Excited investors pushed Twitter’s stock up even further at the end of last week – adding 6 per cent the day after Facebook’s earnings– as they took Facebook’s success at winning advertisers to mean only good things for its smaller rival’s nascent digital advertising business.
But on Wednesday shareholders will be reminded that Twitter is still at the very early stages of monetising the 140-character message platform. It is forecast to make less than a tenth of Facebook’s sales – consensus estimates are for $639.4m – and a loss of 19 cents a share in 2013.
Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research, said the stock was not moving because of fundamentals, partly because there is such a small float of shares.
“Twitter is a late-stage venture-funded company that happens to be public. There is nothing wrong with that. It is a great company, it just happens to be small,” he said. “Whether revenue rises by 50 per cent or 150 per cent will not mean anything different in the long term.”
Mr Wieser said investors would be wrong to see Facebook’s earnings as a reason to buy Twitter. The larger social network beat expectations by reporting soaring advertising revenue for a third quarter running. “The ‘read across’ has been Facebook did really well either because digital advertising is doing great, social media is doing great or mobile is doing great,” he said. “That is an incorrect assessment – it is because Facebook is doing well.”
Twitter has benefited from following Facebook, as it has been able to adopt some key features of its advertising platform, for example allowing companies to target existing customers and those who look like them. It has undergone a quiet makeover in the weeks since it went public, from redesigning its mobile app to providing more options for advertisers.
Debra Williamson, an analyst at research firm eMarketer, said it is still catching up.
“I think Twitter has done a really good job of building its advertising business, but quite frankly it is a couple of years behind Facebook in building ad products, revenue and userbase,” she said.
Ms Williamson said she will be watching for more news on Twitter’s userbase – which was 230m at the last count – at the earnings announcement. Analysts at Morgan Stanley forecast 247m users at the end of 2013, a 33 per cent rise from the same period the year before.
Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive, has said he wants the site to grow to over 1bn users – Facebook has 1.2bn – but has conceded it needs to make the site more understandable and easier to use for the uninitiated.
“It still hasn’t become a service that everyone feels like they have to use,” she said. “There are huge spikes in usage for big events like the Grammy’s, the State of the Union speech and the Super Bowl, but they have to solve ‘why do I use Twitter every day?’”
However, Twitter has some real advantages over Facebook. While Facebook’s mobile advertising revenue overtook its desktop last week, Twitter was the original mobile-first social network and still gets a greater percentage of its revenue from mobile.
Twitter also bought MoPub, the mobile advertising exchange, shortly before it went public, which will help it use the data it has on Twitter users to serve adverts to them on other sites. MoPub is still small, with analysts forecasting it will have made $40m in 2013, but the earnings could be a chance for Twitter to open up a little more about how it is using the company’s technology.
“Twitter has a chance with MoPub to try to show that it can be an important player,” Ms Williamson said.
Get alerts on Twitter Inc when a new story is published