Twitter had a bad day. The company’s stock dropped 14% after it announced a loss of $116.5 million last quarter and a decline in the number of U.S. users. From CNN Money:
Twitter reported Thursday that its monthly user base in the U.S. declined to 68 million in the most recent quarter from 70 million in the previous quarter.
Its global user base was 328 million, unchanged from the prior quarter. Analysts had been expecting Twitter to add at least a few million users…
Twitter has been struggling to win more advertising dollars in the face of lackluster user growth. In the most recent quarter, the company’s revenue fell 5% from the same period a year earlier.
A previous jump in the number of users which some analysts attributed to President Trump seems to be slipping away. From Fortune:
The disappointing earnings report comes after Twitter managed to post a strong stretch that saw the social media company’s stock rise more than 40% going back to April, when Twitter surprised Wall Street with its largest quarterly increase in monthly users (9 million) since 2015. While some people attributed that early-2017 user growth to the election of Twitter-friendly President Donald Trump, the company said it was due to changes made to Twitter users’ timeline displays that highlight posts they might have missed.
So, a flat user base and declining ad revenue. That sounds like a recipe for failure. As the LA Times points out, Twitter has never had a profitable quarter so it’s not like they’re coming down off a high point here.
Twitter is extremely useful for conveying immediate reactions and breaking news (with video and photos) from around the world. That makes it great for everyone gathering and disseminating news. That also makes it great for whipping up outraged mobs of anonymous people. The site often feels like an endless series of flash mobs (look it’s trending!). It can be both fun and ultimately exhausting.
All social media sites have strengths and weaknesses but Twitter feels like a place where misunderstandings and bad experiences are built into the platform. Personally, I think part of the problem is anonymity which is less of an issue on sites like Facebook. Trolls like anonymity and there are lots of them on Twitter.
At the same time, there is a steep penalty for non-anonymous users in that there is no way to edit tweets. You can delete them, sure but that rarely gets rid of them. So if you say something dumb on Twitter under your own name, there’s no good way to fix it. You’re now a pinata for all the trolls who won’t even use their own names.
If I were in charge, I’d roll out an edit feature and perhaps italics and other text controls but only make them available to users who have taken steps to de-anonymize themselves. Maybe that means signing in with a Facebook account or making their real name or location visible to users. It wouldn’t stop determined trolls and anonymous users would still face no penalty for acting like lunatics on the platform, but it would at least give users who are willing to be more accountable some added benefits for doing so. It would also create another penalty Twitter could employ short of banning people, which seems too draconian in most cases.