018, and #21 in Forbes Top 100 Digital Companies 2018. In late 2019, it ranks 34th in the former, and did not feature in Forbes’ 2019 listing.
Twitter was developed as a side project of podcasting platform Odeo, by former Google employees, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, engineer Jack Dorsey, and software developer Noah Glass. Initially conceived as an SMS-based platform (hence the 140-character limit), Twitter was built using the Ruby on Rails web application framework. After internal trialling within Odeo, it was launched to the public a few months later. The platform was known as twttr, until the creators were able to purchase the already-in use Twitter.com a few months after launch. The name, referring to small bursts of inconsequential information or chirps of birds, was considered to perfectly capture the ethos of the new product.
The potential of the microblogging platform, in conjunction with the threat posed by the launch of Apple’s podcasting platform, led Williams, Stone, and Dorsey (the current CEO) to buy out Odeo as the Obvious Corporation. Twitter’s coming of age was considered to be SXSW 2007, at which giant screens showed tweets from attendees in real time. Daily usage increased threefold to 60,000 tweets. A suffusion of venture capital following the event saw the foundation of Twitter, Inc.
Users can choose to follow other users, with tweets from those they have chosen to follow appearing in their feed. They may make their own tweets private, appearing only to their followers. Public posts are searchable and viewable by anyone, even without a those without an account. Users can reply directly to posts, and also have the option to send private messages.
A range of Twitter business features are also available. Brands can post promoted tweets, post from promoted Twitter accounts, or promote Twitter trends (using the #, or hashtag, feature, pioneered by Twitter). Promoted content appears to the users to whom it is most relevant, based on their stated information and usage of Twitter. Tweetdeck is an official tool that allows businesses to manage, monitor, and schedule tweets.
As well as being accessible through web browsers, Twitter apps are available across a range of mobile devices (iOS, Android, and more). Tweets and feeds can also be embedded into web content – a mainstay of the online news landscape.
Table of Contents
Key Twitter Statistics
- 145 million monetizable daily Twitter users reported in Q3 2019
- Peak user numbers reported in Q1 2018, with 336 million MAU
- Only 31% of Twitter users globally are female
- 31% of Twitter users are 18-24 years old, and 27.3% are 25-34
- US market penetration estimated at between 20 and 22%
- 500 million tweets were sent daily in 2014, the last time official stats were released
- In the US, top 10% of tweeters contribute 80% of tweets
- 65% of these prolific Twitter users are female
- 80% of Twitter usage happens on mobile devices
- 36% of US Twitter users identify as Democrats, and 21% as Republicans
- Barack Obama is the most-followed person on Twitter, with 110 million followers
- Prize giveaway from Japanese online clothing retailer ZOZOTOWN posted in January 2019 is the most retweeted tweet, with 4.4 million retweets
- Median US Twitter user follows 89 accounts and is followed by 25
- 66% of brands with over 100 employees use Twitter for marketing purposes
- 26% of US users check Twitter several times daily; a further 20% at least once a day
- 12% of Americans use Twitter as a news source
- Another study found that 59% of people who log into Twitter do so to catch up on the news – the most commonly cited reason
- 39% of US Twitter users have tweeted about politics; rising to 65% of the top-10% most prolific tweeters
- In 2017 it was estimated that 15% of Twitter accounts were bots
- In 2018, it was calculated that 60% of the conversation around Central American migrants headed to the US was driven by bots
- Twitter reported revenue of $824 million in Q3 2019
- Total 2018 Twitter revenue came to $3 billion
- Twitter profit in Q3 2019 stood at $36.5 million – it had been in excess of $1 billion the previous quarter, albeit bolstered by tax breaks
- Twitter’s market cap stood at $22.5 billion in November 2019, down from $35.01 billion just two months before; In 2014, it was close to $40 billion, while in 2016 it fell to under $10 billion
Twitter User Statistics
Twitter is one of the most-used social media platforms in the world. Official Twitter statistics show that, at its peak in Q1 2018, it was used by 336 million monthly active users.
The platform hit something of a downward trend after this point, however – falling to 321 million MAU by the end of the year. We saw a slight recovery to 330 million in Q1 2019, after which point Twitter has changed its reporting method to ‘monetizable daily users’ (see below). These came to 145 million in Q3 2019.
