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Twitter Has 284 Million Users and Hits Its Q3 Numbers. Wall Street Wants More.

Looks like Dick Costolo delivered.

Asa Mathat

Here are Twitter Q3’s earnings: (Adjusted) earnings of a penny per share, on $361 million in revenue. That’s right in line with Wall Street estimates. Most crucially, Twitter says it has 284 million active users, up from 271 million in Q2. That’s likely going to satisfy investors as well. We’ll see.

Survey says … nope! Shares are down more than 9 percent in after-market trading.

Twitter’s guidance isn’t the culprit here, either: Twitter says it will generate between $440 million and $450 million in revenue, which will create $100 million to $105 million in adjusted earnings. That’s in line with the consensus, too.

Meanwhile, here’s a hint about what Twitter will talk about during its call: It’s playing up the “NFL Timeline” it built out this fall, as an example of the way the service can provide value to its core users as well as casual or first-time visitors.

So what’s the problem? The easiest guess is that investors wanted the highly valued stock – it’s worth around $30 billion right now — to over-deliver, and it didn’t. J.P. Morgan’s Doug Anmuth, for instance, wanted 288 million users.

Another hunch is that investors will now say they’re worried about “timeline views,” the metric Twitter uses to measure its users’ engagement. That’s at 181 billion — much more than RBC analyst Mark Mahaney had expected — and is up 14 percent from the last year. But last quarter, timeline views were up 15 percent.

This is the downside of the expectations game that Twitter won last quarter. Silly, but that’s how it works. And it shouldn’t be surprising to Anthony Noto, the Wall Street star the company brought on as its CFO last quarter, in part to help Twitter feed and care for its investors.

In fact, Noto addressed these expectations on the call Monday afternoon when he told investors to stop betting on Twitter to outperform its guidance down the road. Twitter is working hard to provide accurate expectations, he said, and Wall Street shouldn’t expect them to undersell. “We do not recommend projections that deviate meaningfully from our guidance,” Noto said.

Twitter stock was down more than 10 percent at the end of the call, a sign that investors didn’t get the assurance they were looking for.

The other point of contention for a number of investors was timeline views, which increased to 181 billion in the quarter but has been flat in terms of growth for the past three quarters. Noto said that he expects timeline views per MAU to be flat once again next quarter. Twitter attributes this to creating a more successful timeline experience. If users get what they are looking for the first time around, they don’t have much of a need to refresh, Noto explained.

Update: Includes paragraphs highlighting some of Twitter’s earnings call.

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