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Twitter's First Big Earnings Test Comes Today. Here Are the Numbers to Watch.

Twitter stock is on a tear since its IPO. Can Dick Costolo keep it going?

Asa Mathat
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Remember when Facebook went public, and its stock tanked? And remember when Facebook announced its first earnings report, and its stock dropped some more?

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is trying to reverse that playbook, and so far it’s working: TWTR is up nearly 50 percent since its IPO. Now it’s going to try to impress Wall Street with its first quarter.

Twitter is followed by lots of analysts, and very few of them think the same thing about its numbers, but a consensus has the company losing a couple pennies per share this quarter.

But the far more important metrics will be revenue — which Wall Street thinks will come in around $218 million — and Twitter’s monthly users number — which Stifel analyst Jordan Rohan thinks will be 253 million.

My hunch is that Twitter is going to be able to give Wall Street what it wants on the revenue side, because the company has been quite methodical about plotting its growth curve and hasn’t rushed to sell every bit of inventory it can.

That’s smart, given that Twitter has yet to demonstrate that it has an ad product that marketers can rely on and come back to over and over. So even though advertisers are still in the testing stage, more and more of them are testing, so you’re going to keep seeing big top-line increases. Adding MoPub, a mobile ad exchange/network, gives the company another way to boost those numbers.

User growth is more of a wild card. Twitter blew its own forecast a year ago, when Dick Costolo predicted — to his own employees — that the company would end up with some 400 million users. It wound up having to scale that goal back down dramatically.

And even though Twitter ended its last quarter with an average of 232 million users, it still isn’t a mainstream product. A major focus for Costolo and his team is figuring out ways to make it more accessible to regular folks.

Hard to tell if that’s working, but here’s a stat that might give a Twitter bull pause: Last year, Nielsen thought 5.3 million people were tweeting about the Super Bowl; this year it thinks that number moved up to 5.6 million — an increase of less than six percent.

Here’s a primer on the numbers we might see this afternoon, courtesy of RBC analyst Mark Mahaney. Mike Isaac and I will be covering the results live, starting at 1 pm PT. See you then.

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