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The Twitter Story: will the Tweetie bird finally fly?

Well, what do you know, Twitter has posted a profit!

And no, this is not “fake” news.

The microblogging platform (finally) posted a net income of $91 million for the fourth quarter of 2017. The Jack Dorsey-led internet giant also posted a bump in revenue in the three months.

This is quite a cause for celebration, especially for a medium that changed people’s lives.

Matthew Derella, VP, Global Client Solutions at Twitter Inc (Courtesy: Official Twitter Blog)

It gave people the chance to pour their hearts and minds out. From what one ate for breakfast to well-versed (or not!) opinions on how Planet Earth should be governed, people could tell the world whatever they wanted.

And the rage…. oh, the outrage. People went online to vent their anger against anything and everything. They swam through hashtag after hashtag breathing fire at a myriad of issues—be it personal, political or just plain inconsequential.

Twitter gave people the sweet sensation of anonymity. The chance to hide behind an alias that could be disposed of like burner phones in HBO’s The Wire. You could create a profile and call yourself Abraham Lincoln, Vito Corleone or even “The Good Good Above,” no one cared.

Until now. Following reports of fake accounts related to Russian propaganda and the 2016 presidential election, Twitter recently clamped up its efforts to take down misinformation, spam and bots. It vowed to fight all things fake—fake accounts, fake news, and fake followers.


Twitter gave people the sweet sensation of anonymity


As a result of these efforts, there was little change in monthly active users this quarter. It stood at 330 million. However, the number of daily users rose 12%. I guess everyone preferred their timeline a little clean.

Twitter also doubled its character count to 280 from 140. This did not lead to longer tweets as expected, but on the bright side, people seem to be tweeting and retweeting more.

The company is also working to make its content more relevant to its different types of users. With the help of machine learning, Twitter is stepping up to display content and notifications on each user’s timeline based on their tastes and preferences. Meanwhile, Facebook has shifted its focus to prioritizing content from family and friends on News Feed, while limiting public content.

This shift in content dynamics at FB might not go down well with business and media content creators, giving Twitter a chance to benefit.

Twitter’s focus on video content seems to have also helped boost user engagement. The company is also working on live-streaming partnerships for news and sports.

There is so much happening to Twitter as much as on Twitter. Take, for instance, it being an acquisition target. A while back, reports came up that both Google and Apple were planning bids for Twitter, something that fizzled out. It only makes you wonder if it was Twitter’s poor health at the time.

But now with the company turning profitable, will any of these giants come to shop?


There is so much happening to Twitter as much as on Twitter


While this quarter’s profits may look like a bouquet of roses, there are some thorns hidden among them. One of these is digital advertising—a space currently ruled by Facebook. Twitter has been struggling to make headway here.

Another concern is the departure of a top executive, COO Anthony Noto. Mr. Noto was an essential part of Twitter’s management team, and this did raise quite a lot of eyebrows. How this pans out, is something to look out this quarter.

It’s not just the operations wing where there are concerns.

CEO Jack Dorsey divides his time between Twitter and Square. Perhaps the time has come for Twitter’s co-founder to choose since there is no doubt that the microblogging platform requires undivided attention at this time.

Whatever the case may be, one thing is for sure—there is still plenty of work to be done and crucial decisions to be made. Let’s hope Twitter makes the right ones.


Twitter Inc Q4 highlights


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