Hardly a day has gone by this week without new horror stories about Twitter’s stock. It reached a historic low on Monday, only to be lower on Tuesday, and then again Wednesday. On Thursday, it was briefly in free-fall, only to recover by the close of the market. And on Friday, it promptly nose-dived again.
Here’s the good news: All of these daily updates don’t really matter, unless you are an extremely fickle investor that’s swayed by the breathless headlines of the sensationalist representatives of the business press. Many other stocks traded lower this week as well, with trends driven by energy prices, big bank earnings and other external forces.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that one should ignore Twitter’s stock price. But instead of focusing on the day-to-day rollercoaster, it’s wise to take a step back and take a look at its long-term performance. What reveals itself when looking at months, not days, is a much clearer trend – but also not exactly a pretty picture.
Twitter’s stock has lost more than 65 percent of its value since its high of $52.87 last April. That’s not just bad news for Twitter’s investors, it’s also putting the company under pressure on a number of other fronts, to the point where some kind of exit may be inevitable if there’s no quick turnaround is on the horizon.
Here are three reasons why Twitter’s stock performance matters beyond the daily headlines:
Talent. Twitter needs to improve its existing products and launch new products in order to regain growth and effectively compete with Facebook. To do so, it needs to retain its best employees, and attract new talent.
But times have changed in Silicon Valley, where it’s not just startups competing against each other anymore, but massive publicly traded companies like Facebook and Google as well as a growing herd of so-called “unicorns” — privately-funded companies like Uber that are valued above $1 billion, and constantly raise big new rounds to grow and expand.
In this world, it’s not just about the foosball table and the funky cafeteria anymore. Prized potential hires expect high salaries as well as meaningful stock options as part of their compensation package. A stock that’s not a success story isn’t a great bargaining chip in this context, and investors demanding a tightened belt don’t exactly help to attract and retain talent.
Takeovers. Twitter’s market capitalization is getting close to $12 billion. Anyone aiming to buy the company likely has to offer investors a significant bonus, but a takeover nonetheless becomes a real possibility if stock goes down even further. Just as a frame of reference: Facebook paid $19 billion for Whatsapp in 2014. What’s more, an ever-sinking stock also opens the doors for activist investors to buy themselves a seat at the table and push for a sale or other significant changes to the company’s direction, board or business.
Telling the story. But most of all, Twitter is fighting a perception problem. Much of the story around Twitter in 2015 has been around its public struggles, not its achievements. That’s despite the fact that the company actually got quite a bit done last year: It successfully launched its social live streaming app Periscope, grew its advertising business, and unveiled Moments as a new way to consume curated tweets at the end of 2015.
All of this was overshadowed by the overarching narrative of a struggling company. Sure, much of this noise just happens in the echo chambers of Silicon Valley as well as the tech and financial press. The average user may not care – yet. But there’s a point where perception matters to the existing and especially potential users as well. People don’t like a loser, and they’re fickle in giving new products a chance, especially if everyone tells them that those products have been built out of desperation, not hunger. Just ask Myspace. Or Yahoo, for that matter.
There is a danger for Twitter that the stock price is contributing to a vicious circle. The story about Twitter isn’t about the company’s products anymore, but its struggles. Every breathless headline about its stock price going down further contributes to this narrative — and in turn puts more pressure on its stock.
Twitter does have a small window to turn things around, but it is closing quickly.