Twitter is what’s happening in the world and what people are talking about right now. Their primary product, Twitter, is a global platform for public self-expression and conversation in real time. Twitter allows people to consume, create, distribute and discover content and has democratized content creation and distribution. Through Topics, Interests, and Trends, they help people discover what’s happening live. They also continue to implement live broadcasts and on-demand video content across Twitter, including through partnerships with media outlets and their platform partners. Media outlets and their platform partners also help extend the reach of Twitter content by distributing Tweets beyond their products to complement their content. People can also express themselves using creation tools like Voice Tweets and Fleets, which allows everyone to start conversations in a new way – with their voice or with their fleeting thoughts using text, reactions to Tweets, photos or videos.
In 2020, they continued their work to serve the public conversation by helping people find trusted sources of information and better organizing and surfacing the many topics and interests that bring people to Twitter. They are making it easier to follow and participate in healthier conversations by rolling out new conversation settings globally, and giving people everywhere more control over the conversations they start on Twitter. In addition, they made significant progress on their brand and direct response roadmap with updated ad formats, stronger attribution, and improved targeting. They also continued to iterate on their revamped Mobile Application Promotion (MAP) offering. They furthered their efforts to improve the health of the platform, as they work to make sure that people and advertisers feel safe being a part of the conversation and are able to find credible information on their service. Major areas of focus within health include reducing abuse, providing more context around misinformation, and protecting the integrity of civic-related conversations.
Products and Services for Advertisers
Their Promoted Products enable their advertisers to launch products and services and promote their brands, amplify their visibility and reach, and connect with what’s happening to extend the conversation around their advertising campaigns. They enable their advertisers to target an audience based on a variety of factors, including who an account follows and actions taken on their platform, such as Tweets created and engagement with Tweets. They believe this data produces a clear and real-time signal of that person’s interests, greatly enhancing the relevance of the ads they can display and enhancing their targeting capabilities for advertisers. Their Promoted Products are incorporated into their platform as native advertising and are designed to be as compelling and useful to people on Twitter as organic content on their platform.
Currently, their Promoted Products consist of:
- Promoted Tweets. Promoted Tweets appear within an individual’s timeline, search results or profile pages just like an ordinary Tweet regardless of device. Promoted Tweets often include images and videos, such as Mobile App Cards and Website Cards. Using their proprietary algorithm and understanding of each individual’s interests, they can deliver Promoted Tweets that are intended to be relevant to a particular person on Twitter. Their goal is to enable advertisers to create and optimize successful marketing campaigns – and pay either on impressions delivered or only for the actions taken by people on Twitter that are aligned with their marketing objectives. As a result, they have added product features to Promoted Tweets based on advertiser objectives, which may include maximizing reach, Tweet engagements (e.g., Retweets, replies and likes), theybsite clicks or conversions, mobile application installs or engagements, obtaining new followers, or video views.
- Promoted Accounts. Promoted Accounts appear in the same format and place as accounts suggested by their Who to Follow recommendation engine, or in some cases, in Tweets in an individual’s timeline. Promoted Accounts provide a way for their advertisers to grow a community of people on Twitter who are interested in their business, products or services.
- Promoted Trends. Promoted Trends appear at the top of the list of trending topics or timeline for an entire day in a particular country or on a global basis. When a person on Twitter clicks on a Promoted Trend, search results for that trend are shown in a timeline and a Promoted Tweet created by an advertiser is displayed to the individual at the top of those search results. They feature one Promoted Trend per day per geography. They also offer Promoted Trend Spotlight, which enables brands to leverage video paired with a prominent location at the top of the Explore tab.
Advertisers can also run short video ads either before or around premium video content, such as during live premium video content from publishing partners or clips from a variety of interest categories such as news, sports and entertainment. Their technology dynamically inserts those advertisers’ ads into the relevant videos and delivers the ads to the audience targeted by those advertisers.
They may pay content partners a portion of their advertising revenue for the right to use and distribute their content on their platform. In addition, Amplify Sponsorships allow advertisers to build brand association by sponsoring premium video content from a single publishing partner, including live video, video clips, and other storytelling formats like Sponsored Moments.
They continue to focus their investment on features that differentiate Twitter and capitalize on their value proposition for advertisers. They made progress on their brand and direct response roadmap, with updated ad formats, stronger attribution, and improved targeting. They expect their acquisition of CrossInstall will accelerate key work streams in direct response. CrossInstall brought a performance ads-focused team to Twitter, added a successful and performance demand side platform (DSP), and should also help them with their strategy to build and improve MAP and performance ad formats. In addition, they expect CrossInstall will help them increase the value MoPub offers to mobile app developers.