Twitter reported that the decline in monthly active users seen before the change in reporting was related to a crackdown on spam and bot accounts. The latter have been connected with the dissemination of ‘fake news’ in recent years, with the intention to disrupt electoral processes, among other aims. Twitter also suggested GDPR may have played a small part. No doubt, many genuine users were also repulsed by the reported proliferation of manipulative bots.
As is to be expected, the most explosive growth in Twitter user numbers came in the early days. In Q1 2010, for example, Twitter could only boast 30 million active users. This figure had more than doubled a year later, to 68 million. By Q1 2012, with 138 monthly active users, the same had happened again. Growth had been steadier since around 2015 (with 302 million monthly average users in Q1) before the travails of 2017 and 2018.
Twitter MAU, Q1 2010 – Q1 2019
The switch to daily active users has seen more positive trends come to light. The 145 million daily active Twitter users (of the monetizable variety…) reported in Q3 2019 represent an increase on the 139 million we saw in Q2 and the 134 million in Q1 of 2019. Year-on-year, the Q3 figure is a 17% increase on Q3 2018s’s 124 million.
Twitter had previously been somewhat cagey over daily active user numbers. The figures we have go back to the beginning of 2017.
These numbers would suggest that after a slower 2018 (albeit one in which we see consistent growth by this metric) we’ve seen healthier levels of growth over the course of 2019. 145 million, however, compares negatively against, say 210 million daily Snapchat users (Q3 2019) or 500 million daily Instagram Stories users (January 2019).
Monetizable daily Twitter users, Q1 2017 – Q3 2019, millions
Data source: Twitter
Hootsuite and We Are Social figure that the total advertising reach of Twitter came to 245 million as of July 2019. This is 4.2% of the total eligible online audience, by their estimation.
Twitter US market penetration
Slightly more recent data from the Pew Research Center shows a marginally higher 22% of US adults reported using Twitter – down from 24% in 2018. This gives it a relatively low standing compared to networks like Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat – as we can see from the user number figures.
Most used US social media platforms in 2019
Source: Pew Research Center
eMarketer predicts that the number of US Twitter users will stay more or less consistent over the next few years or so, with yearly increases of under 0.5%.
US Twitter users, 2018 – 2023
Of the 145 daily Twitter users, 30 million were in the US (21%), with the remaining 115 million ‘international’.
If we shift the focus to advertising audience, Japan is the next biggest Twitter market after the US (with market penetration of nearly a third), followed by the UK. There were even thought to be 10 million Twitter accounts in China in 2016, where Twitter is blocked. More recent estimates put the figure at 3.2 million. In terms of penetration, the highest level in the top-10 can be found in Saudi Arabia, at 37%. This is followed by Japan (32%) and the UK (25%).
Twitter supports over 45 languages in total (with translated widget text available in 34 of these). Its reach is not just limited to Earth either; astronaut Timothy Creamer sent the first tweet from the International Space Station in 2010. Back on terra firma, it was reported back in 2015 that Twitter ads were available in 200 countries and territories (the UN country count currently stands at 195).
Twitter is currently blocked in China, Iran, North Korea, and is often inaccessible in Turkmenistan.
Twitter audience by country, July 2019, in millions
Twitter users skew male, with the gender split midway through 2019 reported as 69% male to a mere 31% female. This is well up on the ratio reported a year prior, which found that men accounted for 57% of Twitter users globally.
By age, we see the greatest concentration of Twitter users in the 18-24 and 25-34 age brackets (in that order, by virtue of the greater quantity of female users in the former; male users are pretty much evenly matched). The drop off as we go up through age groups is less severe than with other apps. Notably, Twitter is also more popular with 35-49 year olds and 50+ year old users than it is with teens.
Male users account for more than twice as many users as female in every age group but the youngest two (and it’s not far off in the 18-24 bracket).
Global Twitter users by age and gender, July 2019
Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social
In terms of age and wealth, Twitter has claimed that 80% of its users are affluent Millennials. In the same collection of Twitter demographic statistics, it also claims that 53% are early adopters of new products, and 64% are likely to influence purchase.
US Twitter user demographics
In the US, according to Pew Research Center, Twitter stats. 21% of women overall use Twitter, compared to 24% of men in 2019 (a year prior they had found that 23% of women used Twitter to 21% of men – contrary to global trends).
As with other social media, we see a concentration of US Twitter users in higher-income, higher-education, and urbanite social brackets. This is to be expected, on a words-focused and supposedly erudite platform.
