Twitter stock has been moving on user growth (or lack, thereof) and engagement since the company went public more than three years ago, so analysts have been keeping close tabs on it, watching for signs pointing to life or death. The first sets of numbers pertaining to engagement and users in the first quarter are in, and it’s a mixed picture. In short, usage among U.S. users and Twitter’s core user base is still solid, but on an international basis and among new users, the story isn’t good.
Weak user growth for Twitter again
In a research note dated April 3, Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Graham said he trimmed his price target for Twitter stock from $15 to $14 per share and maintained his Hold rating based on his latest proprietary data regarding users and engagement on the social platform. He tracked average engagement of users in about 100 countries and then compared that with past results.
Based on his latest sampling, he believes the micro-blogging platform added about 3.6 million net new users during the first quarter, representing a 1.1% sequential increase. This would be a slight miss off the consensus of 4 million new users.
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Engagement on Twitter improves
In the U.S., Graham found “a slight bump” in the growth rate in the U.S. in February, and he suggested that this could be due to events related to the Presidential inauguration. He also found a 5.2% increase in his engagement index, marking a sequential acceleration from the 3.9% increase recorded in the fourth quarter.
Internationally, however, Twitter’s user growth slowed, and Graham feels that the better monthly active user growth in the U.S. might help curb some of the downside risk to revenue because average ad revenue per user is nearly six times higher in the U.S.
Cutting estimates for Twitter
The analyst also spoke with the company itself and his own sources within the industry, and he reported several headwinds. For example, he feels that video ad prices might need to come down by as much as 50% to 66% in order to bring them in line with competitor pricing. He added that video ads make up 20% to 30% of ad units.
He also noted that the company plans to discontinue some direct response ads that have low return on investment, and he said this headwind may end up being of “significant magnitude” and last two or three quarters. As a result, he cut his revenue estimate for this year from $2.6 billion to $2.5 billion.
Twitter users generally less engaged
JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth also released his firm’s latest engagement data on major social media networks, including Twitter, in a note dated March 31. In the firm’s proprietary social networking survey, analysts found that of the major social networks they looked at, Twitter users are the least engaged.
Anmuth said 35% of respondents to their survey use the micro-blogging platform, and of that group, only 33% use it “very frequently” and 47% use it only “on occasion.” From this, he concludes that the platform’s users are generally less engaged than users of other social networks.
The social network’s user base also tends to be older than the user base of the other platforms, as only 13% are in the critical 18 to 24 age group advertisers are desperate to reach (so desperate that they’re trying to reach them through Snap). Twenty-four percent of the platform’s users are between the ages of 25 and 34, while 37% are ages 35 to 54 and 26% are 55 years and older.
The JPMorgan team also found that users of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat said they use Twitter less now than they did a year ago.
Shares of Twitter stock fell by as much as 1.1% to $14.78 during regular trading hours on Monday.