SAN FRANCISCO -- Shares are soaring after Twitter finally did what Wall Street has been asking: Show that it still has plenty of potential to grow.
In the second quarter, Twitter reported it had 271 million monthly users, up 24% from a year ago, a strong signal that the short messaging service is making progress in appealing to more people.
After two disappointing quarters of tepid growth, analysts were not expecting this kind of spurt.
Ever since its initial public offering in 2013, Twitter had become the Internet equivalent of Alice before she takes a bite of the "Eat Me" cake in wonderland: Not big enough for investors.
In the first quarter Twitter reported it had 255 million monthly users, up 5% from 241 million at the end of December.
In the fourth quarter, monthly active users rose less than 4%.
Engagement also disappointed investors. On average, users refreshed their Twitter feeds 614 times a month during the first quarter, up only slightly from 613 times a month in the fourth quarter.
Consensus among analysts for the first quarter hovered around 267 million monthly users, S&P Capital IQ analyst Scott Kessler said. Wall Street would have been pleased with 270 million, he added.
Instead it got 271 million, and some other encouraging statistics.
Mobile monthly users rose to 211 million in the second quarter, an increase of 29% year-over-year.
Timeline views reached 173 billion, an increase of 15% year-over-year.
And advertising revenue per thousand timeline views was $1.60, up 100%.
Those numbers sent shares up more than 35% in after-hours trading.
The quarter could mark a new chapter for Twitter. Since its IPO, the defining narrative has been growth.
Twitter has had no trouble making money from advertising. But investors have been far more concerned with Twitter's capacity to add users and keep them engaged than its capacity to grow revenues.
Why the fixation on growth?
Twitter must show that it's giving advertisers a growing audience to target, Kessler said.
And scale also matters. Much as Twitter has tried to avoid comparisons to Facebook, it looks diminutive next to the giant social network. Facebook added 40 million users in the second quarter to give it 1.32 billion.
Also, Twitter shoulders some of the blame for the focus on growth, Kessler says.
"That's what Twitter pointed people to focus on even before they went public," Kessler said. "They highlighted some metrics that they thought would be a good way to track progress."
Those metrics included monthly active users, timeline views and timeline views per monthly active user.
"Unfortunately for them, those metrics have become arguably less favorable and less relevant over the last number of months," Kessler said. "And that has notably contributed to some of the confusion and disappointment."
Investors drove shares down after Twitter reported first quarter results despite 120% revenue growth because "user engagement metrics were lower than people hoped for," Kessler said.
But now Twitter has a new storyteller who knows how to talk to Wall Street. Earlier this month Twitter appointed Anthony Noto as its chief financial officer. The top technology banker from Goldman Sachs, Noto led Twitter through its IPO.
Twitter will soon release new metrics to illustrate its reach beyond those users who log into the service each month, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.
"If anyone knows what Wall Street analysts and investors want, it's him," Kessler said. "One would think he was brought in to better understand and communicate with the investment community."