Twitter's user base keeps growing, particularly on mobile devices

The social network says 80 percent of its users are on mobile devices, following increased focus on its mobile apps.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
3 min read


Twitter's mobile user base is large and growing -- but not enough to suit investors.

The social-networking giant reported increased user growth and usage for its third quarter, as well as a profit for the second straight quarter, but the standout metric was from mobile devices. The company said that 80 percent of users who log in at least once a month now do so from a mobile device, a new high for the company.

Twitter said it tallied 284 million users who logged into the site at least once a day for its quarter ending September 30. That amounted to a 23 percent rise from the same time a year ago and a bump of nearly 5 percent from the 271 million tallied in June. (The quarter ended in June saw 24 percent growth compared with the same period last year.)

That wasn't enough to impress some investors, who pushed the company's shares down more than 10 percent in after-hours trading. The company also said revenue growth would be smaller in the next three months, spooking investors. The company's shares had fallen nearly 24 percent so far this year before the announcement.

The release is another indicator of Twitter's growth compared to Facebook, the world's largest social network. More than 1.3 billion people use Facebook at least once a month, more than four and a half times the size of Twitter's user base.

To stand out, Twitter sells itself as a central hub of real-time communication. News organizations send urgent headlines out using Twitter, sports stars post photos during games and politicians use it to spread their message.

The company has also been able to turn that usage into a prime advertising spot. Through a technology it calls "promoted Tweets," for example, Twitter inserts marketing messages into a user's stream of messages. By comparison, Facebook relies more on inserting images and videos into a user's stream, based on information about who a user is, what they like and other details.

A key problem Twitter has, however, is that it needs to work quicker, said Dick Costolo, Twitter's CEO. "It's more critical than ever to increase our overall pace of execution," he said during a conference call with investors. That means creating new features more quickly, and innovating on the different technologies it offers advertisers.

For the fourth quarter ending in December, the company said it expects sales of between $440 million and $450 million, a rise of at least 81 percent. That's slower than the 116 percent growth the company counted the same time a year ago.

Growing reliance on mobile

Mobile devices are the most important aspects of the tech industry these days. Apple's earnings turn on sales of its iPhone and iPad tablet, and Google has blanketed the airwaves with advertisements for its Android mobile operating system.

For Twitter, 85 percent of its total ad revenue came from mobile devices, up 70 percent from the year-ago period.

Another metric investors and advertisers closely watch is called timeline views. Twitter publishes this metric as a way to describe how often users interact with its service. During the third quarter, Twitter said timeline views were 181 billion, up nearly 5 percent from 173 billion in June and 157 billion in March.

The company said it notched 1 cent per share in profit, after adjusting for items such as stock-based compensation, up from a loss of 13 cents a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected 1 cent per share. Revenue more than doubled to $361.2 million, though the company said it lost $175.5 million.