Going Public Could Restart Twitter's Growth

One of Twitter's challenges, revealed in today's IPO filing, is its stalling growth: At 215 million users, the social network for broadcasting short bursts of information is still signing up new users, but nowhere near as torridly as it did in 2012.

One of the smartest things it can do to boost those numbers could be going public.

The LinkedIn Effect

Besides swelling its coffers—according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Twitter is seeking to raise $1 billion—and making investors and employees wealthy, Twitter's public offering will inevitably splash the service's name across the headlines.

If the IPO goes poorly, like Facebook's, that could be a negative. But if the offering is well-received, like LinkedIn's, the IPO could end up being a marketing event for the company. 

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner often talks about the effect his company's public offering had on the site. The net effect of being publicly traded, he points out, is that you're taken more seriously by consumers, partners, and advertisers. LinkedIn has grown at a swift clip since its stock-market debut in May 2011, and now has more than 200 million members.

While Twitter is well-known, it's not well-used. Views of Twitter timelines, a measure of engagement with the service, actually stalled in the second quarter of this year in the United States. The buzz around an IPO could get people who previously tried the service and abandoned it to give it another shot—or get new users to sign up for it.

Taking Twitter Seriously

Twitter is no longer the joke of a business it was in its early days, with frequent site outages and turmoil in its top ranks. But its revenues—now about $500 million on an annual basis—are shadowed by the multiple billions of dollars a year that Facebook and Google, its larger rivals, pull in. It could afford to be taken more seriously, and trading as TWTR, with a valuation assigned by the stock market, not the hopes and dreams of venture capitalists, could give it more clout.

It was inevitable that Twitter go public: It grew past the point where it was an easy acquisition for Google or Facebook years ago. But if Twitter's executives play their cards right, the value it gets from being public could exceed the cash it raises from investors.