Commentary

Twitter Growth Forecast Slides

The bad news for Twitter keeps on coming. In the latest ding for the microblogging network, media research outfit eMarketer is downgrading its growth forecast for U.S. Twitter users significantly, reflecting the company’s difficulties both in attracting new members and keeping existing members engaged.

According to eMarketer’s revised growth forecast, Twitter’s active U.S. user base, defined as people who access their accounts at least once a month, will grow 2% to 52.2 million in 2016. That’s a major downward revision from eMarketer’s previous forecast, published in February, predicting 8% growth to 55 million users by year-end.

And this growth rate isn’t expected to pick up any time soon – in fact, it will decrease steadily in the years to come. Looking ahead, eMarketer sees Twitter growing 1.9% to 53.2 million in 2017, 1.8% to 54.2 million in 2018, 1% to 55.3 million in 2019, and 0.9% to 55.8 million in 2020.

That’s a total increase of just 9% from 2015-2020. For comparison’s sake, eMarketer expects Facebook to grow 12.3% from 162.1 million to 182 million users over the same period. Meanwhile Instagram’s user base will soar 66% from 57.4 million to 95.1 million by 2020, Pinterest will jump 32.8% from 49.9 million to 66.3 million, and Tumblr will leap 40% from 21 million to 29.4 million.

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In proportional terms, Twitter’s share of total U.S. social network users will actually decrease from 28.4% in 2015 to 27.4% in 2020, as the overall social network population user base grows more rapidly than Twitter’s over this period. Facebook’s share will also decrease slightly, from 90% to 89.2%, while Instagram will increase from 31.9% to 46.6%, Pinterest will grow from 27.7% to 32.5%, and Tumblr will rise from 11.7% to 14.4%.

Summing up Twitter’s woes, eMarketer analyst Oscar Orozco stated: “Twitter continues to struggle with growing its user base because new users often find the product unwieldy and difficult to navigate, which makes it challenging to find long-term value in being an active user. Also, new product initiatives have had little impact in attracting new users.” On a positive note, he added: “It has had success with live broadcasting and should continue to make deals to stream sports and political events. Video is now the No. 1 ad format in terms of revenue. By continuing to invest in video, particularly live video, Twitter could potentially begin to more successfully monetize and grow its user base.”

Twitter has been trying to reposition itself as a source of breaking news and forum for live commentary, and earlier this month it revealed a marketing campaign to broaden its appeal among Internet users by conveying this new image. Twitter also announced that it has signed an expanded content partnership with the NBA that will bring exclusive original live programming and more video to Twitter, Vine and Periscope. It also revealed a partnership with Pac-12 Networks, allowing the platform to stream more than 150 university sporting events during the 2016-2017 season.

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