Like many an addiction story, the relationship between investors and Twitter Inc. (TWTR) has never been one marked by propriety or self-control. Since retail investors got their first taste of the social media company they were hooked.
Twitter was the answer. It had everything. It was young. It embraced mobile. Investors pounced right away, buying up everything in sight in a binge of Ozzy Osbournian proportions. Shares went up 75 percent on the IPO. Times were good.
Investors did not sober up. When you’re high, you don’t ever want to come down, after all. Even in the wake of binge, Twitter spiked again. And again. Better targeted ads made Twitter even more powerful, kept investors chasing the dragon of high returns well into 2014.
But the harsh light of day always comes eventually, no matter how much one tries to ignore it away. The wake-up call came in the form of fundamental data dropping cold, hard truth bombs: Twitter’s first ever earnings report. The intervention was brutal: it showed investors that Twitter wasn’t growing like social media companies must. They weren’t dying, but they were stagnating. Furthermore, the company had lost nearly half a billion dollars, twice what had been expected. It was rock bottom.
Investors took one look at Twitter, and they didn’t see a shining social media company worth $40 billion. They saw a monster.
As investors quit cold turkey, Twitter bled. When the day’s trading was over, Twitter had lost 24 percent. Brutal losses, especially so for a large-cap company.
But recovery does not mean the end, just a new beginning. Now that the market has presumably sobered up, investors could dabble in Twitter again. But not until the product meets three benchmarks:
One, Twitter must increase customer growth. While monthly users crept up 30 percent, it wasn’t nearly enough. Two, they must make Twitter easier to understand off the bat while retaining its core appeal. If they are ever to get Facebook like numbers they must, as CEO Dick Cosotlo put it, “make Twitter a better Twitter.” And three, if Twitter is to convince investors they deserve a second chance, they absolutely must curb losses. Revenues be damned, a $500 million shortfall is unsustainable.
Investors got hooked on Facebook too before that company entered their “dark period.” After bottoming out, Facebook more than doubled in value in 2013. Twitter could do the same. But , before getting back on the Twitter, investors need the product to be a safer investment. Or this could be a false bottom, and the real crash could still be forthcoming.
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