We also see typical patterns with regard to age, with usage more concentrated among younger age brackets. This is perhaps a little less predictable – Twitter is not like many other social media platforms in being clearly associated strongly with youth.
US Twitter demographics, Jan 2019
|Demographic||Percentage using Twitter|
|$30,000 – $74,999||20|
|High school or less||13|
Indeed, a different set of Pew Research Center Twitter statistics shows that the greatest concentration of Twitter users is actually to be found in the 30-49 bracket, who account for 44% of Twitter users, while accounting for 33% of the over population. This compares to 18-29 years olds, who account for 21% if the population, and 29% of Twitter users.
Part of this comes down to how the data has been parsed (30-49 year olds account for a greater share of the US population, so presenting it this way will naturally deliver a proportionally higher figure). This data also comes from a different data set, albeit one collected only two months before the previous.
Other figures are more in line with the other data: US Twitter users tend to be more-educated and from higher-income households. We see an even split between genders. The Twitter audience is slightly less white and more Hispanic than the overall US population, though not by a great deal.
Twitter US demographics, Nov 2018
Source: Pew Research Center
The same Twitter stats show that Twitter users tend to skew towards the Democratic Party to a greater extent that the general population. A slightly higher than average quantity also identify as independents. Republicans and ‘something else’ are on the lower side.
When it comes to leaning left or right, the former claim a decisive victory among the Twitter population. 60% of US users say they lean towards the Democrats, while only 35% go the other way.
US Twitter users: Political affiliations
Source: Pew Research Center
It has been found that the vast majority of political tweets in the US are generated by a small subset of users (see Twitter Usage Statistics below).
Unsurprisingly, these prolific political tweeters are far more likely to be highly politically engaged. More worryingly, in this era of pronounced political polarisation, we see that those who tweet the most tend to have further to the right or left, and more likely to be antipathetic to the other side – without coming into contact with them, as they are far more likely to follow those who ascribe to the same sort of beliefs.
Prolific political tweeter vs other US Twitter users: demographics
Source: Pew Research Center
Twitter news user demographics
Compared to other social media sites, those who use Twitter as a news source are likely to be white, in the 30-49 age bracket (followed by 18-29). As elsewhere on Twitter, they are more likely to be college-educated.
Demographic breakdown of US news consumers (2018)
Most followed accounts on Twitter
Twitter has come to be the de rigueur mouthpiece of celebrities, politicians, and organisations aiming to speak directly to the public. Blue ticks were introduced in 2009 to indicate verified celebrity or business accounts – partially based on complaints from Kanye West, who feared being impersonated.
Actor Ashton Kutcher was the first to reach 1 million followers, while Donald Trump (66.7 million followers) is renowned for his liberal use of the platform (46,000 tweets and counting). Just over half (54%) of these followers view him favourably.
The 45th president of the US, however, does not make the top-10 by number of followers. It will no doubt rankle with him that his predecessor in the Oval Office, Barack Obama, is the single most-followed person on Twitter, with 110.2 million followers at the time of writing.
This allows him to edge ahead of previous leader Katy Perry, who registers 108.2 million. The list is dominated by pop stars, who account for six of the top-10. Cristiano Ronaldo is the highest non-singer or former president, with 80.9 million followers. YouTube is the only brand to feature, with 72 million followers.
Most-followed Twitter accounts in November 2019, in millionsData source: Brandwatch
There are no official statistics for the average number of followers for Twitter users, but a 2016 study of 96 million accounts by KickFactory set the figure at 707. If you exclude those with over 100,000 followers, the figure stands at 453. This is up considerably on the 2012 figure found by Beevolve, of 208, based on 36 million profiles.
Brandwatch found that pop singer Liam Payne (formerly of One Direction) was the most influential man on Twitter in 2018, while Taylor Swift was the most influential woman. Some good news for the Donald finally in this list, as he was came in second in the men’s list – ahead on Barack Obama….
Twitter Usage Statistics
The last official Twitter stats on the number of daily tweets stood at over 500 million. This was in 2014, this number may have increased since then – or decreased given the silence. One thing we do know through Twitter’s use of the phrase “hundreds of millions” is that we’re not quite up to a billion yet…
Whatever the number of tweets, it seems that – in the US at least – that the most pronounced Twitter usage is concentrated in a very small demographic. According to Pew Research Center Twitter stats, the top 10% of Twitter users contribute 80% of all tweets, with the remaining 20% coming from the other 90%.
