Does Twitter Have a PC Problem?

While Facebook has one foot in mobile and one in conventional computers, Twitter is largely a mobile company with almost no user engagement on PCs.

Feb 17, 2014 at 9:19AM

Without smartphone users of its app, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) would barely exist.

According to data collected by Nielsen, the social media network's users spent an average of 3 minutes and 7 seconds on the company's mobile app each month, but only 36 seconds using Twitter on a computer. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), which has been succeeding in getting users onto its mobile platform, has a much more balanced user base -- its customers spend 6 minutes and 24 seconds per month using the site via computer and 7 minutes and 43 seconds each month using its app.


Follow the mobile money
With overall PC use and sales declining while smartphone and tablet sales grow, the above data is not quite as disastrous for Twitter as it would have been a couple of years ago. Twitter, according to the company's fourth quarter 2013 financial report, had $220 million in advertising revenue; this was an increase of 121% year-over-year. Of that $220 million, 75% of it was mobile advertising. Twitter lost $511 million for the quarter, up from $9 million for the same quarter last year. Much of that loss was due to a one-time charge related to the company going public, however.

In its fourth quarter of 2013 report, Facebook had $2.34 billion in total advertising; this was a 76% increase from the same quarter last year. Mobile ads, however, were 53% of advertising revenue for the quarter, up from approximately 23% of advertising revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Emarketer, which tracks the mobile advertising market, reported in August 2013 that Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) controls more than half of the $16.65 billion mobile ad market. Facebook is gaining share, however, as is Twiiter. According to Emarketer, Facebook began the year with 5.35% of the market and was projected to end 2013 with 15.8% share. Twitter's gain was less dramatic as it was projected to climb from 1.57% to 1.85%.

Twitter at a crossroads
Facebook, which faced concerns over its ability to monetize mobile customers at the time of its IPO, has successfully answered those arguments. As you can see from the chart above, the company has also done a good job making the site as a useable product on whatever computing device users might access it from.

The same cannot be said of Twitter, as its PC audience barely exists. This makes either reversing that trend or continuing to grow its mobile user base and engagement essential. One possible way to change course is a rumored radical redesign that would make Twitter a lot more like Facebook.

According to an article in The Los Angeles Times, Twitter has begun testing radical new design that looks a lot like rival social media sites Facebook and Google+. The redesign, which has not been announced by the company, "is currently only visible to a few users of the social network, places a bigger emphasis on users' header photos, which are the images located behind their profile photos," reported the Times.

The new design, according to the Times, also has a few other changes:

  • The Facebook-like profile pages move profile pictures and bios from the right side of the page to a small column on the left of the screen.
  • The redesign does not display users' tweets in a vertical format. Tweets are laid out similarly to how pins are seen on Pinterest.
  • A greater emphasis is also placed on tweets that include photos and links.
  • Below the header photo, users can see how many tweets and photos/videos a user has posted.
  • There are also counters for followers, users following, favorite tweets, and lists that users belong to.

Of course, a secret test of a new design may just be a test, but testing something so radical suggests that Twitter's leaders know that they have a broken product that's essentially non-existent in the PC world and less engaging than Facebook on mobile. Changing that is not impossible, but as we have seen with so many social media networks before, today's Facebook can easily become tomorrow's Friendster.

The next step for you

Want to figure out how to profit on business analysis like this? The key is to learn how to turn business insights into portfolio gold by taking your first steps as an investor. Those who wait on the sidelines are missing out on huge gains and putting their financial futures in jeopardy. In our brand-new special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," The Motley Fool's personal finance experts show you what you need to get started, and even give you access to some stocks to buy first. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.

Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook, Google, and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers