Twitter has shared its latest performance update, and with the Elon Musk takeover pending, it’s a much more transactional affair this time around, versus its usual quarterly reports.

As per Twitter:

In light of the proposed transaction with Mr. Musk, as is customary during the pendency of an acquisition, Twitter will not be hosting a conference call, issuing a shareholder letter, or providing financial guidance in conjunction with its first quarter 2022 earnings release. For further detail and discussion of our financial performance please refer to our upcoming quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2022.”

That also means no graphics displaying Twitter’s performance, just raw numbers, in text form, which is a little less interesting, though the data remains the same.

First off, looking at usage, Twitter’s average monetizable daily active user count is now at 229 million, up from 217 million in Q4. That’s actually far better growth momentum than it has seen in the last two reports, with 12 million more users coming to Twitter in the period.

Twitter mDAU charts

That’s also despite Twitter being banned in Russia amid the invasion of Ukraine – while it also comes despite Twitter admitting that it had been miscounting its mDAU stats for two years due to an oversight on its behalf.

“In March of 2019, we launched a feature that allowed people to link multiple separate accounts together in order to conveniently switch between accounts. An error was made at that time, such that actions taken via the primary account resulted in all linked accounts being counted as mDAU. This resulted in an overstatement of mDAU from Q1’19 through Q4’21.”

Twitter’s also provided an overview of exactly how far off its mDAU counts have been as a result.

Twitter mDAU miscalculations

So it was overstating its user counts by around 2 million, on average, due to the error. Which in most other circumstances would be a bigger issue, but right now, Twitter being where it is, it’s not a major story, with the pending Musk takeover eclipsing pretty much everything else.

On the revenue front, Twitter brought in $1.2 billion for the quarter, a 16% year-over-year increase, which is down on expectations. Some of that has been impacted by the war in Ukraine, but even then, you can see from this chart how $1.2 for Q1 is not shifting the needle in any major way for the app.

Twitter revenue figures over time

Twitter also notes that subscription and other revenue (including data licensing) totaled $94 million, which is a decrease of 31% year-over-year. That would suggest that new options like Twitter Blue are not gaining any really any traction as yet, and may not end up developing into the supplementary income streams that Twitter might have hoped.

Twitter also notes that given the pending acquisition by Musk, it’s not providing any forward looking guidance, and it’s withdrawing all previously provided goals and outlook.

I mean, really, what do you say about Twitter’s progress, and its potential for the future?

Again, it has continued to add users, though not at what would be considered ‘strong’ growth rates, while its attempts at product enhancements and improvements haven’t really shifted the needle, with the percentage of relative increase over time remaining largely unchanged.

Despite being the platform of choice for the former President, Twitter couldn’t make itself a more essential app, and despite trying out Stories and adding new subscription tools, it’s not changing its perception, at least not in any major way.

So what can Twitter to do get more people logging in more often, and spending more time engaging within the tweet stream?

A lot of it, at least in my experience, comes down to its algorithms, and highlighting the most relevant content to each individual user. Despite having a heap of data to go on, with over 500 million tweets sent every day, Twitter has never been great at translating those insights into a more engaging, compulsive tweet experience.

The Spaces tab is the best example right now – tap across to the Spaces display and you’ll see a raft of in-progress broadcasts, which, unless you’re really into crypto and/or NFTs, probably aren’t heavily aligned with your interests.

Part of the issue here is the content available – Twitter can’t show you Spaces that aren’t happening – but you can expand this also to Topic recommendations, People to Follow, the Explore tab, live-streams, etc.

Twitter has the content – again, 500 million tweets are being created every day – but it’s never been able to show you a compulsive stream of content, matched to your personal interests. Which is what TikTok does so well, and what other platforms have generally been better at. Twitter still needs to work on this, which also means that it needs to filter out the bots that flood trending streams, which can also dilute the quality of the tweet experience.

Can Elon fix this? He seems to think that he can, but whether Musk’s approach works, or is workable for the app, remains to be seen.

Becoming the platform of ‘free speech’ is something that many users will gleefully support, but how that looks in reality, at a time when every other social network is now taking its obligations even more seriously on this front, is also an unknown factor.

Essentially, Twitter is in an increasingly difficult position – it either sticks to its guns, and pushes ahead on its slow, but arguably steady path, or it takes more radical action in the hopes of ignoring more interest.

Which path is best? We’ll soon find out.

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