This analysis looks only at personal users, and not institutional accounts of any kind.
Tweets from top-10% of US tweeters vs bottom 90%
Source: Pew Research Center
Interestingly, 65% of the most-prolific Twitter users are women.
According to Pew Research Center Twitter usage statistics, in all, 26% of US Twitter users check Twitter several times a day, with a further 20% claiming to the check it daily.
When surveyed, 81% of the top 10% of Twitter users by post volume said they used Twitter at least once a day. this compares to 47% of the bottom 90%, who identified as daily users.
Daily Twitter users: top 10% vs bottom 90%
Source: Pew Research Center
The median US Twitter user tweets twice a month, favourites one tweet, follows 89 people and is followed by 25. 13% of US Twitter users, in fact, keep their accounts private.
Naturally the median figures are much higher for the most prolific Twitter users. On average, these tweet 128 times a month, favourite 70 tweets per month, count 387 followers and follow 456.
Top 10% of US Twitter users vs bottom 90%: Twitter engagement
Source: Pew Research Center
Twitter is very much a mobile platform, with 80% of Twitter usage coming via mobile devices, according to stats listed by Google. This seems to be the most-commonly listed stat, though the source is unclear. Stats published in 2013 pertaining to the US suggest 86% of Twitter usage takes place on mobile devices there – a figure we might speculate has increased since then.
Twitter brand usage
Twitter videos can be a key tool for brands, with the potential to increase purchase intent by 34%, and to improve positive brand sentiment by 14%. In general, it seems that brands understand the power of Twitter, with 66% of US companies with over 100 employees utilising the platform for marketing purposes. Engagement is central to success in this regard; 77% of users feel more positive about a brand if they respond directly to tweets. During 2017, brands tweeted between 112.6 to 130.5 times a month on average. It’s an increasingly cost-effective way for businesses to market; with total ad engagements increasing by 81% and cost-per-engagement falling by 32% between Q2 2017 and Q2 2018.
Brands can improve their performance on Twitter by being culturally relevant, with 47% of US Twitter users preferring such brands. Being inclusive can bolster the sense of cultural relevance, with 60% of US Twitter users believing this to be the case.
Twitter may not be the best app to utilise in the modern marketing landscape, however. Merkle reports that, between Q1 2018 and Q1 2019, Twitter referral traffic to US websites fell by 6%. Instagram, on the other hand grew by 114%, while Facebook and Pinterest grew by 9% each.
On the other hand, statistics published in Q2 2019 found that referral traffic had increased by 6% – though, again, this compares negatively to Instagram (56%), Facebook (29%), and YouTube (22%).
Twitter stats also show that ad engagement increased 23% in Q3 2019, and cost per engagement was down by 12%. Twitter also claims that users spend 26% more time with ads than other social media users (of course it does).
Twitter and politics
39% of Twitter users in the US say they have tweeted about politics; though this rises to 65% among the top-10% of tweeters who contribute 80% of tweets. 42% of the top 10% had tweeted about politics in the month leading up to the survey (Nov-Dec 2018) compared to 13% of the other 90%.
Or to put it another way, in a year-long study between June 2018 and June 2019, it was found that 6% of US Twitter users contributed 73% of political tweets in the US. This study found that 31% of US Twitter users in all were ‘political tweeters’ – that is, used the platform to engage on subjects around national politics (to meet this definition, they had to have tweeted at least five times, twice about politics).
As stated in the Twitter Users Statistics above, these prolific tweeters tend to have stronger views in either direction and tend to mostly follow others who share their world view.
Twitter as a news source
A total of 12% of Americans claim to get their news from Twitter. Or to look at it another way, 71% of US Twitter users use Twitter to get their news. See above for a demographic breakdown, but in short such users are likely to be aged 30-49, highly-educated, white, and skew towards the Democratic Party (and ergo be less cynical about online news than their GOP peers).
A US study conducted in February 2019 found that news was the most common reason for people to come on Twitter, with 56% electing this option.
It’s not just about those reading the news though; around one quarter of verified Twitter accounts belong to journalists.
It was estimated in 2017 that 15% of all Twitter accounts were bots – automated accounts that post content in order to achieve a number of different ends. Back in 2014, Twitter itself admitted that as many as 23 million accounts may have been bots.
