Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) stock is down by more than 35% from its highs of the last year, mostly because investors are feeling disappointed with the social network and its growth rates over the last several quarters. Management has received a lot of criticism, and CEO Dick Costolo recently announced his resignation, effective on July 1.
The company has not yet announced a successor -- though co-founder and Chairman Jack Dorsey will serve as interim CEO -- and a new management team won't necessarily provide an instant solution to Twitter's problems. However, Twitter is still a big and valuable platform with a lot of room for expansion, and the company is implementing a series of interesting initiatives in order to accelerate growth.
Is now a good time to buy Twitter stock? Let's dig in.
Twitter ended the first quarter of 2015 with 302 million average Monthly Active Users, or MAUs. This is an increase of 18% versus the same quarter in the prior year, and the company gained 14 million users on a sequential basis. The size of the platform is considerable, but investors are expecting much more from Twitter, especially when they see how well Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is doing. Although Facebook is bigger than Twitter -- which should theoretically mean slower growth, since the company has already collected most of the low-hanging fruit -- Facebook is doing much better than Twitter when considering both size and growth.
Facebook has 1.44 billion monthly active accounts, a year-over-year increase of 13% during the last quarter. Daily active users stand at 936 million, growing 17% year over year. Even when looking only at mobile users, Facebook is crushing Twitter. The social network created by Mark Zuckerberg has 1.25 billion mobile monthly users, growing 24% in the last quarter. Daily mobile users are 798 million, jumping by 31% in the first quarter of 2015.
Using Facebook is quite straightforward, and most people typically interact with friends, family, and other kinds of connections they know in real life. Twitter, on the other hand, requires some time to get involved with the platform and its specific language, and many users are finding it too complex, confusing, and perhaps even intimidating.
New users who don't know whom to follow don't find the platform very interesting. Also, interactions can be disappointing when you don't have many followers, so you feel like nobody is listening to what you have to say. Besides, since most of the conversation in Twitter flows in real time, some users feel like they are missing the best part of the action by not constantly paying attention. Twitter knows these things and is working to fix them.
How Twitter is planning to fix its problems
Twitter is not waiting for a new CEO to try to accelerate growth. The company is working on multiple areas at the same time, and some of its initiatives sound quite interesting. Twitter is making it easier for users to find relevant content via pages that are specifically created around a specific topic. Also, the company is betting on content curation to increase the simplicity and quality of the user experience.
The company is making the log-in process simpler, and new features allow starting users who don't know how to use the platform to rapidly create a timeline by providing information about their interests. Twitter is also pushing its new "while you were away" feature, which shows popular tweets which the user may have missed by not being online at the time of publication.
Going in a similar direction, Twitter has added plenty of video and other visual content functionalities with Vine, and its Periscope live-streaming service is off to a promising start. The company is also eliminating the 140-character limit for private messages, and it recently started allowing for multiple participants in private conversations.
Twitter is also making a deal with Google to make tweets available on search results. This looks like a smart win-win arrangement, allowing both companies to benefit from increased distribution, better search results, and new monetization opportunities.
Is now the right time to buy Twitter?
These are just a few examples of recent initiatives to consider. Twitter will most probably keep trying and testing all kinds of moves to jump-start growth over the coming months. The main point to consider is that Twitter has already gone through the inflection point when it comes to achieving critical mass and consolidating its staying power.
Billions of dollars will flow toward social media and online advertising in the years ahead, and Twitter's real-time platform is particularly strong when it comes to news and live event coverage, which can be enormously valuable to advertisers.
The company has not yet proven to have a viable strategy to accelerate growth, and lack of visibility regarding the new CEO is a major source of uncertainty for investors. However, uncertainty also creates opportunity. Chances are that sooner or later Twitter will find a way to realize its potential, and the stock offers massive upside room when that happens.