It looks as if Twitter will never become the kind of mass media app that Facebook is. Twitter saw a small spurt of user-growth in the middle of the year when the World Cup was on, but Q4 2014 saw a reversion to the norm. Monthly average users (MAUs) grew only 4 million in Q4, from the previous quarter, to 288 million. Twitter added no — zero — new users in the US, the company said.
Twitter appears to be on course to top out at around 300 million users. The fact that people used the app half as much during this year’s Oscars show as they did last year suggests that MAU growth has basically stalled.
I’ve argued before that a 300 million user base isn’t a problem for Twitter, and that the company can monetise that quite nicely, especially as Twitter tends to attract very intense, specialist users (a bit like LinkedIn).
But some people think Twitter is on course to reach 553 million users by 2020, which would put Twitter in the same league as WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram, confirming its place as a mass consumer medium.
So where is Twitter going to get 200 million new users from?
Here are the numbers Twitter would have to get, according to Generator Research of Torquay, UK:
The first thing to notice is that Generator chief analyst Andrew Sheehy believes the bulk of the growth will come from Asia. Europe and the US remain largely stalled in this model — which is what most people believe. But Eastern countries are still growth areas for Twitter, Sheehy told us. Sheehy’s analysis comes from estimating the internet user population growth of 52 countries, as well as Twitter’s historic growth:
We’ve analysed 52 countries individually and for each one looked at the total increases in internet users (both online and mobile). This initial projection is based on assumptions about population growth for those in the 8-80 age band (we have very detailed projections for population for 73 countries with detailed narratives for each country – based on data from the UN, IMF and national sources), urbanisation trends, mobile and broadband network build-out plans and device pricing assumptions.
He also thinks that Twitter is likely to adapt and change its service over time, attracting new users:
We see Twitter as a ‘work in progress’ — it would be a mistake to view the current service proposition as it stands today as being static. In response to relentless market pressure, Twitter will be forced to adapt the service to increase its appeal. Indeed, the recent past has seen the company start making changes.
Disclosure: The author owns Twitter stock.