A study conducted in the same year found that 66% of links to popular websites came from bots – a percentage that rose when it came to adult (90%) and sports (76%) content.
This sort of linking, however, perhaps errs more towards the irritating than the fundamentally troubling. We begin to get into more fundamentally troubling territory when we look at links to news and current event websites: 66% of which were generated by suspected bots: 22% of them from 500 accounts (compared to 6% from the 500 most-active human accounts).
Links to new sources generated by bots
Source: Pew Research Center
While this might bolster the visibility of one viewpoint over the other, this perhaps may not seem like the end of the world – particularly if it’s signposting the way to popular websites.
Where it starts to get more problematic is where these bots start advancing viewpoints. A study in 2018 found that up to 60% of the conversation around Central American migrants travelling towards the US – a highly charged political discourse – was driven by bots.
After the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Twitter was forced to take down a Saudi bot network that was tweeting in favour of the state, suspected of orchestrating the murder. The ruse was uncovered when it was found that hundreds of accounts were tweeting and retweeting out the same pro-Saudi messages at the same time.
A University of Iowa Study found the existence of more than 167,000 apps using the Twitter API to send millions of tweets using bots. These accounts sent out malicious content, including spam, malware, and astroturfing campaigns (creating the illusion of widespread support for a policy, in the Guardian’s words).
Worse still, the study found considerable evidence on inaction from Twitter in the face of this. In 60% of cases, bot accounts were able to send out over 100 tweet before identifying them as problematic. It also took Twitter over a month to detect malicious activity from 40% of the apps discovered by the study. A month being more than enough time for an idea to take hold online, and spread beyond the original platform.
Reportedly, the researchers offered to share their results with Twitter, but the company showed little interest in learning more. Re-running the machine learning model in the last two weeks of January 2019, they discovered 325 apps suspected of being abusive – some of which with clearly spam-orientated names.
Twitter has, however, taken some action against the spread of misinformation and malicious bots. In order to tackle to issue of fake news, It announced plans to introduce greater transparency around who pays for advertising using its platform and how much in order to tackle the topic of fake news.
Twitter also revealed in its 2018 retrospective that it had banned 4,000+ politically-motivated disinformation accounts in Russia, 3,300 from Iran, and 750 from Venezuela. It also claimed that it banned 162,000 abusive applications in the second half of 2018 alone. Losses in user numbers reported over 2018 were ascribed by Twitter as being the result of a crackdown on bots.
It is perhaps little surprise in this context that less than one in five people trusts information they read on social media, according to Ericsson. This can have problematic repercussions for the dissemination of genuine news in the age of the likes of Trump declaring anything inimical to their worldview is ‘fake news’.
In the US, Republicans, it might be noted, are far more likely to think they’re being served up inaccurate information online (72% believe that most social media news answers to this description) than Democrats.
On 30 October 2019, Twitter announced it was banning political ads on the platform in the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election. It has been noted that political advertising is a minor revenue stream for Twitter.
Twitter usage innovations
In the years following its launch, Twitter pioneered or made mainstream several innovations that inform how we use social media today. Many of these emerged organically as the result of way users interacted with the platform. For instance, the hashtag, using a # symbol to tag information pertaining to a particular topic, the @ symbol to address a user directly, and the use of the retweet (RT) to reshare other users’ tweets. All of these features we recognised by developers and incorporated into the app.
It has also been championed as an open source of news. Twitter was widely credited for its role in the Arab Spring where it was key in passing information not available through conventional channels (leading to its temporary blockage in Egypt. In more recent times, it has played a central part in the #MeToo movement. On the other hand, it also received criticism for providing a channel for the dissemination of false information aiming to disrupt democratic processes. The finger has been pointed at those pesky ‘bots’ – automated accounts producing automated postings, often posing as real humans (see directly above…).
The World Cup always generates huge spikes of activity on Twitter, with 115 billion impressions taking place during the 2018 edition in Russia.
Twitter reports that 125 million hashtags are shared every day, and 500 million GIFs. In 2017-18, the most popular emoji used on Twitter was ‘crying with laughter’, followed by ‘in love’, and ‘crying’.
Most-used emojis on Twitter, 2017-18
What better way to celebrate #WorldEmojiDay than with some 📊✨data✨📊?
