Twitter has been receiving criticism for its slow user growth since it went public, but this is a problem that won’t be remedied soon, according to most analysts. The micro-blogging platform received a downgrade from analyst Rob Sanderson at MKM Partners, although he does still think it has a shot at improving things.
Can Twitter (TWTR) improve the user experience?
According to Sanderson, Twitter’s (NYSE:TWTR) big problem remains a “cumbersome user experience.” He points out that the company’s core users are often on the platform, which is good. However, attracting new users and keeping them remains a huge problem. Indeed, pretty much all of Wall Street realizes that Twitter as trouble keeping new users.
The MKM analyst does think Twitter’s (NYSE:TWTR) “content story” is strong, but he also believes it’s difficult for new users to find content that’s relevant to them. He does believe the micro-blogging platform is making progress in this area though as it tries to fix the experience for logged-out users.
Twitter CEO search complicates things
Recently Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) announced that CEO Dick Costolo is stepping down effective July 1, and the only real surprise here is that it didn’t happen sooner. Sanderson thinks his leaving suggests that the company’s challenges are continuing.
Whenever a CEO steps down from a company, it creates uncertainty regarding that company’s future, and the same is true here. In Twitter’s case, the uncertainty is worse because Sanderson thinks it could delay the company’s efforts to fix the user experience.
He does suggest that co-founder Jack Dorsey, who has been named interim CEO, could be interested in becoming the next permanent CEO. If this happens, he thinks it would be a positive for Twitter because he’s “now more seasoned.” Of course it would mean that Dorsey would have to give up his CEO post at Square, which wouldn’t be much of a surprise because there have been reports that Square is shopping itself around or possibly preparing to go public.
No clear near-term catalysts for Twitter
Sanderson doesn’t see any catalysts that would shift Wall Street’s sentiment on Twitter in the next couple of quarters other than a bid by Google (which seems unlikely to me). As a result, he downgraded the stock from Buy to Neutral and set his price target at $39 per share.
He suggested that if Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) shows that it can sustain user growth, then he may change his view of the micro-blogging platform. He’s keeping an eye on Instant Timeline, the new deal with Google to include tweets in search results and Periscope, as these items could drive outperformance. However, he thinks it will take a while before they will improve Twitter’s results.
If the company is able to reaccelerate its growth in ad revenue, like by improving cost per exposure on direct response ads, then he also may change his view. He’d also like to see some benefits from Twitter’s deal with DoubleClick, improvements in targeting, and expansion in MoPub.
Another area of improvement that could change his view is monetization of Twitter’s logged-out users, which are estimated to be more than 500 million. He thinks that if the company an demonstrate that it’s monetizing these logged-out users, narrative on its stock would shift to total reach rather than monthly active users. He sees this as a “much better story” for Twitter but thinks it’s about a year away.
As of this writing, shares of Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) were up 0.32% to $34.80 per share.