Twitter Inc. is showing signs its growth may be back on track, beating expectations for bumps in users and advertising revenue, though stronger engagement was driven partly by a rare spike in interest from soccer-mad World Cup tweeters around the world.
Monthly active users of the social networking platform grew to 271 million, up from 255 million at the end of the first quarter, an increase of 24 per cent on an annual basis. Twitter also recorded solid growth in timeline views, a proxy for gauging users' engagement with the site, up 15 per cent year-over-year to 173 billion.
But some observers had already predicted a greater than normal bump in Twitter usage thanks to the service's popularity during the 2014 World Cup, which had reached its midpoint as the second quarter came to a close. According to Twitter's own figures, users sent 672 million tweets relating to the World Cup as a whole, including 35.6 million tweets during the Brazil-Germany semifinal – both of which are records for events.
The new results arrest the trend of slowing growth rates in recent quarters, which was a major source of concern for investors and analysts.
Some have questioned whether Twitter can achieve mass appeal comparable to Facebook Inc.'s 1.3 billion monthly active users.
Twitter's growth remains relatively modest for a company that continues to insist it can build the world's largest audience. But there are hopeful signs.
"During the World Cup, we delivered the kind of events experience that I've wanted to see from us for some time," said Dick Costolo, Twitter's CEO, in a conference call discussing the results. "These experiences felt alive. They felt wonderfully complementary to the matches themselves. That has given me confidence that we can create great user experiences by organizing content around topics and live events."
For the second quarter ended Jun. 30, Twitter reported a net loss of $145-million (U.S.) , or 24 cents per share, compared with a loss of $42.2-million, or 32 cents a share, in the second quarter last year.
Revenue continued to grow rapidly to $312-million, up 124 per cent from the previous year.
At the same time, the company reported promising results in advertising revenue per 1,000 timeline views, a key measure of its ability to monetize user engagement, which reached $1.60, a 100-per-cent increase year-over-year.
Twitter's stock surged nearly 30 per cent in after-hours trading on the New York Stock Exchange, to just shy of $50, but the price is still well below its all-time high of nearly $74.73 reached in December.
Though the United States, Britain and Japan were the greatest contributors to revenue increases, Twitter has shown signs of strength in Canada. The company's international revenue for the quarter totalled $102-million, increasing 168 per cent over a year earlier, and made up a third of Twitter's total revenue. And in an interview last month, Twitter Canada head Kirstine Stewart noted that "Canadians are actually, in some ways, setting the bar for Twitter."
Its Canadian success can be attributed partly to its Amplify program, which allows broadcasters to embed videos and other content into tweets targeted at users with particular interests. Canada is the only country where all of the major broadcasters have signed on to Amplify partnerships.
In the coming quarters, Mr. Costolo promised further improvements to the user experience, following recent adjustments to profile pages and the launches of new tools for advertisers.
And he highlighted the "hundreds of millions" of unique visitors to Twitter.com each month who don't log in as users, choosing instead to browse or search for tweets as visitors. Twitter's total audience is two to three times the 271 million active users each month, he said on Tuesday's conference call, and the company will cater to them, though it has no plans to monetize those users any time soon.