As a brand, Twitter understood something had to be done to stop bad actors from using its platform to sew discord and promote violence. So, the company set some specific boundaries. Then it took the more drastic step of banning certain provocative accounts blamed for propagating “fake news” and “conspiracy theories.”
The company knew there would be consequences for these actions, but they did not anticipate such a steep decline. Twitter has seen falling user rates in the past two quarters and expects to see yet another lower than expected quarter when this one ends. While ad sales are up, as are profits, interest is down, so that doesn’t bode well for the sustainability of any ad revenue bump.
Twitter says this is a temporary correction due to the clean-up efforts as well as issues related to privacy regulation changes in the European Union. The company says the crackdown has temporarily slowed traffic on the site, but believes this will turnaround in time. Meanwhile, their message to investors is to focus on how strong ad traffic is. Even with fewer than expected users, more people are clicking on the ads.
Another possible factor in the unexpected reduction in users could be people avoiding Twitter to protect themselves from blowback if they say or do something other people don’t like. The list of public figures, performers, and executives that have found themselves in hot water over Twitter grows by the week. So, it stands to reason that some people in prominent positions have decided that the risk is just not worth the reward. They have stopped using Twitter as a personal protection for themselves or any brands associated with them.
Whatever the reason for the slow growth, the clock is ticking for Twitter. The company needs to get its monthly user totals back up to or above projections in order to calm nervous investors, who use monthly user data as an indicator of potential growth. Making the clock tick down even faster for Twitter is the fact that, prior to the downturn, growth had been stagnant.
That stagnation has some people openly – and loudly – wondering if Twitter is “maxed out.” People are asking if the company has hit a ceiling on users and potential revenue. Twitter, then, needs to find a way to be fresh and to engage current users while successfully attracting new users, and they need to do it even as they have upset a significant segment of their user base by blocking or removing accounts.
From a consumer PR perspective, the way ahead is murky for Twitter. The platform is more popular when conversations can flow without too much oversight, but the lack of oversight let things get out of hand. Now, the company has to find the right message that will encourage connection, bring people back and put the numbers back on a growth trajectory, while still protecting the platform from abuse.