After a year of ups and downs, Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) appears to be back at square one as investors attempt to guess its next move. The slew of takeover rumors dropped off in the middle of the year and all indications look as though Jack doesn’t want to sell what he started. Now Twitter is left to its own devices, to either right the ship or continue to disappoint investors and traders.
One of the key facets that must be fixed is the dwindling user base, mainly daily and active users. Twitter’s ability to make these improvements in recent months through new partnerships and live streaming events has been promising. However, nothing has been more helpful than President Elect Trump’s presence on the platform throughout and following the election, which begs the question: Does Twitter need Trump?
Taking a step back to look at Twitter’s current situation, it’s obvious that poor engagement has led to sluggish underlying fundamentals. The third quarter highlighted some of these problems with monthly active user metrics coming in at around 317 million, up 3% higher than a year earlier and consistent with MAU growth from previous reports. Twitter still continues to trail Facebook in this department, which touts about 1.8 billion monthly active users as of its November report. The stock is trading nearly 15% lower since the start of the year, namely from weak user engagement and subpar quarterly results.
But let’s give credit where credit is due. Twitter’s new initiatives over the past 6 months have some investors believing that the social network can turn things around. Some of these include the live streaming deals with the NFL, Bloomberg and Cheddar TV, all of which drive user acquisition and engagement. As previously mentioned, Donald Trump also played a huge role in this perceived ramp up over this time. His attempts at publicly shaming Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and the casts of SNL and the Hamilton musical through the tweets has undeniably driven user growth and engagement.
From a policy standpoint, Trump doesn’t appear to be implementing anything that would greatly impact Twitter’s operations. The social media network’s best bet would be that more companies and people agitate Trump into future tweet tantrums. Ironically, Twitter is in the process of rolling out new censorship tools to prevent harassment and trolling on the platform, which Trump’s tweets could potentially fall under. Twitter’s lack of a filtering process was partially to blame for its unsuccessful sale in August. Disney, in particular, pointed to the widespread harassment issues on the platform for the primary reason it dropped out of the takeover race.
For now, Trump’s far reaching influence combined with a short temper should benefit Twitter in the short term. User engagement statistics are likely to boom in the fourth quarter but the Estimize community doesn’t believe it will translate to earnings or revenue growth. Analysts are calling for a 4% decline on the bottom line to 16 cents on a 7% increase on the top to $751.72 million. In the long term it will be Twitter’s new initiatives, partnerships, products rollouts and possible leadership changes that drive success and not a parade of hateful tweets from our next President.