Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Does Twitter Have a PC Problem?

By Daniel B. Kline - Feb 17, 2014 at 9:19AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

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.

Without smartphone users of its app, Twitter (TWTR -0.92%) 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 (META -2.57%), 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 (GOOGL -1.77%) 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.

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.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Meta Platforms, Inc. Stock Quote
Meta Platforms, Inc.
$174.85 (-2.57%) $-4.62
Twitter, Inc. Stock Quote
Twitter, Inc.
$43.99 (-0.92%) $0.41
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
$119.55 (-1.77%) $-2.15

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/17/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.