3 Differences Between Twitter and Instagram

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Instagram now has a bigger active user base than Twitter, according to a much-shared blog post written by the up-and-coming social network’s CEO. A post on Instagram’s blog announced that it now has more than 300 million monthly active users, 100 million more than it had three quarters ago. As Quartz reports, the surge in growth makes the app’s user base bigger than that of Twitter, which reported 284 million monthly active users in October.

Instagram has surpassed Twitter in monthly active users

Reporting the news, Instagram co-founder and chief executive Kevin Systrom wrote that Instagram “has grown into a global community that shares more than 70 million photos and videos each day.” As it grows, Instagram continues to add features to its mobile apps. Last month, it introduced a People tab on the Explore page to highlight interesting accounts to follow, and launched improvements to its search function. Systrom announced that Instagram will soon begin rolling out verified badges for celebrities, athletes, and brands, to help users connect with authentic accounts. The social network will also continue to deactivate spammy and fake accounts from Instagram. These accounts will be deleted forever, so Systrom warns that some users may see changes in their follower count. Not only does Instagram have more users than Twitter, but it’s growing at a faster rate

In a comparison of the two social networks, Instagram comes out on top not only for monthly active users, but also for the rate at which it acquires new users. Twitter’s founding predates that of Facebook-owned Instagram by years, but its slow rate of growth has been a concern since the company went public last November. Quartz notes that Twitter has yet to release its user figures for the most recent quarter, but projects that if its growth in monthly active users mirrors that of the preceding quarter, its user base could be expected to have reached about 297 million, still short of Instagram’s 300 million monthly active users, but not by much.

The New York Times notes that Instagram’s growth is impressive, but not surprising. Visual posts, especially video, represent the “hottest” growth area in social networking. Facebook has changed its News Feed over the past few years to better showcase video content, and Twitter plans to add the ability to record video directly from its app. The social network has released few details about the service, but it’s expected to be considerably less restrictive and a good complement to the six-second Vine clips already offered through the app.

Twitter’s growth problem is attributed to more than just the difficulty of getting new users to sign up. Engadget reported in November that there are approximately 500 million “logged out” users on Twitter — users who aren’t actively tweeting, but still use the company’s service through search results or links. An important part of Twitter’s user acquisition strategy will be to convert those users through a new onboarding process, which removes many of the existing steps in the signup process. Twitter will also ask these new users what topics they’re interested in, and then will populate their timeline with relevant accounts. Twitter will also look to keep existing users engaged by prodding inactive users, and using a Timeline Highlights feature to ensure that interesting content doesn’t get buried.

More of Twitter’s users are from outside the U.S., and they generate more content than Instagram users

While both social networks report that a high proportion of their user base is from outside the United States, Twitter has more non-U.S. users than Instagram does. Instagram’s press page notes that more than 70% of its users are from outside the United States. The figure is similar to, but definitely lower than, the one that Twitter reports for its user base, 77% of which is from outside the U.S.

It’s been a much-discussed fact since Twitter’s IPO that the majority of its user base is from outside the U.S. As VentureBeat reported at the time that the S-1 documentation was made public, users outside the U.S. constituted 77% of the social network’s user base but accounted for just 25% of its revenue. Twitter has a wide reach in developing countries, but users in emerging markets aren’t as lucrative. It’s the same problem that Facebook has dealt with as international growth negatively impacts revenue per user. Much of Instagram’s growth this year is linked to growth in international markets as well. But regardless of where in the world they are, or the challenges that they pose for the monetization of the social networks, users of both Instagram and Twitter share a huge amount of content on each platform daily. Instagram’s press page reports that its users share an average of 70 million photos per day, and generate 2.5 billion likes per day. But Twitter users generate more content than Instagram users with 500 million tweets per day.

While the social networks’ user bases, growth rates, and engagement look different, both are working toward similar goals: Keeping their communities engaged and growing. As Twitter experiments with more effective ways to monetize a largely international user base, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said that monetization isn’t a priority for Instagram — but both are looking to find better ways to help people communicate about their lives and about the topics they care about. Both social networks have considerable room to grow, and it will be interesting to watch what changes each team implements over the next year as they push to grow their communities even more.

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