Their technology platform and information database enable them to provide targeting capabilities based on audience attributes like geography, interests, keyword, conversation, content, and events that make it possible for advertisers to promote their brands, products and services, amplify their visibility and reach, and complement and extend the conversation around their advertising campaigns.
Their platform also enables customers to advertise across the mobile ecosystem, both on Twitter’s owned and operated properties as well as off Twitter on third-party publishers’ websites, applications and other offerings. They enable advertisers to extend their reach beyond Twitter through:
- MoPub, their mobile-focused advertising exchange, which combines ad serving, ad network mediation and a real-time bidding exchange into one comprehensive monetization platform.
- Twitter Audience Platform, an advertising offering that enables advertisers to extend their advertising campaigns with Twitter Promoted Products to audiences off Twitter while retaining access to Twitter’s measurement, targeting and creative tools.
Products for Developers and Data Partners
Developer and Enterprise Solutions (DES) is their software-as-a-service platform that enables developers to build products around the aggregated, anonymized wealth of data on Twitter. Developers use Twitter application programming interfaces (APIs) to build applications and other products for themselves, consumers, and business customers. DES serves commercial and non-commercial developers including businesses, academics, and consumer developers, among others. They believe this work has the potential to help them with their efforts to improve the health of the public conversation. Websites and applications integrating with their publicly available APIs improve people’s experience on Twitter by helping brands and publishers engage with what’s happening and gain insights from the public conversation.
They also offer paid enterprise access to their public data streams for partners with commercial use cases and those who wish to access more data beyond what is available for free. Paying DES customers typically sign multi-year subscriptions or enterprise agreements, based on the type and volume of usage. Their enterprise data products and services offer more sophisticated data analysis tools and other services to support developers in building mature businesses on their platform. Their customer-centric approach positions both Twitter and their key partners for greater growth and monetization, and they are investing in deeper partnerships with select solution providers to help businesses and organizations realize greater value from their data and platform. The goal of their platform product is to make it easy for developers to integrate seamlessly with Twitter, while protecting the privacy and safety of the people who use Twitter.
Their business is characterized by rapid technological change, frequent product innovation and the continuously evolving preferences and expectations of people on Twitter, advertisers, content partners, platform partners and developers. They face significant competition in every aspect of their business, including from companies that provide tools to facilitate communications and the sharing of information, companies that enable marketers to display advertising, and other online ad networks, exchanges and platforms. They also compete to attract, engage, and retain people who use their products, and to attract and retain marketers, content and platform partners, and developers. They have seen escalating competition for digital ad spending and expect this trend to continue. They also compete to attract and retain employees, especially software engineers, designers, and product managers.
They compete with the following companies for people’s attention and for advertisers’ budgets:
- Companies that offer products that enable people to create and share ideas, videos, and other content and information. These offerings include, for example, Facebook (including Instagram and WhatsApp), Alphabet (including Google and YouTube), Microsoft (including LinkedIn), Snapchat, TikTok, and Verizon Media Group, as well as largely regional social media and messaging companies that have strong positions in particular countries (including WeChat, Kakao, and Line). Although they often seek differentiated content from other licensors, they face competition for live premium video content rights from other digital distributors and traditional television providers, which may limit their ability to secure such content on economic and other terms that are acceptable to them in the future.
- Companies that offer advertising inventory and opportunities to advertisers.
- Companies that develop applications, particularly mobile applications, that create, syndicate and distribute content across internet properties.
- Traditional, online, and mobile businesses that enable people to consume content or marketers to reach their audiences and/or develop tools and systems for managing and optimizing advertising campaigns.
As they introduce new products, as their existing products evolve, or as other companies introduce new products and services, they may become subject to additional competition.
Their industry is evolving rapidly and is highly competitive.
Technology, Research and Development
Twitter is composed of a set of core, scalable and distributed services that are built from proprietary and open source technologies. These systems are capable of delivering billions of messages, including images and video, to hundreds of millions of people a day in an efficient and reliable way. They continue to invest in their existing products and services as well as develop new products and services through research and product development. They also continue to invest in protecting the safety, security and integrity of their platform by investing in both people and technology, including machine learning.
