Twitter To Investors: Here’s How We’re Keeping Users Addicted

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo wants investors to know how hard the site is courting users–even if the numbers don’t show it yet.

Twitter To Investors: Here’s How We’re Keeping Users Addicted
[Photo: DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images]

If you were anywhere near Twitter today, you know that today is the day that the company announced its quarterly earnings–after the numbers were leaked, of course, in a series of tweets. The leak sent the company’s stock tumbling, thanks in part to financial metrics that fell short of expectations.


But while the news wasn’t all stunning, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo had some encouraging words for investors about the company’s efforts to improve user retention. In total, Twitter saw 302 million monthly active users in its first quarter of the year, which represented an 18% year-over-year growth. This was roughly in line with expectations, while Twitter’s mobile monthly active users clocked in at 241.6 million, which fell slightly short of expectations.

Although Twitter’s revenue is on the rise–at $436 million, it grew 74% over last year during Q1–its user growth has been slowing in recent months, according to The Wall Street Journal. Left unaddressed, this problem could balloon into a serious roadblock in Twitter’s slow crawl toward profitability.

As Costolo made clear early on in today’s earnings call, boosting these user numbers and ensuring new sign-ups stick around are huge priorities for the company. To help them do it, Costolo says the company is focusing on answering two fundamental questions for new users: “Why should I use Twitter? How do I use Twitter?”

This is a challenge that they’ve been attacking from various angles.

Just two weeks ago, Twitter launched a dramatically redesigned home page for logged-out visitors. The new layout de-emphasizes the login and sign-up actions in favor of showing logged-out users what matters most: curated content from the service itself. By displaying popular tweets broken down by category, Twitter hopes to make its relevance more obvious to newcomers, and in the process, convince more people to sign up and keep coming back.

For now, this sort of category-based curation is only visible to logged-out users, but Costolo said as the feature evolves, logged-in users should expect to see similar changes on their end as well. “As we iterate on the logged-out experience, you should absolutely expect us to deliver those experiences across the total operation,” Costolo said.


Costolo also focused on Highlights, a new, curated digest of tweets that Twitter just announced last week. In preparation for the demise of its Discover tab, Twitter is experimenting with new ways to curate tweets for users and help them sift through the noise to find the most relevant and important content.

Other new features that Twitter has introduced to keep users’ attention are the “While you were away” recap of important tweets and the “instant timelines” it displays for new users to remove the friction and confusion of having people build their own Twitter networks from scratch. Twitter is also hoping that new features like native mobile video and universal direct messaging will help move the needle on those ever-critical engagement metrics.

Twitter provided very little in the way of metrics that demonstrate that its new user retention techniques are working, but they’re all relatively new features. Either way, it’s clearly a huge priority for the company moving forward.

About the author

John Paul Titlow is a writer at Fast Company focused on music and technology, among other things.