Twitter Revises Monthly Active Users Figure to Better Account for Bots

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

twitter-tailored-adsAs the importance of social media marketing becomes clearer to business owners and marketers, social media networks have gone out of their way to show why their platform is worthy of the advertising dollars. One key metric that is often used is the number of Monthly Active Users. Though it may seem like a simple metric to calculate for social networks, as Google+’s inflated data has shown, it’s far from an exact science. Twitter recently had to revise it’s numbers for Monthly Active Users. This article will explain why Twitter revised the numbers and what other useful information for marketers could be learned from the announcement.

Since Twitter became a publicly traded company last year, the social media network has been under a lot of pressure to show growth in their user base and in revenue from the site. The second quarter data they released at the end of July showcased a company on the move. They reported that the average monthly active users grew 24 percent from the previous year to 271 million as of June 30. Similarly, mobile MAUs reached 211 million, which represented an increase of 29 percent.

Even better for the company, their revenue climbed 124 percent, reaching $312 million for the quarter. The company also reported adjusted earnings of 2 cents per share which greatly exceed analyst expectations for the quarter.who had predicted a net loss of 1 cent per share.

“Our strong financial and operating results for the second quarter show the continued momentum of our business,” Twitter CEO Dick Costolo was quoted to have said at the time.. “We remain focused on driving increased user growth and engagement, and by developing new product experiences, like the one we built around the World Cup, we believe we can extend Twitter’s appeal to an even broader audience.”

The good news was enough to see a 30 percent rise in Twitter’s stock following the earning reports. However, Twitter has now said they need to revise those numbers down because of miscalculations how much activity was coming from 3rd party apps

“The calculations of MAUs presented in our earnings materials may be affected as a result of automated activity,” Twitter acknowledged on Tuesday.

At first glance, this may seem like a bad thing, but some of the news is actually good for Twitter. In its second quarter earnings report, Twitter disclosed that as many as 14 percent of the site’s monthly active users (MAUs), approximately 38 million users, were exclusively using third-party apps. That would have been double the percentage of the previous year and would have meant that a growing amount of users of the service were not seeing ads on Twitter.com. This would have meant the platform was less useful for marketers as the user base numbers would have suggested. However, the company lowered that estimate to 11 percent, which would be about 9 million fewer users.

The problem was that Twitter included users who access Twitter through 3rd party apps owned by Twitter. For example, the popular app TweetDeck is owned by Twitter, so there’s no reason to say those users were beyond the reach Twitter’s promoted content and ads.

That said, the Twitter does have a lot of users who aren’t actually using Twitter themselves. The company’s filings noted that as many as 8.5% of all MAUs use third-party apps that are able to automatically contact and refresh a user’s feed. For example, marketers who use HootSuite or Sprout Social may use these apps to send content to their Twitter feeds without ever going on Twitter on their own.

Twitter may need to work on getting their calculations right, but this news should dramatically change the way that marketers view Twitter. Even if a tenth of the Twitter’s audience uses 3rd party apps that preclude them from seeing ads, that 10 percent is made up of advertisers and marketers who weren’t prime targets of campaigns in the first place. And with nearly 300 million users, even if some of them are bots, that leave a lof of regular consumers for marketers to reach.


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