by Tom Taulli | January 27, 2014 1:30 pm
Investors looking to bet on social and mobile mega-trends have a handful of options, including operators such as LinkedIn (LNKD), Yelp (YELP) and Pandora (P). But at the end of the day, Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) remain the clear leaders in the space.
Still, the question remains whether FB stock or TWTR stock is the better place for your hard-earned cash. After all, the Facebook vs. Twitter rivalry is old news, but there’s still not a clear winner.
Instead, there’s actually been some weakness for both names lately. So far this year, Facebook stock is has shed almost 4%, while Twitter stock has lost nearly 11%.
Part of the weakness for both FB and TWTR is simply profit-taking … but the overall volatility in the markets has also been a factor. Plus, Wall Street is jittery about earnings expectations as well.
So in a standoff between FB stock and TWTR stock, which pick looks more attractive? Let’s take a look:
Facebook (FB) has proven it can quickly adapt to dramatic changes in technology. When the company came public in May 2012, its mobile strategy was in disarray and FB stock suffered. But CEO Mark Zuckerberg acted swiftly to move his organization. The result: Facebook is now the king of mobile.
This is certainly a great position to hold, and it’s been a large driver for FB stock. According to research from Gartner, the mobile ad market is forecast to jump from $13.1 billion in 2013 to $18 billion by 2014. In fact, by 2017, the estimate is for the market is to reach a whopping $41.9 billion
No doubt, FB has some huge advantages … like an extensive database on user behavior, which makes it easier to target ads, along with tremendous scale. Facebook boasts about 874 million mobile monthly active users. For global brands like Walmart (WMT), Nike (NKE) and GM (GM), Facebook offers a way to put together broad-based mobile ad campaigns.
Plus, another boost for Facebook stock could come from a mobile ad network. Right now, Facebook gets its revenues only from its own platform … but why not expand to other mobile apps? The idea seems like a slam dunk, as Facebook has all the ingredients for a mobile ad network, such as a software development platform (with its Parse division), core ad technologies (there is the FBX ad network for the desktop) and features like Facebook logins (which pull in data to mobile apps).
Oh, and Facebook can leverage its Instagram property as well. Advertising for Instagram remains in the early stages but there is certainly tremendous potential for monetization, which could carry FB stock even higher.
Unlike Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) is a mobile-first company. If anything, it is one of the pioneers of the industry, having gotten its start using SMS messages. Interestingly enough, FB has been trying to fight back against TWTR … by knocking off features like hashtags, for example. Yet Twitter still remains the top player when it comes to real-time broadcasting.
In fact, that niche could be the key for TWTR stock. One huge draw of Twitter comes from the idea of the “second screen.” This means that people often use the service while watching TV. As a result, TWTR has a chance of getting a bigger piece of the traditional ad market. In fact, the company has already snagged deals with the NFL, CBS (CBS) and Comcast’s (CMCSA) NBC.
Another promising sign for Twitter stock is that the company also has its own mobile ad network, which should expand its reach. Plus, TWTR recently made a savvy acquisition of MoPub, which is a top player in the market.
For the cherry on top, Twitter has about 232 million monthly users, which compares to 1.2 billion for Facebook. In other words, there is certainly lots of room for growth for the social network … and that could carry TWTR stock higher.
There seems little doubt that both Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) will benefit from the mobile revolution. Each have platforms that continue to grow and attract substantial revenue, which bodes well for FB stock and TWTR stock in coming months.
Sure, there is lots of competition, as seen with SnapChat, Line and WhatsApp. But these companies are still in the early stages of monetization. Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter have extensive relationships with brands and have been working hard to create programs that meet their needs.
But as for the Facebook vs. Twitter standoff, I think FB has the edge. Again, it has greater scale and has been able to achieve profitability … something Twitter has yet to do so.
Then there is the valuation. TWTR stock is trading at an eye-popping 63 times revenues … so Wall Street is expecting perfection. When it comes to the dynamic world of social media, though, things can get rocky. Even a slight miss on earnings could wreak havoc on a momentum stock like TWTR.
FB stock, on the other hand, sports a price-to-sales multiple of a much more reasonable 19. Considering valuation, plus the company’s breadth of users and data, Facebook stock looks like a better bet for investors right now.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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