While President Donald Trump constantly makes headlines from a stream of nearly daily tweets, Twitter can’t seem to attract new users or make a buck off the tweet-happy billionaire.
“Trump is very polarizing and I think a lot of times people might see something he tweeted on the news networks,” eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson said in an interview. “They see it there, so they don’t need to see it on Twitter.”
The platform on Thursday said the number of people regularly using the network grew by less than 1 percent despite Trump’s prolific and often-controversial tweeting, a deal with the NFL to broadcast games and a new push to stream live video.
Those user numbers matter because that’s how online advertisers — looking for the broadest audience — decide where to put their ad dollars. Advertisers’ lack of interest was evident in fourth-quarter revenue of $717 million, compared with Wall Street’s expectations of $740 million.
“Not even sure Tom Brady could turn this around,” Stifel analyst Scott Devitt said in a note Thursday to investors, adding he expected “the advertising business will likely decline even more than total revenue.”
Twitter competes for ad dollars against Facebook, which has more than 1.7 billion daily users, and Snap — with approximately 301 million monthly users. More important for Snap, most of its users fall into advertisers’ most coveted demographic of 18- to 34 year olds. Snap, which is reportedly valued at $20 billion to $25 billion, is looking to raise $3 billion in its upcoming IPO. Twitter, in comparison, currently has a market value of $12 billion.
Twitter’s shares plummeted as much as 18 percent and were down more than 10 percent at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time.
New users may be put off by Twitter’s reputation as a home for hate speech and abusive behavior. Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey has said in the past that curbing hate speech is one of his priorities. In one notorious case, comedian Leslie Jones briefly abandoned Twitter last summer after enduring what she called a “personal hell” of sexist and racist abuse. The company subsequently banned Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos for his ties to that incident. Last month, Twitter suspended the account of pharmaceuticals executive Martin Shkreli following harassment of a female journalist.
On Thursday, Dorsey also told analysts the company is also working to make the service easier for people to use.
“It may have felt like we weren’t changing much this past year, but … hundreds of little changes added up to more predictable and sustained growth we will now use as a foundation to be more inventive and take bigger risks,” he said. “And that’s exactly what we’re now going to do.
“It will take time to show the results we all want to see, and we’re moving forward aggressively,” he said. “It’s been hard, it will continue to be hard, and it’s all worth it.”