Defining Twitter by more than the numbers

Twitter user growth

Twitter reported its financial results for the second quarter 2014 this week:

  • Q2 revenue of $312 million, up 124% year-over-year
  • Q2 net loss of $145 million and non-GAAP net income of $15 million
  • Q2 GAAP EPS of ($0.24) and non-GAAP EPS of $0.02
  • Q2 adjusted EBITDA of $54 million, representing an adjusted EBITDA margin of 17%

Depending on which media report or commentary you read, it’s either an unimpressive financial performance, or a strong performance to silence critics.

Either way, a common view in mainstream media reports is that the results exceeded financial analysts’ expectations.

One other significant element in the earnings announcement is growth in the number of users, as the Financial Times chart above shows – a consistent increase every quarter since mid 2010 to arrive at today’s number of 271 million average monthly active users, an increase of 24 per cent over the same period last year.

The combination of financial results that exceed expectations and continuing user growth are facts that the stock market and investors like. Indeed, the FT’s report includes a bottom-line statement:

[...] Shares rose to $51.25 in after-hours trading, the highest price since Twitter reported its first results as a public company in February, prompting the stock to plummet. The stock is almost double the price at which Twitter listed last year.

One other aspect I find interesting relates to what Twitter is, ie, how people now describe Twitter.

In media reports, you’ll see it described variously as a “micro-blogging service” – that moniker arose in the very early days of Twitter – or a “social-networking service,” both labels used in a BBC News report. It’s a “social network,” says the Telegraph. The FT calls it a “messaging platform” while The Wall Street Journal says it’s a “social media company.”

And Twitter? How does the company describe itself? From the ‘About’ paragraph in the earnings report:

Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) is a global platform for public self-expression and conversation in real time. By developing a fundamentally new way for people to create, distribute and discover content, we have democratized content creation and distribution, enabling any voice to echo around the world instantly and unfiltered. The service can be accessed at Twitter.com, via the Twitter mobile application and via text message. Available in more than 35 languages, Twitter has 271 million monthly active users. For more information, visit discover.twitter.com or follow @twitter.

Compare that to the mission statement on the Twitter corporate page:

Our mission: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.

And note the latest user metrics on that page:

  • 271 million monthly active users
  • 500 million Tweets are sent per day
  • 78 percent of Twitter active users are on mobile
  • 77 percent of accounts are outside the U.S.
  • Twitter supports 35+ languages
  • Vine: More than 40 million users

Clear?

Factory Media talks Programmatic and Native Advertising

HTC One Skatepark

Guest author Chris Talintyre is Head of Audience Development & Activation at Factory Media and talks about the power of understanding huge audiences in real-time and the opportunities it’s bringing to leading brands targeting sports enthusiasts.

As consumers increasingly share content, it’s creating a huge amount of data to analyse giving us insight on not just our readers (think boarders, skaters, surfers, BMXers) but their friends, colleagues and contacts. We can better understand and connect with them through really engaging content, such as the recent work we did with HTC One and the creation of a free world-class skate park at Selfridges.

Given the prestige of the brands we work with, the services we offer must be as cutting-edge as possible. Programmatic platforms are growing rapidly and now account for 28% of the UK display ad market due to their engagement and target abilities. This is what encouraged us to further engage fans and stay ahead of the competition. To do that, we partnered with RadiumOne, experts in programmatic advertising, and created an ‘audience insight’ tool.

Based on RadiumOne technology, it helps us to understand our 22 million strong audience, while giving us extended insight on the global reach of our connected audience – a huge 250 million people – which is pretty informative! We partnered with RadiumOne as we were impressed with the level of sophistication and in-depth insight it could give us on our audience. Our clients come from a diverse range of sectors, and want to be aligned to an active ‘outdoorsy’ audience. Bringing clients into markets they may not naturally integrate into, is a valuable offering for us.

Working with RadiumOne we’ve been able to aggregate at scale, in real-time, sharing activity to build a map of interaction (by using their sharing widget and link shortener). We can track all sharing touch points not just for interactions but more general interactions across the web, for instance, what a user shares more broadly with their friends and contacts. This is in very granular detail and can be right down to the last item bought.

This is where native and programmatic cleverly works in tandem. By packaging up content on behalf of one of our sponsors, into an ad unit (such as a competition or social feed) we can create an engaging experience for the reader. The reach of this content can go much further by also sending it to our readers’ connected audience. We do this based on the preferences made and websites visited by them, so we can serve them with different forms of advertising. It’s engagement in context.

