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Twitter plummets as company leaks its Q1 results... on Twitter. Doh!

twitter dives

via Flickr © BC33 (CC BY 2.0)

Shares in Twitter, the social media and microblogging site of choice for those seeking to leverage networking contacts in pursuit of a new job, fell dramatically yesterday when feeble financial results were published early - on the Twitter site itself.

Plans were, as is the norm, for the company to release its latest quarterly financial results late in the day and safely after the US stock markets had closed. However, the financial news service Selerity screamed the results whist the markets were still open. The financial authorities quickly but briefly suspended dealings in Twitter shares. However, the cat was out of the bag, the damage was done and Twitter shares collapsed by more than 20 per cent when trading was resumed.

At first Selerity was severely criticised (not least by Twitter itself) for posting the results before time. Indeed there were knee-jerk accusations from some quarters that Selelrity had either hacked its way into Twitter's email servers or has a mole inside the company feeding it confidential information.

Selerity was quick to disabuse critics of their excitable notions, pointedly pointing out that its scoop had in fact been sourced directly from Twitter itself. It seems Twitter had posted, on its very own investor relations website, a public press release headlined, "Twitter Reports First Quarter 2015 Results; Lowers Full-Year 2015 Expectations."

Selerity is a "financial intelligence platform," that garners information by crawling the websites of publicly-listed companies seeking pages that are in the public domain but are not linked to another page. It is commonplace for companies to publish information on a public website without making a link visible or particularly accessible. As such it is a lazy way of doing things in the expectation that only "favoured" communities or individuals will know the URL. What actually happened here is that Twitter got complacent and failed to impose and manage proper data protection. As a result it was hoist with its own petard and has only itself to blame.

Investors and the markets have been wary of Twitter's performance for quite some time now as the company continues to find it increasingly difficult to attract new users and advertisers. They will be even more so today after the company announced Q1 revenues that fell a long way short of those forecast by the most pessimistic of analysts.

Twitter's Q1 revenues grew by 74 per cent, to US$436 million. Impressive enough, one might think, but, then analysts and the markets had been expecting the figure to be $456.2 million. However, Twitter’s Q1 net loss increased year-on-year from $132.4 million in 2014 to $162 million in 2015. To make matters worse, Twitter was also forced cut its full-year guidance figures to $2.17 billion from $2.27 billion - and the roof duly fell in.

According to eMarketer, at the end of last year Twitter commanded just a 1.6 per cent share of the digital advertising market last year and the company lags far, far behind the likes of Facebook (admittedly a very different digital animal) which had a 10.4 per cent market share at the close of 2014.

Twitter had 302 million average monthly active users in Q1, reflecting an increase of 18 per cent year-on-year. (Down from 20 per cent last year) Mobile average monthly users accounted for some 80 per cent of that total, again falling well short of analysts forecasts and expectations.

In November last, Twitter's CEO, Dick Costolo, told investors that the company would change and reorganise and refine both its products and services to make them "more attractive and easier to use." It is also partnering with Google in an effort to sell more much-needed advertising.

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