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Twitter Shares Outpace Facebook and LinkedIn

Douglas A. McIntyre

Twitter Inc.'s (TWTR) shares, despite worries that it has no sustainable revenue model, have outperformed those of LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD) and Facebook Inc. (FB) over the past month. Incidentally, Wall Street has been convinced that the latter two companies have businesses that can both grow and show consistent profits. It may be the lack of a revenue model that has helped Twitter's shares, ironically. If Twitter can find a model, the value of the company should soar. So, perhaps investors are gambling, and maybe getting ahead of themselves.

Over the past month, Twitter shares are higher by 15%. Facebook's are only up 6% and LinkedIn's by 12%. Forecasts of ongoing sales and profits may already be baked into Facebook and LinkedIn shares, which limits their upsides.

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Analysts have speculated that one reason Twitter's shares are close to record levels is the release of its new tool -- Tailored Audiences. The product has been set up to help advertisers better target Twitter users. Of course, because it is a new product, it may not work at all. Social media companies have set plan after plan for advertisers to reach users in a way that better enhances their marketing investments. These tools often have been of limited value, or no value at all.

Twitter continues to look more like a start-up, barely like a public company. In the first three-quarters of 2013, it lost $134 million on revenue of $422 million. That compares to a loss $71 million in the same period the year before, when revenue was $205 million. Critics of the company complain that revenue growth has come at an unsustainable cost. Based on the numbers it has filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, that point of view has a strong basis in fact. Twitter has not shown it can turn its growth into anything approaching a profit.

Those with a positive view of Twitter have a harder case to make, for now. It is that Twitter can find a silver bullet to turn its 200 million plus users into people who will do something more than skip over the few ads that run on the service. Even with its new Tailored Audiences product, there is almost no proof that the positive views of the company have much of a foundation.

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