Ultimately, this host of technologies help magnify campaigns to reach more people. Our campaigns are visual, and the audience is vast so we need to tap into every degree of interest through this repertoire of technology. We saw the market opportunity for native and programmatic – now we’re offering an increasingly attractive proposition to leading brands. It was a no brainer for us and we haven’t looked back. We’re excited about winning new business and embracing the other opportunities it will afford us.

HTC One Skatepark Trade Media Video – hires a Skateboarding video by Factory Media

Factory Media is Europe’s largest specialist sports media owner. We focus on bike, board and outdoor sports and work with some of the most recognisable brands in the world such as Nike, British Airways, Jeep and O2.

Chris TalyntireChris Talintyre is a media marketing specialist with over 15 years industry experience. With skills ranging from digital marketing, video, direct marketing, subscriptions, through to social media. Currently working within action sports, developing off and online assets to effectively monetise them and extending brand reach.

The future looks mobile for Facebook

Facebook mobile

Facebook posted its financial report on July 23 for the second quarter of its 2014 financial year.

The report shows financial pluses across the board for the mega social network in significant areas:

  1. Overall revenue for the second quarter of 2014 was $2.91 billion, an increase of 61 percent compared to the same period last year.
  2. Revenue from advertising was $2.68 billion, a 67 percent increase over the same quarter last year – and around 92 percent of overall revenue reported for the second quarter 2014.
  3. Mobile advertising revenue represented about 62 percent of advertising revenue for the second quarter of 2014, an increase of 41 percent compared to the same period last year.
  4. GAAP net income for Q2 2014 was $791 million, up 138 percent compared to the same period last year.
  5. GAAP diluted earnings per share was $0.30, up 131 percent compared to the same period last year.

Holders of Facebook stock will no doubt be quite happy, like Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, who remarks drily:

“We had a good second quarter,” [Zuckerberg] said. “Our community has continued to grow, and we see a lot of opportunity ahead as we connect the rest of the world.”

What struck me most about the numbers as shown in the concise earnings announcement is the advertising revenue growth and the high proportion of that growth  – nearly two-thirds – that comes from mobile.

Facebook mobile advertising growth /via FT

Indeed, the FT reports on Facebook’s earnings with two interesting charts – the one above showing the growing shift to mobile of Facebook’s user base since the start of 2013; and the one below, showing a clear growth trend since mid 2012 of mobile advertising sales.

Facebook mobile advertising growth /via FT

As for the opportunity Zuckerberg refers to, to “connect the rest of the world,” put that in the context of the latest user metrics included in the company’s earnings report:

  • Daily active users (DAUs) were 829 million on average for June 2014, an increase of 19 percent year-over-year.
  • Mobile DAUs were 654 million on average for June 2014, an increase of 39 percent year-over-year.
  • Monthly active users (MAUs) were 1.32 billion as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 14 percent year-over-year.
  • Mobile MAUs were 1.07 billion as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 31 percent year-over-year.

Plenty of room for growth.

(Picture at top via DigitalTrends.)

The meaning of 100 million Facebook likes

ShakiraColombian singer Shakira has set a new social media record after becoming the first person ever to reach 100 million likes on Facebook. The milestone has formally been recognized by Guinness World Records.

In its report, TheJournal.ie says that the only other page which has more likes than hers is Facebook’s own Facebook page. And 100 million likes has a sharp perspective when you consider it from a metrics point of view as The Wall Street Journal does:

[...] That’s 8% of Facebook’s universe of 1.28 billion monthly active users around the world.

The Journal also notes in its credible report that along with her Facebook fame comes spam, fakes and other headaches, undoubtedly needing an army of overseers to run the Shakira brand on Facebook (and elsewhere on the social web).

And Shakira herself – what does she think of this pinnacle of fan love? Guinness World Records reports her saying in a video message:

“I am honoured and humbled about reaching this milestone, because it’s one that’s purely about connecting with my fans from all parts of the globe. Social media and specifically Facebook has helped myself and other artists bridge the gap between the stage and the audience.  We’ve been able to create a conversation, where both artists and fans can share with one another their thoughts, achievements, the most important moments of their lives in photographs and videos, and have a real, ongoing dialogue.”

And Facebook?

Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s VP of Global Operations and Media Partnerships, said: “The combination of Shakira’s global appeal, her authentic engagement with fans and her use of Facebook as a multi-media platform has positioned her to achieve the incredible milestone of 100M fans.”

Creating a conversation, authentic engagement and a platform where those things happen. A powerful combination.

Take a look at Shakira’s Facebook page (that now shows well beyond 100 million likes).

