Twitter beware -- Instagram's the really hot property

Twitter and Instagram appeal to the same audience and are used by a similar percentage of online adults, says a new Pew Research survey.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
2 min read
Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. James Martin, CNET

Twitter has a major Instagram problem, based on the latest findings from a new survey from the Pew Research Center's Internet Project.

The older social network for sharing 140-character updates is neck-and-neck with the Facebook-owned photo application when it comes to their respective audiences. Pew found that 18 percent of online adults now use Twitter, while 17 percent of online adults now use Instagram, and both applications have nearly identical audiences.

"Twitter and Instagram have particular appeal to younger adults, urban dwellers, and non-whites. And there is substantial overlap between Twitter and Instagram user bases," Pew concluded in its report published Monday.

The research firm surveyed 1,445 Internet users ages 18 and up between August and September of 2013 and found that nearly three-quarters, or 73 percent, of online adults are social networkers. Unsurprisingly, Facebook remains the commanding service and counts 71 percent of online adults as users, which is up from 67 percent at the end of 2012.


What is particularly troubling for the newly public Twitter, and its investors by association, is that Instagram users are more active than Twitter users. Around 57 percent of Instagram users visit that service at least once per day, and 35 percent do so several times per day. In comparison, 46 percent of Twitter users are daily visitors with 29 percent visiting multiple times per day, Pew found.

Pew's findings support the theory that Twitter and Instagram are direct rivals, and underscore why there is residual bad blood between the two services. Twitter unsuccessfully tried to buy Instagram before it was snatched up by Facebook. Since then, the entities have sparred at the expense of their users.

Theoretically, Twitter and Instagram can co-exist with overlapping audiences that use both services -- just not peacefully. Twitter, in particular, is in the position of needing to goose revenue to appease its investors. The company spelled out in its prospectus that its most important assets are influential users -- aka celebs -- and its Interest Graph, or the map of all the people, connections, and interactions on Twitter. This map is what makes Twitter valueable to advertisers, and its value will erode if Instagram can make similar ties and keep its audience more engaged.

Also worth noting is that earlier this month, Nielsen ranked Instagram higher than Twitter on its Top 10 list of smartphone applications. On smartphones, Instagram has an average monthly audience of 32 million people, while Twitter's monthly audience is 30.8 million people, Nielsen determined. Instagram also proved to be the fastest-growing app of the year, growing its audience 66 percent year-over-year.

Should these trends continue, Instagram could become more popular than Twitter and more attractive to advertisers in the new year.