President Donald Trump is single-handedly giving Twitter a much-needed lift, according to an analyst at an investment bank, who says Trump’s tweets should be seen in the historical context of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats.
Richard Greenfield, an analyst at investment bank BTIG, said this week that he is upgrading Twitter to a “Buy” from “Neutral.” But more interesting than the upgrade is his reasoning for doing it.
“Twitter has struggled to become a daily use application, in contrast to Facebook or Snapchat,” Greenfield said in his research note, published on the firm's site. “The incessant news flow from the Trump administration playing out on Twitter and the ensuing global reaction pushes Twitter users to be increasingly engaged with the platform.”
“Not only is President Trump actively using Twitter to communicate directly with the American people…it is the ability for consumers to react in real-time to these tweets that is driving [Twitter] engagement higher.”
Greenfield cites survey data from CivicScience, a market intelligence firm.
“The evidence of growing user engagement is evident in a meaningful uptick in downloads of the Twitter application on iOS devices domestically,” Greenfield said.
CivicScience asks 1,000-plus US adults each week regarding their Twitter usage. Greenfield cites an increase in respondents' daily usage from 13% to 15% during the past year.
"The end result is higher engagement that bodes well for Twitter,” Greenfield wrote— though he adds some words of caution:
"We do not expect immediate financial benefits; increased engagement over the past few months cannot overcome the revenue downdraft from Twitter’s user growth challenges experienced in 2015 and into 2016."
Twitter reported on Thursday that though it saw an increase in active users over the year-earlier period, advertising revenue was down.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt as prologue
Trump’s Twitter megaphone is not an anomaly, as has been claimed by some critics, according to Greenfield.
“Trump actually is not an anomaly as a politician using Twitter as a direct broadcast medium. What makes Trump’s use of Twitter different is the ‘importance’ of the content he is putting on Twitter. Trump is paving the way for other public figures to be more forthcoming on Twitter,” Greenfield wrote.
The analyst harkens back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who used his “fireside chats” radio broadcasts to appeal directly to the public, reaching an estimated 60 million Americans.
“Roosevelt continued these radio broadcasts throughout his twelve years in office,” Greenfield writes, citing The Library of Congress and American historian Christopher H. Sterling.
Greenfield's research note also quotes the White House Historical Association:
“The primacy of radio as a source of entertainment and news gave President Roosevelt an opportunity no U.S. president had yet had: to speak directly to broad sections of the American public without having his message filtered through the press."