The art of the business tweet

Wednesday

A question I used to hear a lot from people in business is “How do I tweet?” Today, that question has evolved into “How do I tweet effectively for my business?”

The response is quite a bit deeper than answering the question purely in terms of writing out a text in 140 characters or less and hitting ‘tweet.’ Participating on Twitter is as much about listening to what people are saying as it it about adding your tweet to the conversation. Twitter itself has some great how-tos and tutorials.

It’s also about what to say and when to say it, two topics that are the focus of a neat video that Twitter has just published. Simple in its concept and execution, this video is one of the best I’ve seen that will give you a good and clear sense of some simple steps you can follow that will give you confidence in using Twitter effectively in your business communication.

The video will help you understand these five key points:

  1. Make a plan: what’s your goal and how will you measure its success?
  2. Be clear on who your primary audience is: in this case, your customers.
  3. Create a calendar: decide what you’ll tweet on which day.
  4. Think about what you’ll tweet: is the content relevant to your audience?
  5. When people in your community respond or ask questions, make sure you reply.

And the best advice of all:

How you tweet and how you respond to your followers matter as much as face-to-face interaction. So be friendly, be helpful and be yourself.

Using Twitter effectively in business may not be a science. But it is an art.

The only way is ethics #PRethics

The debate in Committee Room No 10 / pic by Kate Matlock

Committee Room number 10 in the House of Commons in London was the setting in the evening of July 7 for a vibrant debate on a big topic, formally titled “Wearable technology is an ethical nightmare for the communications, marketing and PR professions.”

Organized by The Debating Group and sponsored by the CIPR, the motion was proposed by Stephen Davies and seconded by me; and opposed by Stephen Waddington and seconded by Claire Walker.

About 100 people formed the audience, many of whom contributed opinion and running commentary on Twitter as each of the four speakers made their cases for the motion and against it. Once the formal addresses had been made, debate chair Alastair McCapra opened the debate to the floor where 18 people offered their perspectives to the debate.

It was a most interesting few hours. Opinion during the motions seemed pretty evenly divided, which seems to me to be fairly reflected in the commentary on Twitter. But when it came to the moment of voting, we were firmly defeated – 55 votes against the motion with only 28 for it.

Yet those stark numbers hide one reality, which is that it’s clear to me that this topic is not as black and white as it seems, offering only agreement or disagreement as your options. It is phenomenally nuanced, with so many shades of grey, and where almost everything you might say needing to start with “It depends.”

It’s also clear that the two opposing sides to the motion were far closer in thinking and belief than it may seem. Closer in the view that the topic is largely about people’s behaviours rather than about the wearable tech – meaning, what the tech enables people to do and so what they do or don’t do with it – and largely about providing codes of conduct that would be the roadmap for PR practitioners’ behaviour in how they use wearable tech.

I wholly support that idea although I’m far less optimistic that PR practitioners will simply abide by a code of conduct and not do bad things. If some PRs can’t get even the basics right, why should I have confidence that they can be trusted to do the right thing on their own with something far more important? Having a code is great, but it needs by-example leadership and professional behaviour to make it work at all.

Hence the “it depends” idea where I firmly believe that there won’t be an ethical nightmare as long as we – the profession, consultancies and clients, and individuals – take firm and clear steps to make the landscape anything but an ethical nightmare. We must do this, actively and proactively, collectively and individually.

Unlike my fellow speakers in the debate, I didn’t make a prepared speech. Instead, I prepared talking points from which I highlighted my perspectives to support Stephen. For the purpose of this narrative, let me highlight the bottom line of my argument:

Is there (or will there be) an ethical nightmare for PR, marketing and communication professionals?

I have 3 answers…

Yes, if…

1. Yes, if we do nothing to raise awareness and educate our publics on the SWOT of wearable tech.

2. Yes, if we fail to recognize the critical importance of the trust consumers place in our clients, in our employers and in governments that their behaviours are ethical.

3. Yes, if we fail to take advantage of the opportunities to advance our profession at the vanguard of understanding the ethics, scope and scale surrounding the enabling technologies that are before us, and what they will do – and do not – for our clients, our employers, consumers and businesses, and society at large.

Will we do this?

You tell me.

And here’s the argument in detail by the lead debaters:

My complete notes on Scribd:

I’ve seen some great reports and commentary about the debate, notably:

And of course, the curation of all the tweets, etc, in Storify by Gabrielle Laine-Peters:

And finally, credit where credit’s due – hard to resist a pun on the word ‘ethics’ as I use in my headline above. “The only way is ethics” is a play on “The only way is Essex,” a popular (?) reality TV show in the UK. So, full credit to Wadds for first use in the debate!