What’s Going On With Twitter?

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Twitter’s social media empire has had a year of ups and downs. As one of the world’s top providers of social media and social advertising tools, Twitter’s ups and downs are closely monitored by, well, just about everyone. And for good reason, because what happens on and with Twitter is a reflection of, well, just about everything.

Some history: Twitter went public on November 7, 2013 at $26 per share, and closed at $44.90 that day. It rose to a high of $55.95 in May of 2014, but had a slump at the end of the year to $35. While some investors were doubtful it would continue to deliver a positive return, the vast majority remain optimistic about its growth. (As of this writing, Twitter’s share price is $36.56.)

At the end of March, Jim Cramer, answering questions in a video on The Street, recommended that investors stick with Twitter all the way up to $60 per share. At the end of April, Twitter’s share price tumbled even further when disappointing performance news was leaked ahead of time (ironically, the leak spread on the social platform itself). The most recent downturn has been attributed, in part, to its lower-than-expected ad growth and increased competition from giants like Google and Facebook, as well as its messaging competitors including WhatsApp and Snapchat (and Facebook there, too).

That all said…Twitter is still on a growth path. For many long-term investors in the social media tool, Twitter is a global platform that continues to have multiple opportunities for growth. The name “twitter” and the concept of “tweeting” have become cultural lexicons. If you watch TV news or read newspapers, you have certainly seen that a good deal of the reporting and sourcing these days comes from Twitter itself. Many analysts believe that Twitter’s real value has yet to be reflected in the stock market.

“We believe Twitter stock is mid-way through a process of winning back investors after a rough end of 2014,” said Michael Graham, analyst at investment firm Canaccord Genuity Group, in Forbes. He said that Twitter has a focus on enhancing the user experience and advertising opportunities that will keep people involved and investors happy. Graham acknowledged that Facebook has a great deal more valuation support, but that Twitter is expected to see more dynamic EPS (earnings per share) going forward.

It is expectations like this that keep investors involved in Twitter despite its slow ramp up to larger user numbers. In this respect, Facebook has blown the competition out of the water. Facebook has a larger number of monthly users by far, and has taken concrete steps toward monetizing that user interest.

Twitter’s growth is slow but sure
. However, Twitter has the framework to grow a larger user base, and is doing so slowly and surely. There have been recent engagement initiatives that are ramping up the user experience – and they have been working.

For example, Twitter is following in Facebook’s footsteps to include autoplay video features for its iOS users. The feature on Facebook serves an average of 3 billion videos each day. Twitter hopes that it will see the same level of usage. They added a native video capture feature into the Twitter app earlier this year, which allows users to upload 30-second videos.
The testing of the new video service includes two testing groups – some users will see videos that play automatically from the start. Others will be served a 6-second loop play and then they can hit the play button on their own. Playing videos automatically – whether in entirety or on a shorter loop – can help videos become more eye-catching – and give advertisers an opportunity to get more attention.

Twitter is eyeing video, live streaming. In addition to the autoplay features, Twitter is also setting its sights on video with its purchase of the live streaming app Periscope. The purchase will make it possible for Twitter to offer live stream capabilities to users and advertisers. It also strategically bought Niche, which pairs talented Vine and YouTube broadcasters with advertisers that will monetize their video content.

Even with these advancements, some brands are having difficulty engaging with the public through Twitter’s short form social media. Advertising campaigns on the social network can be difficult, as SeaWorld learned recently with its #AskSeaWorld campaign. Using the hashtag, SeaWorld attempted to educate the public about their “leadership in the care of killer whales.” However, the conversation quickly turned to questions raised by the not-so-flattering documentary “Blackfish.”

Other companies like McDonald’s and JP Morgan have had similar public relations problems with open chat requests. With video platforms and new advertising opportunities, Twitter is providing brands like these with an opportunity to reach the public without risking an embarrassing backlash they’d rather not endure.
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