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Investors learn Silicon Valley can still be volatile as Twitter tanks

Twitter’s share price was slashed by 18% as the market opened this morning, with the social media giant failing to find enough consistency to impress investors.

There was a brief glimmer of hope that Twitter might have been a company people could rely on, but rainclouds have once again emerged to spoil the parade. It certainly isn’t corporate doomsday for Twitter, but the management team will have to start ensuring some consistency if they want to remain in their current employment for the long-term.

Looking at the results, total revenues for the three-month period stood at $824 million, a 9% year-on-year increase, but short of the $876 million analysts estimated. Unfortunately for any optimists, the next quarter isn’t looking much better.

Twitter is forecasting revenue to be between $940 million and $1.01 billion for the next three months, down on the $1.06 billion which was estimated by analysts. Operating income is expected to be in the $130 million and $170 million range.

Although the steep decline in share price has largely levelled off, it does not make for comfortable reading.

The question which remains is what went wrong at Twitter? Looking at the materials presented during the earnings call, the management team is pointing to two areas. Firstly, seasonality. Twitter is suggesting fewer users were using the platform during the summer months than it was expecting, partly due to a lack of major events which were taking place over July and August.

Secondly, bugs in the legacy Mobile Application Promotion (MAP) product impacted the ability to target ads and share data with measurement and ad partners. The team also discovered certain personalization and data settings were not operating as expected. Twitter estimates the product issues reduced year-over-year revenue growth by 3 or more points in Q3.

Although these figures, this quarter and the next three months, are not the best it does not demonstrate the business is fundamentally flawed. This should not be seen as a company which will fall off a cliff, next year could be much more promising.

Firstly, the team is retiring legacy products and introducing new systems constantly, as well as creating more opportunities for those advertisers who are craving video engagement. This is an area which Twitter lags behind other social media platforms, though it could certainly catch-up.

Secondly, when you look at what is going to happen over the next 12 months, it would suggest there will be increased engagement from users and therefore increased opportunity for advertisers. In Europe, you have the UEFA European Championships, in the US, the Presidential Election and in Japan, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. All of these events present major opportunities for Twitter to engage users.

Looking at user engagement, Twitter has decided to alter the way it reports figures, creating its own metric which will be known as ‘monetizable daily active users’ (mDAU). This could be a useful way to measure engagement, and the explanation below is taken from the letter to shareholders:

“Average mDAU for a period represents the number of mDAU on each day of such period divided by the number of days for such period. Changes in mDAU are a measure of changes in the size of our daily logged in or otherwise authenticated active user base. To calculate the year-over-year change in mDAU, we subtract the average mDAU for the three months ended in the previous year from the average mDAU for the same three months ended in the current year and divide the result by the average mDAU for the three months ended in the previous year.”

In short, it is the number of users which can be served ads each day. Using this metric, Twitter estimates it was able to serve ads to 145 million people each day, on average, which is a 17% increase on the same period of 2018.

The only issue with this metric is that it isn’t the most transparent when it comes to app downloads or concrete figures on daily usage. That said, according to data from Sensor Tower, it is still one of the most popular social media applications worldwide.

These results are not representative of a company which is in trouble, but more demonstrates the volatility of the internet segment. It was a bad three months, but that does not necessatily make Twitter a bad company. There are few companies which emerge from the garages of Silicon Valley which are genuinely reliable, but Twitter is one which will probably get better.

The fundamentals of the business are pretty sound. Assuming the team continue to improve the user experience and fix the bugs in the advertising machine, it will make money. Events across 2019 will attract more people only the platform, especially with social media likely to feature very prominently through the 2020 Presidential Election campaign. Perhaps the market needs to take a reality check on how much money it expects Silicon Valley to hoover up.


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