Sales and Marketing
They have a global sales force and sales support staff that is focused on attracting and retaining advertisers while certain advertisers use their self serve advertising platform to launch and manage their advertising campaigns. Their sales force and sales support staff assist advertisers throughout the advertising campaign cycle, from pre-purchase decision making to real-time optimizations as they utilize their campaign management tools, and to post-campaign analytics reports to assess the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns.
They use marketing campaigns to help drive audiences to their platform. In 2020, they continued to deliver marketing campaigns focused on celebrating and highlighting the voices of the people who make Twitter unique. They also continued to highlight their value proposition for advertisers, including how brands turn to Twitter to launch something new, and connect with what’s happening.
They seek to protect their intellectual property rights by relying on federal, state and common law rights in the United States and other countries, as well as contractual restrictions. They generally enter into confidentiality and invention assignment agreements with their employees and contractors, and confidentiality agreements with other third parties, in order to limit access to, and disclosure and use of, their confidential information and proprietary technology. In addition to these contractual arrangements, they also rely on a combination of trademarks, trade dress, domain names, copyrights, trade secrets and patents to help protect their brand and their other intellectual property.
They are subject to a number of U.S. federal and state and foreign laws and regulations that involve matters central to their business. These laws and regulations may involve privacy, data protection, security, rights of publicity, content regulation, data localization, intellectual property, competition, protection of minors, consumer protection, credit card processing, taxation or other subjects. Many laws and regulations impacting their business are being proposed, are still evolving or are being tested in courts and could be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent from country to country and inconsistent with their current policies and practices and in ways that could harm their business. In addition, the application and interpretation of these laws and regulations often are uncertain, particularly in the new and rapidly evolving industry in which they operate.
With regard to privacy, data protection and security, they are subject to a variety of federal, state and foreign laws and regulations. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into effect on January 1, 2020, requires covered companies to, among other things, provide new disclosures to California consumers, and afford such consumers new abilities to opt-out of certain sales of personal information. Similar legislation has been proposed or adopted in other states. Additionally, a new California ballot initiative, the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), was passed in November 2020. The CPRA creates obligations relating to consumer data beginning on January 1, 2022, with implementing regulations expected on or before July 1, 2022, and enforcement beginning July 1, 2023. Aspects of the CCPA, the CPRA and these other state laws and regulations, as well as their interpretation and enforcement, remain unclear, and they may be required to modify their practices in an effort to comply with them. Foreign data protection, privacy, security, consumer protection, content regulation and other laws and regulations are often more restrictive or burdensome than those in the United States. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation, or the GDPR, imposes stringent operational requirements for entities processing personal information and significant penalties for non-compliance. There are also a number of legislative proposals pending before the U.S. Congress, various state legislative bodies and foreign governments concerning content regulation and data protection that could affect us.
In March 2011, to resolve an investigation into various incidents, they entered into a settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, that, among other things, requires them to establish an information security program designed to protect non-public consumer information and also requires that they obtain biennial independent security assessments. The obligations under the settlement agreement remain in effect until the later of March 2, 2031, or the date 20 years after the date, if any, on which the U.S. government or the FTC files a complaint in federal court alleging any violation of the order. On July 28, 2020, they received a draft complaint from the FTC alleging violation of the order and the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act). The allegations relate to their use of phone number and/or email address data provided for safety and security purposes for targeted advertising during periods between 2013 and 2019. The matter remains unresolved, and there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of any final outcome. Violation of other existing or future regulatory orders, settlements, or consent decrees could subject them to substantial monetary fines and other penalties that could negatively affect their financial condition and results of operations.
People may be restricted from accessing Twitter from certain countries, and other countries have intermittently restricted access to Twitter. For example, Twitter is not directly accessible in China and has been blocked in the past in Turkey and certain of their SMS messages have been blocked in Saudi Arabia. It is possible that other governments may seek to restrict access to or block their website or mobile applications, censor content available through their products or impose other restrictions that may affect the accessibility or usability of Twitter for an extended period of time or indefinitely, including because of their decisions with respect to the enforcement of their rules. For instance, some countries have enacted laws that allow websites to be blocked for hosting certain types of content.
Advertising spending is traditionally strongest in the fourth quarter of each year. Historically, this seasonality in advertising spending has affected their quarterly results, with higher sequential advertising revenue growth from the third quarter to the fourth quarter compared to sequential advertising revenue from the fourth quarter to the subsequent first quarter.
They believe the strength of their workforce is critical to their success as they strive to become a more inclusive and diverse technology company. Their key human capital management objectives are to attract, retain, and develop the talent they need to deliver on their commitment to serve the public conversation in a safe and responsible way by offering exceptional products and services.