These are the most used emojis on Twitter the past year:
— Twitter Data (@TwitterData) July 17, 2018
The most retweeted ever tweet? A prize giveaway from Japanese online fashion store ZOZOTOWN, posted by founder Yusaku Maezawa. As part of a New Year promotion, the store promised 100 retweeters ¥1 million (around $9,200). The January 2019 message was retweeted 4.4 million times.
— Yusaku Maezawa (MZ) 前澤友作 (@yousuck2020) January 5, 2019
This overtook previous record holder, Carter Wilkerson, with his poetic “HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS”, with 3.4 million retweets to date (part of a well-orchestrated campaign by fast food outlet Wendy’s – if he reaches 18 million he’ll win a year’s supply of chicken nuggets).
This figure has been revised down from 3.6 million – we would speculate that it’s something to do with bots. Nonetheless, this even edged out Ellen DeGeneres’ 2014 Oscars super selfie, featuring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Kevin Spacey, Julia Roberts, Channing Tatum, Meryl Streep, and Lupita Nyong’o (3.3 million). It’s all about the pop stars once more, though, with no fewer that 25% of the top 40 tweets in this metric posted by members of now defunct boyband One Direction.
HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS pic.twitter.com/4SrfHmEMo3
— Carter Wilkerson (@carterjwm) April 6, 2017
Across 2018, the most retweeted tweet was Spanish gamer El Rubius’ cryptic:
LIMONADA 2.0 🗿
— elrubius (@Rubiu5) September 29, 2018
What does it mean? Well, it’s the sequel to 2016’s most retweeted tweet:
— elrubius (@Rubiu5) August 20, 2016
Hopefully that clears it up…
Twitter revenue stood at $824 million in Q3 2019, a 9% increase on Q3 2018’s $758 million, though a small decrease on Q2 2019’s $841 million. This figure was judged to be somewhat disappointing, with Wall Street anticipating revenue would hit the upper end of the estimated $815-$875 million scale.
Twitter ascribed the lowness of Q3 2019 revenue to a bug in its Mobile App Promotion tool – which allows developers to promote apps through Twitter.
Twitter urged patience, saying that it was aiming to build a healthier product, adding features such as ‘hide replies’ to help detoxify the online environment. The highest quarterly revenue reported by Twitter at the time of writing came in Q4 2018, with a figure of $909 million reported.
We saw a dip in revenue in 2017, in the wake of the scandals of 2016.
Twitter revenue Q1 2011 – Q2 2019, $ millions
In all, Twitter annual revenue in 2018 came to $3 billion. This compares to $2.4 billion in 2017 (which was a weaker year for a scandal-ridden Twitter), and $2.5 billion in 2016. As of Q3 2019, Twitter’s revenue for the year comes to $2.5 billion.
Advertising revenue accounts for the greatest share of Twitter revenue, coming in at $702 million in Q3 2019 – an 8% year-on-year increase on Q3 2018, though a decrease on Q2 2019’s $727 million – the root cause of a difficult third quarter.
The record high for advertising revenue came in the last quarter of 2018, at $791 million.
Advertising revenue comes from promoted tweets, accounts, and trends. Twitter uses an algorithm to offer tailored advertising opportunities – targeting the users who might be most interested in any given product or service.
Twitter quarterly ad revenue
Data licencing and other sources provided $121 million of Twitter revenue – compared to $114 million in Q2 2019 and $108 million in Q3 2018. Twitter’s data licensing business has grown considerably in recent years, though there have been a few stutters.
There has been some negative attention for Twitter in this area, with Cambridge Analytica counted among its clients (it was later removed as an advertiser). Nonetheless, annual figures have grown considerably, even where advertising saw a dip in 2017 in the wake of the scandals following the US presidential election and the Brexit vote.
As of 2018, total Twitter data licensing revenue came to $425 million.
Twitter annual revenue by business segment, $ millions
Over half of global Twitter revenue is generated in the US. In Q3 2019, US Twitter revenue was worth $465 million (56%), while international revenue was worth$358 million. Revenue growth has been greater in the US than internationally in recent quarters.
Over the full year 2018, US revenue came to $1.6 billion – equal to 54% of global revenue, with international revenue coming to $1.4 billion.
GAAP expenses totalled $780 million in Q3 2019. This is up 17%, year-on-year. Twitter’s profitability, however, has been driven by reduction in costs in recent years. Indeed, this helped Twitter reduce its losses in a difficult 2017.
