Will Instagram Overtake Twitter? Excelerate Media Blog

Will Instagram Overtake Twitter?

August 13, 2014 by Social Media No Comments
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Examining the Pros and Cons for Businesses

Looking around, it’s hard to miss that everyone is on his or her phone. Constantly.

Are they texting? Probably. Are they emailing? Possibly. But what we do know is that they they are on social media. Americans between 18-64 spend on average 3.2 hours a day on social media. With a staggering 1.32 billion active monthly users, Facebook is the undisputed heavy-weight social platform, but the second place title is in dispute. Twitter, founded in 2006, has typically been the second-place platform for both users and brands, favoring the quick, live update and microblogging format, but Twitter’s place is being threatened by the much younger and mobile-only platform Instagram, which launched in 2010.

For brands, looking for a streamlined solution to their social media, do the rising numbers mean that Instagram will overtake Twitter?


In terms of popularity and demographics, Instagram is on route to catch up to Twitter, with faster growth rates than Facebook and appeals to a much younger demographic. Last year, Instagram had a 66 percent growth rate compared to Facebook’s 27 percent increase and Twitter’s 32 percent jump. Additionally, Instagram recently broke the 200 million users threshold, quickly catching up with Twitter’s current 271 million active users. But with an engagement rate of 1.53 percent for businesses, (compared to .04 percent on Twitter) will Instagram overtake Twitter as the second most important social media platform for businesses? Based on the engagement rate, the answer would obviously be “yes.” But there are factors that limit the effectiveness Instagram can have for a business.

Instagram is solely a mobile, image and video-based platform. Being so visual, Instagram lends itself to a lot of user engagement. They can decide if they “like” a brand’s content within seconds of seeing it. Twitter is traditionally a text-based platform, allowing tweets with only 140 characters or less.

Web Traffic:

A large advantage Twitter has over Instagram is its ability to drive web traffic. Although captions and text are used on Instagram, links are not clickable, so content stays within the platform. For brands depending on e-commerce this limits purchasing power.  Another way Twitter has an advantage over Instagram is how easily a brand’s message can go viral. A good Tweet can be spread much easier on Twitter than on Instagram. “Retweeting” is easy to do and common on Twitter. If influential users “retweet” a brand’s message, that brand can increase its reach immensely in a matter of seconds. It is much harder to share a similar post on Instagram.“Regramming” can only be done through a third party application and isn’t as common on Instagram as it is on Twitter.

Content Lifespan:

While it is easier for a brand to have its posts shared on Twitter, it better happen fast or it isn’t happening at all. The median lifespan for a tweet is 18 minutes, but without any traction, a tweet can get buried on a user’s timeline and die within seconds of being posted. This is fine when you’re communicating one-on-one with a customer, but when trying to get eyeballs on your brand’s message, it becomes problematic.

On Instagram, posts can last much longer, with the median half-life being 2-3 hours. Utilizing the hashtag sorting system, which Twitter invented, a user can search through hundreds of images based on a keyword. With an interesting picture, a brand’s week-old post can stand out from the pack and live again. In addition to a higher engagement rate and longer half-life, a brand can build more customer trust through pictures. Consumers are 60 percent more likely to consider a brand with an image that shows up in local search. Twitter has taken notice of this and has recently become a lot more image friendly. And businesses thrive on each platform as one would guess. Brands that put a lot of emphasis on visuals, like automotive and luxury brands are very successful on Instagram. While retail, media and restaurant industries thrive on Twitter, where they can easily communicate with their audience.


But one main advantage Twitter has over Instagram is the ability for brands to use native advertising. Twitter debuted its advertising platform in 2010 and has become an increasingly valuable way for brands to advertise to specific audiences, including targeting specific TV and film viewers and other Twitter-specific targeting useful to entertainment and media brands. Although Instagram recently unveiled advertising for a few select brands, it is currently not available for all pages. This makes reaching a specific audience and building a target community more labor intensive.

While the social media silver medal is still up for grabs, it is clear that both platforms have advantages for brands, and implementing strong strategies for both is critical for businesses to reach their target audience and meet brand goals.

Need a cohesive strategy for  Twitter and/or Instagram? Contact us to see how we can help.

How are you using Twitter and Instagram for your business? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @ExcelerateM!


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