Examples of their key programs and initiatives that are focused to achieve these objectives include:
Inclusion and Diversity (I&D). People come to Twitter to freely express themselves. Just as inclusion lives on their platform, they are working to ensure their workplace reflects their service. In 2020, they introduced their vision for their workforce representation: an objective that by 2025, they aspire to have at least half of their global workforce represented by women and at least a quarter of their U.S. workforce represented by under-represented communities. They accompanied their vision with a strategy to help drive progress, including:
- A company-wide three-year objective focused on diversity and decentralization;
- Clearly-defined targets for workforce representation and inclusion metrics across every executive leader;
- An internal dashboard accessible to all employees to track progress against their objective;
- An expanded team of Inclusion & Diversity leaders across their business;
- Refreshing their hiring practices to require diverse slates for all open roles and put inclusive hiring principles at the forefront;
- A Consistency & Fairness Taskforce to review their employee promotions process;
- Investing in their employee Business Resource Group leaders, who foster a culture of inclusivity and belonging within their company, including introducing a new formal compensation program.
They have made significant progress towards their inclusion and diversity objectives through leadership, transparency and accountability.
Flexibility and Decentralization. In 2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic drove a shift to remote work, they recognized the need to evolve their workforce to achieve their purpose. They designed a workplace strategy to provide more flexible work options and to build more distributed teams who work effectively without the need to be co-located. As a result, they had a head start on building capabilities that allowed them to quickly pivot to a fully remote workforce following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In addition, they recently announced that most employees will be able to work from home permanently if they so desire.
Pay. Their primary compensation strategy is to promote a pay-for-performance culture. Their guiding principles are anchored on the goals of being able to attract, incentivize, and retain talented employees who can develop, implement, and deliver on long-term value creation strategies; promote a healthy approach to risk by reinforcing their values which serve to motivate their employees; and provide competitive compensation that is aligned with the market and fair relative to their peers. They are committed to both pay equity and transparency.
Health and Wellness. Beyond the fundamental needs of health, welfare and retirement programs, they are focused on the specific needs of their individual employees. In 2020, their employees adapted to an unprecedented amount of change and uncertainty driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, including an abrupt shift to working from home, rescheduled work priorities, and closure of schools and daycare facilities for families. They were one of the first U.S. companies to send their employees home in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they continued to provide resources and ongoing support to employees facing these challenges throughout the year, such as a wellness reimbursement, home office setup allowance, expanded health coverage, and flexible work schedules.
As of December 31, 2020, they employed over 5,500 full-time employees
Risk Factor Summary
Their business operations are subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including those outside of their control, that could cause their business, financial condition or operating results to be harmed, including risks regarding the following:
Business and Operational Factors
- the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and responsive measures;
- their ability to increase their mDAU, ad engagement or other general engagement on their platform;
- the loss of advertising revenue;
- competition in their industry;
- their prioritization of the long-term health of their service;
- their prioritization of product innovation;
- their ability to maintain and promote their brand;
- their ability to hire, retain and motivate highly skilled personnel;
- the interoperability of their products and services across third-party services and systems;
- the impact of spam and fake accounts on their platform experience;
- actual or perceived security breaches, as well as errors, vulnerabilities or defects in their software and in products of third-party providers;
- their international operations;
- their significant past operating losses and any inability to maintain profitability or accurately predict fluctuations in the future;
- their reliance on assumptions and estimates to calculate certain key metrics;
- catastrophic events and interruptions by man-made problems; Intellectual Property and Technology
- their ability to scale their existing technology and infrastructure;
- their failure to protect their intellectual property rights;
- their use of open source software;
- current and future litigation related to intellectual property rights;
Regulatory and Legal
- complex and evolving U.S. and foreign laws and regulations;
- regulatory investigations and adverse settlements;
- lawsuits or liability as a result of content published through their products and services;
- their ability to maintain an effective system of disclosure controls and internal control over financial reporting;
Financial and Transactional Risks
- their ability to make and successfully integrate acquisitions and investments or complete divestitures;
- their debt obligations;
- their tax liabilities;
- their ability to use their net operating loss carryforwards;
- the impairment of their goodwill or intangible assets;
Governance Risks and Risks related to Ownership of their Capital Stock
- provisions of Delaware law and their certificate of incorporation and bylaws could impair a takeover attempt if deemed undesirable by their board of directors;
- the volatility of the trading price of their common stock; and
- their note hedge and warrant transactions