The slashing of stock-based compensation in recent years, at points worth over 50% of Twitter revenue, is seen as instrumental in taking Twitter to profitability. This fell from $615 million in 2016 to $434 million in 2017 and $326 million in 2018 (though it currently looks as if the 2019 figure will be in excess of 2018’s).
Twitter have held a number of funding rounds, each raising between $5 million and $400 million, between July 2007 and December 2011. The last of these saw a single investor, Saudi businessman Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, invest $300 million.
Twitter net revenue
In the disappointing Q3 2019, Twitter posted net revenue of $36.5 million – considerably down on Q2’s record $1.1 billion, and Q3 2018’s $789 million (also record at the time).
After 12 years of operation, Twitter turned a profit for the first time in the last quarter of 2017 –$91 million, based on revenue of $732 million. It has remained in the black since. Prior to this, it ran at a loss – with the most severe coming in 2013, at $511 million. Normal loss levels were, however, rather more sustainable.
Net revenue figures have fluctuated pretty wildly since then, as we can see below. There are various explanations. The high Q2 2018 figure was bolstered by the release of deferred tax asset valuation allowance in Brazil, for example, and Q3 2018 by the same in the US, for example. The $1.1 billion figure in Q2 2019 was also courtesy of a significant one-time income tax benefit – indeed, it is in excess of the $841 revenue posted in that quarter.
As recently as Q4 2016, Twitter posted quarterly losses of $167 million.
Twitter quarterly net revenue (Q1 2012-Q2 2019)
Twitter stock price
Twitter went public in November 2013, listing on the New York Stock Exchange. On the first day of trading shares opened at $26, and closed at $44.90, giving Twitter a valuation of $31 billion. Twitter share price went as high as $69 in late 2013. Since
In November 2019, share price stood at a shade above $29.
That disappointing Q3 2019 revenue figure knocked 20% of the value of Twitter shares – which had climbed as high as $45: the second-highest price recorded since 2015’s new paradigm of lowered stock prices. The highest, $45.65, was recorded in July 2018.
Back in April 2015, prices were north of $50.
Twitter stock price, November 2013 – November 2019
Source: Yahoo Finance
Twitter market cap
Twitter’s market cap stood at $22.5 billion at the time of writing (November 2019).
In September 2019 it had been as high as $35.1 billion as the mood around Q3 results was bullish, though the disappointment around Twitter’s Q3 2019 results is clearly reflected in the considerably lower stock price and market cap that followed.
The high Twitter market cap reported in September 2019 figure represents a recovery from a much reduced figure reported in the wake of a purge of fake accounts in 2018 which saw a loss of two million accounts between Q1 and Q3 of that year. A stock surge in August 2018 (with a high $46.75) saw the Twitter market cap reaching a four-year high of $35.3 billion.
In early 2014, it had been as high as $39.32 billion. It had, however gone as low as $9.83 billion in mid-2016. In June 2018, S&P Dow Jones added Twitter to S&P’s to the S&P top US public companies.
Twitter market cap, 2013-2019
Since Twitter emerged on the market over a decade ago, the social media landscape has undergone huge changes. Image-based rivals such as Snapchat and Instagram have risen to precedence over that time period, though Facebook continues to loom large over the social media landscape. Crucially, we’ve also experienced a mobile revolution since then, with the 2007-launch of the iPhone, making social media an ever-present part of our lives.
While Twitter perhaps doesn’t command the same numbers as some of its rivals, it has endured through the many storms that have occurred since its launch. It has firmly established itself as the medium through which the news agenda is set, with a rich mixture of politicians, businesspeople, brands, journalists, and commentators vying for attention. The dark side of this is the troubling rise of politically-charged bots manipulating the picture, though Twitter is attempting to take action on this point.
Electric growth figures in early years have given way to more subdued figures in recent times, though its new-found profitability has kept the momentum going. A switch in reporting methods has even seen a return to user growth. Perhaps this is shifting the goalposts a little, though if this is the number of users of practical use to Twitter and its advertisers, then there seems to be some justification for it…
It remains to be seen how sustainable the thriving data sales part of its business will continue to be as people increasingly ask questions of what is happening with their private information. It seems, for now, to be growing steadily – absorbing some of the damage of Q3 2019’s shrink in advertising revenue (though we might speculate that any reputational damage will eat into the latter – a form of cannibalisation)
Whatever happens next, however, Twitter has become an essential part of how we communicate. It’s hard to imagine a world without it.