Coronavirus lockdowns drive record growth in Twitter usage

Twitter has reported a sharp rise in daily user numbers thanks to coronavirus lockdowns around the world – but has seen revenues tumble as advertising spend was hit by the pandemic and protests in the US.

The number of “monetisable” daily users on the platform increased by 34% to 186 million in the second quarter compared to a year earlier – the fastest growth since Twitter first started using the metric in 2016.

That figure beat Wall Street expectations – but revenues suffered more than expected, slipping 19% to $683m (£530m), which was short of analysts’ forecasts.

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Twitter said the growth in user numbers over the April to June period was driven by “external factors” – such as lockdowns and “increased global conversation around the COVID-19 pandemic and other current events”.

It said numbers had surged in the last few weeks of March as the coronavirus spread throughout the world and this “larger audience” had been maintained during the second quarter.

But just as more people used the platform, advertising spending slumped, Twitter said.

There was a “gradual, moderate recovery” through most of the second quarter, though that was interrupted in late May until mid-June “when many brands slowed or paused spend in reaction to US civil unrest” – a period marked by protests linked to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The company also addressed a hack that compromised the accounts of high-profile users last week, calling it a “very public and disappointing security issue”.

Chief executive Jack Dorsey said Twitter had taken steps to improve security and was working with law enforcement, adding: “Last week was a really tough week for all of us at Twitter. We feel terrible about the security incident that negatively affected the people we serve and their trust in us.”

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The company reported a $1.2bn (£900m) bottom line loss for the quarter thanks to an accounting charge related to its tax arrangements.

Stripping out that factor, the company was still in the red with a loss of $127m (£99m) – roughly in line with Wall Street expectations – compared to a profit of $37m (£29m) last year.

The results come after social media rival Snap, owner of Snapchat, said earlier this week that its lockdown-driven user growth was petering out sooner than expected.