S ad!”; “Bad hombres!”; “FAKE NEWS”.
For the past two years, Donald Trump has yelled these Trumpisms at the world through his favourite loudspeaker: Twitter. Before his election victory, @realDonaldTrump used the platform to bypass the “dishonest media” and lambast “crooked” Hillary Clinton. Since his inauguration, Twitter has been his primary means of announcing policy, conducting diplomacy and sticking up for his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line.
The world is watching. And yet Twitter still can’t turn a profit. This week, the company announced that its shares had fallen by as much as 10% on February 9 after it posted its slowest revenue growth figures since going public four years ago. Why?
The Financial Times puts Twitter’s travails down to heightened competition for advertising revenue. Instagram now puts advertising in its Stories feature; Facebook is testing mid-roll adverts which play during videos; and Snap, the owner of Snapchat, is making a play for advertising budgets as it plans to go public.
In terms of engagement, Twitter has enjoyed a noticeable ‘Trump bump’: by the final quarter of 2016, it averaged 319 million active users across the globe every month, while the number of people logging on every day is up 11% from the same period last year. However, these figures still lag behind Twitter’s main competitors: WhatsApp and Facebook have both increased their monthly users by around 500 million since 2014.
According to Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, “having the world’s leaders on our platform talking about global issues is all positive for Twitter”. But President Trump’s Twitplomacy is arguably a hinderance. Many advertisers are reluctant to run ads on a platform that is filled with politically charged and often abusive discourse, an atmosphere Mr. Trump has stoked with his divisive rhetoric. In short, Twitter is not “brand safe”, keeping companies like Disney from acquiring it.
Donald Trump alone will struggle to #MakeTwitterGreatAgain.