There was some buzz among tech journalists earlier this month over the announcement that picture sharing powerhouse Instagram had reached 300 million active users/month. That puts it at 16 million users above its closest competitor, Twitter. Is that cause for concern among the Twitter elite?
Not according to Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.
In a Fortune magazine article, Williams examines the numbers and states that the statistics are irrelevant as the way that Facebook (Instagram’s owner) determines what constitutes an “active monthly user” is arbitrary and does not reflect how users are truly utilizing the service.
Williams said that because of Facebook Connect, users could be sharing information to Instagram without ever actually launching the app. And with the interconnectivity of apps and Facebook, that could mean a significant portion of the statistical sample could be backdooring their way into the system. He poses the question of whether those truly indicate active use.
It’s become so abstract to be meaningless. Something you did caused some data in their servers to be recorded for the month. So I think we’re on the wrong path.
He goes on to point out that the two services are completely different, with Twitter serving as a sort of clearinghouse for information, while Instagram is an art gallery. So if people go to Instagram it shouldn’t adversely affect the use and engagement of Twitter.
It’s this realtime information network where everything in the world that happens on Twitter—important stuff breaks on Twitter and world leaders have conversations on Twitter. If that’s happening, I frankly don’t give a shit if Instagram has more people looking at pretty pictures.
Williams has some valid points in regards to the differences between the two and how each has a role. However, where the wheels come off in the argument is in the nitty gritty, the dirty side of Internet ventures that no one likes to talk about. Of course I mean the money end.
While there is a clear distinction between the services on a basic level, advertisers aren’t going to care about what each one provides in figuring out where their dollars are going to go. They’re going to back the horse that has the best legs.
And if new figures regarding engagement are accurate, Instagram may be the Sea Biscuit to Twitter’s plowhorse. According to the Business Insider piece, a survey undertaken by analytics company Socialbakers shows Instagram posts are getting almost 50 times more engagement.
So what does that mean? Is Mr. Williams right to focus on what Twitter is doing and not worry that Instagram is getting incredible levels of engagement? Or should they take a strategic look at the competition and figure out how to get that engagement (and the revenue stream it will no doubt bring with it) to Twitter?
Whether or not you subscribe to Facebook’s concept of active users or Twitter’s announcement that the numbers are specious, the fact remains that whoever has the most user engagement wins.
Mr. Williams, you may want to start giving a shit about those pretty pictures.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments which matters more? Active users or post engagement?
IMAGE CREDIT: CHRISTINA YEAGER