Despite continued concerns about Twitter’s ad strategy and its ability to scale usership, the company is widely expected to report another strong quarter, later today.
Yet no matter what Twitter reports, some analysts will continue to believe that the company's stock is inflated.
“We expect another strong quarter of operating results from Twitter ... but even substantially stronger-than-we-expect figures would probably be insufficient to help justify a much higher price target,” according to Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research.
“We continue to view Twitter ... in a positive light, but valuations are challenged in our model, and we maintain a $34 price target presently,” Wieser wrote in a research note published on Tuesday. (As of Tuesday afternoon, Twitter’s stock was trading at about $42.)
Betraying its outsized brand presence in the media and entertainment worlds, Twitter’s revenue picture remains relatively modest. By eMarketer’s estimate, the micro-blogging platform accounted for 0.5% of global digital ad revenues, last year, compared to Facebook’s 5.8% share, and Google’s 32.4% share.
More humbling still, Twitter's share of all digital ad revenues is only expected to reach 0.8% this year.
Twitter's share of global mobile advertising reached 2.39% in 2013, up from 1.48% a year earlier, according to eMarketer. (Facebook's share, by contrast leapt to 17.53% in 2013 -- up from 5.37% in 2012.)
This year, eMarketer expects Twitter's domestic mobile ad revenues to grow 86% -- maintaining its 3.2% market share year-over-year.
For the first quarter, Pivotal Research's Wieser expects Twitter to report $250 million in revenue, which would represent a gain of 114% year-over-year.
“However, revenue may not be the most important consideration once again this quarter,” Wieser suggested in his note. “If investor reaction plays out as it did last quarter, investors will be overly focused on user growth.”
Twitter’s domestic unique visitor levels have not improved in any material sense over the past quarter, Wieser believes, citing comScore data. “Absence of significant growth would be unsurprising to us given our view of Twitter as a niche consumer proposition in most markets.”
Meanwhile, Twitter reportedly plans to introduce up to 15 new ad formats and improvements over the next six months, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. In part, Twitter is likely hoping that more ads and higher user-engagement can offset its growing problem.
The company’s domestic growth is expected to decline from nearly 20% in 2003 to below 10%, next year, according to a recent report from eMarketer. In four short years, growth will slow to just 6.4%, the research firm expects.
By eMarketer’s reckoning, Twitter’s usership will grow from about 43 million U.S. consumers in 2013 to 65 million in 2018 -- or about half of Facebook’s current domestic user base.
Twitter and its investors may also be concerned about comments made by this week by NBCUniversal research chief Alan Wurtzel. In an interview with the Financial Times, Wurtzel said internal data did not support Twitter’s view of itself as a driver of TV viewership. As Wurtzel put it, “The emperor wears no clothes.”