Can Trump Help Twitter?

For some time now, the prognosis for Twitter has not been a positive one. Usership was declining, executives were departing, and it has been unclear how the social network would make itself profitable even if it could remain relevant.
But 2017 has been unexpected in many ways—and Twitter’s subtle turnaround appears to be one of the them. The latest figures released by the social media company appear to show it is now on the upswing. Reporting on its first quarter financial results recently, Twitter revealed that their “audience continued to grow with accelerating momentum in Q1. Daily active usage increased 14% year-over-year, marking the fourth consecutive quarter of accelerating growth. Monthly active usage also increased 9 million quarter-over-quarter, reaching 328 million.”
These are promising signs for a company that, just six months ago, people were seriously questioning the future of. With that in mind, it’s worth asking what’s changed. One answer is a somewhat surprising one: it could be Donald Trump.
Of all the things Trump is now synonymous with—walls, fake tan, alternative facts—Twitter has to be highest on the list. The president has, rather controversially, made the platform his primary method of communicating with the public, whether he’s announcing policy goals, dissing foreign leaders, or rallying his base for support. As Bloomberg noted, “Often, his tweets spur controversies, such as his unsubstantiated claim that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped him. The president has 28.6 million followers, up from around 24 million at the time of his inauguration.
In fact, it doesn’t really matter what Trump tweets; the fact he is the president of the United States means it will be newsworthy regardless. This means that the source of the day’s top headlines increasingly seems to be Twitter—something that the company is clearly benefiting from.
While the company hasn’t gone as far to say that its usership boost has come from Twitter, they’ve certainly insinuated that they don’t mind Trump making them the center of political attention. Speaking recently at a Bloomberg Television interview, Chief Operating Officer Anthony Noto said “We’d love it if every world leader used Twitter as their primary mechanism to talk to their constituencies. The more that happens, the better we are going to be at showing what’s going on in the world.”
Noto’s quote points at something that’s true about the network: for a long time, it’s been a main domain of journalists, activists, politicians, celebrities and media types who all have a message to get across, but less so for regular people. Now, with political engagement in the US at an all-time high—and a president who clearly likes to engage on Twitter—the network might be seeing more and more users outside of their normal core demographic flocking to the network. In a sense, by making it his main mouthpiece the president has made Twitter mainstream again.
According to Quartz, Twitter pointed to “new and resurrected users following more news and political accounts: in its earning presentation last week, which further indicates that Trump might be the source of this boost.
So, is it smooth sailing from here on out? Not quite. Twitter still has a lot of work to do if it wants to retain its spot as one of today’s most influential social networks. Usership, while a big issue, has really been only one of a few issues the network is facing. As Quartz went on to say, “it will take a lot more than one bombastic account to fix all that ails Twitter, which hasn’t had a profitable quarter in the three years since it went public.”