Being a communication backbone of the web has its pluses and minuses. Twitter gets lots of content syndicated from other sites, but those contributors don’t necessarily visit Twitter or see its ads. That last part is a problem, especially since these blind tweeters count as some of Twitter’s 218.3 million active users.
Twitter explains on page 61 of its S-1 filing that an “active user” includes not only people that actually visit its site and mobile apps, but also “Twitter users who logged in and accessed Twitter through…registered third-party applications or websites.” Those users do push content to Twitter that draws people to its feed where it shows ads, so they help the site monetize. But they also aren’t seeing ads themselves.
There are tons of ways to syndicate to Twitter. People auto-tweet their blog posts, Tumblr updates and even their Facebook posts. IFTTT and other automation services make this easy. In its pre-monetization phase, getting more content may have been the right bet, and still may be, but it could make Twitter seem larger than it is.
“I don’t really go on Twitter anymore but I share my Instagrams there,” a friend told me today. These Insta-pushers are even worse for Twitter than non-visiting contributors from elsewhere, because Instagram pulled support for Twitter Cards. That means rather than lingering on Twitter and viewing Instagrams in-line, people are whisked to Instagram’s website…where they don’t see Twitter ads.
My friend is not alone, considering that Twitter listed “the degree to which users access Twitter content through applications that do not contain our ads” as one of its risks. Yet it doesn’t break out users who actually visit its feed from those who don’t. If that number is a significant percentage of Twitter’s total active user count, bankers might want Twitter to disclose it in revisions to its S-1 in the upcoming weeks before it actually goes public.