Twitter saw an increase in daily users but narrowly missed revenue expectations in the last three months of 2021, when a new CEO took over as the social media company’s leader.
According to Twitter’s earnings report released Thursday, approximately 217 million people logged onto the platform daily in the fourth quarter, a 13 percent increase from the same period a year ago.
CEO Parag Agrawal, who took over for Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey in November, attributed the success to behind-the-scenes improvements to the company’s operations.
“My focus has been on improving our execution,” Agrawal said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts on Thursday. “I bring a strong amount of urgency to this role, very focused on metrics… and being able to understand what’s working for our customers and what’s not working for our customers,” he said, in addition to an increased focus on accountability in-house.
Agrawal expressed optimism that Twitter will meet its ambitious target of $7.5 billion in annual revenue and 315 million daily users by 2023. Twitter’s revenue for the entire year of 2021 was $5.08 billion.
Twitter’s performance contrasted with that of its parent company, Facebook. Last week, Meta reported disappointing earnings, implying that its growth may be slowing, prompting investors to slash its market valuation by more than a quarter. Facebook’s daily active users fell for the first time in its history. In the fourth quarter, the company had 1.93 billion daily users, a slight decrease from 1.92 billion in the third quarter.
Twitter earned $1.57 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter, falling just short of expectations of $1.6 billion. According to Thomson Reuters, the company earned 21 cents per share, exceeding analyst estimates of 16 cents per share. Twitter earned 23 cents per share after deducting certain expenses, compared to the 35 cents per share expected.
Twitter anticipates revenue of $1.17 billion to $1.27 billion in the first quarter of 2022. According to Yahoo Finance, analysts are expecting $1.26 billion on average. On the conference call, Twitter CFO Ned Segal stated that advertisers got started right away this quarter with plans for events such as the Olympics, as well as product launches and awards shows. “We think we’re off to a good start,” Segal said.
Twitter shares were up more than 1% in early trading Thursday, trading around $38.35. The performance was boosted by a new $4 billion share buyback announced alongside earnings.
Twitter, like other social media companies, is facing challenges as a result of changes in Apple’s privacy policies, which make it more difficult for advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. Apple’s feature requires iPhone and iPad users to grant permission to apps that want to track them. Meta blamed Apple’s changes in part for the company’s disappointing fourth-quarter earnings. Twitter said on Thursday that product improvements have helped reduce the impact it is feeling, but that there is still work to be done.
Twitter has been experimenting with features that allow it to generate revenue other than ads, which currently account for the majority of its revenue. For example, the company launched Twitter Blue, a new subscription service that allows users to undo a tweet and read ad-free news articles for $3 per month.
Agrawal stated that early Twitter Blue users have been positive, but that there is still a long way to go. He also discussed Web3, the concept of creating a new version of the web based on blockchain technology.
“What you notice is this incredible amount of developable energy that is interested in solving problems,” he said, adding that Twitter has a small internal team investigating where those efforts may lead.
In addition, social networks are facing increased competition. Meta noted competition from TikTok, which has grown in popularity, in its earnings report. Reels, Meta’s short-form video product, does not generate as much revenue as the company’s News Feed or Stories feature, which allows users to post content that disappears after 24 hours. Snap, the parent company of the ephemeral messaging app Snapchat, reported its first quarterly net profit last week, sending its stock up more than 50%. The company stated that its ad business recovered faster than expected as a result of Apple’s privacy changes.