In a double embarrassment for CEO Dick Costolo, Twitter's earnings leaked an hour early, and they weren't very good, sending the stock plunging more than 18 percent before markets closed Tuesday. The results, discovered by financial firm Selerity on Twitter's own website, ironically alerted the world in a series of tweets, showing the social network missed estimates for revenue and monthly active users.
The numbers were then confirmed by Twitter, which formally published them about 20 minutes before the market closed. The results showed revenue of $436 million, up 74 percent year over year but below analysts' estimates of $456.52 million. The company attributed the failure to hit revenue estimates to poor performance by its direct response advertisements.
“Overall, it’s just depressing news across the board. If you really want to disappoint the market, this is the way to do it,” said Johnny Won, founder of Hyperstop, a tech consultancy firm. “There needs to be clarity about what they're going to do to rectify this.”
To improve the performance of its direct response ads, Twitter Tuesday announced its acquisition of TellApart, a digital marketing firm that specializes in cross-device advertisement retargeting. "Direct response advertising has been a major growth engine for our ads business over the last several quarters. We’re confident that TellApart will accelerate that trajectory further," Twitter said in a blog post Tuesday afternoon. Additionally, the company announced its ad inventory will now be available on Google DoubleClick, making it easier for marketers who already use that platform to purchase Twitter advertisements in the future.
But Twitter's failures were not limited just to this quarter. The company's forecast for the second quarter was also significantly below what investors were expecting. It said to expect revenues in the range of $470 million to $485 million in the second quarter, which is far from the $538.16 million analysts were expecting. The company also announced lower expectations for the entirety of 2015, telling investors to expect revenue in the range of $2.17 billion to $2.27 billion -- less than the $2.37 billion analysts had estimated. The company blamed the lower forecast on fluctuations in foreign currencies.
“Currency is certainly a factor,” said Debra Aho Williamson, principal social media analyst for eMarketer Inc. “We saw that happen with Facebook last week, but overall, their results were better.”
Despite the embarrassing leak and the miss on revenue, Twitter exceeded profit estimates, earning of 7 cents per share, beating out analysts' estimates of 4 cents per share, while also showing solid growth in its mobile advertising business, which accounted for 89 percent of total advertising revenue, up from 80 percent a year prior.
User growth surged, adding a solid 14 million monthly active users compared with the previous quarter. That was enough for Twitter to finally cross the 300 million mark, and it was a significant increase compared to the dismal 4 million users the company added in the fourth quarter. The new users appear to be a sign Twitter's new "instant timeline" feature, which automatically follows relevant Twitter accounts for new users, is doing its job and giving new users enough interesting content to keep them coming back. However, the company missed on expectations for mobile monthly users, which came in at 241.6 million, less than the expected 243 million.
Twitter was able to give investors a bit of hope during its earnings call, saying that Periscope, its popular live-streaming app that launched in March, saw more than 1 million users log in during the first 10 days of its existance. Costolo also informed shareholders that Twitter's partnership with Google, which will show tweets within search result pages, will roll out to users some time in May.
“There are still a lot of high hopes for Twitter. It’s definitely a service that has broad name recognition,” Williamson said. “This is a company that still has a lot of hopes for it, and what we’re seeing now is that they are still working on trying to follow through on that promise.”