Twitter gets 87 percent of its revenue from advertising. The rest comes from licensing agreements that give other companies better access to the flow of tweeting activity on its service.
Meanwhile, Twitter ended June with 218 million users, up from 30 million in early 2010. More than three-quarters of those users, or 169 million people, are located outside the U.S. Twitter's fastest growing markets are in Argentina, France, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
—BUT THE COMPANY ISN'T PROFITABLE
It takes more than cultural heft to build a business of substance, as Twitter is learning. The company has suffered uninterrupted losses of $419 million since its inception. That's something Twitter has been able to afford because it has raised $759 million from investors. The company still had $375 million in the bank at the end of June and hopes to raise at least $1 billion more in its IPO.
But shareholders of publicly held companies don't tolerate losses for very long, and it could still be a while before Twitter turns a profit.
Twitter's losses widened during the first half of this year to $69 million, up from $49 million in the same period last year. In contrast, both social networking leader Facebook Inc. and professional networking leader LinkedIn Corp. were profitable when they went public.
To make money, Twitter will likely get more aggressive about showing ads.
In the three months ending in June, Twitter generated revenue of $139 million, or an average of just 64 cents per user. In contrast, Facebook generated second-quarter revenue of nearly $1.2 billion, or an average of $1.58 per user, while LinkedIn posted revenue of $364 million, or an average of $1.53 per user.
As Twitter cranks up its marketing machine, it runs the risk of alienating an audience accustomed to seeing relatively few ads in their news feeds. Beyond the U.S., Twitter is gearing to expand its advertising efforts in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom.