Why Twitter, Inc. Earnings Will Be Critical

Investors are hoping the social network's third-quarter earnings will provide a window into new strategies under Jack Dorsey's fresh leadership.

Daniel Sparks
Daniel Sparks
Oct 10, 2015 at 10:30AM
Technology and Telecom

Mark your calendar. Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) will report third-quarter results on Tuesday, October 27. Anyone following the company -- as an investor or stock watcher -- should tune into the report.

The earnings report -- following a dramatic CEO search and just weeks after co-founder Jack Dorsey's Twitter CEO title changed from interim to permanent -- will provide key insight into the company's plans.

Twitter headquarters. Photo: Tim Trueman. Image source: Twitter.

Analysts, on average, expect Twitter to report non-GAAP EPS and revenue of $0.05 and $559 million. These figures are up considerably from year-ago non-GAAP EPS and revenue of $0.01 and $361 million, respectively. And it's worth noting that analyst expectations for revenue are at the high end of revenue projections for Q3 of $545 million to $560 million. 

Analysts' optimistic outlook for revenue in Q3 reflects a continuation of the company's excellent execution on monetization to date. Q2 was no exception. Advertising revenue during the quarter, which accounted for about 90% of total revenue, soared 63%, year over year -- 71% when excluding the impact of year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates. Investors should expect more robust growth in advertising revenue during Q3.

Twitter beat expectations for both revenue and earnings per share when it reported second-quarter results. Analysts expected non-GAAP EPS and revenue of $0.04 and $482, respectively, and the company instead reported EPS of $0.07 and revenue of $502 million. But better-than-expected revenue and EPS weren't enough to make up for the social network's slow user growth. Shares slid nearly 13% by the time the market closed the trading day following the report.

Beyond revenue and EPS, investors will be particularly interested in an update on user growth headwinds.

User growth
The key focus when Twitter reports third-quarter earnings will be user growth, just as it's been every quarter for the past year as the company continues to report underwhelming year-over-year growth in that important metric.

The red flag for Twitter's user growth was waved as viciously as ever during the second quarter. Despite a 15% year-over-year growth in monthly active users and 2.6% sequential growth, this reported growth benefited from the inclusion of SMS Fast Followers. SMS Fast Followers access the company's service through text messages, and the monetization of these users is basically irrelevant. Excluding that segment, Twitter's user base grew 12% year over year and just 0.07% sequentially -- not the sort of growth you would expect from a young social media company like Twitter that is supposed to appeal to the masses.

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It's not just the market that is disappointed in Twitter's user growth. Dorsey, who was serving as interim CEO when it reported second-quarter results, said in the earnings release that management is "not satisfied with our growth in audience." 

Twitter's new Moments feature is aimed at helping Twitter's user growth problem by making it easier for new users to stick around. Image source: Twitter.

But investors will be looking beyond the quarter's reported user figures to judge Twitter's user base growth prospects when third-quarter results are released. With Dorsey only about four months into his reign as CEO, investors realize it's going to take time for new strategies to play out. So, it may be the company's attitude about and projections for the rest of the year and for 2016 that speak the most about user growth.

More broadly, investors will be looking for a useful update from Dorsey on the Twitter's overall strategy and long-term expectations. Expect analysts to ask Twitter about whether it is going to keep its 140-character limit and its planned aggressive marketing campaign.