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Here’s why Twitter needs to take the Instagram threat seriously

Twitter has a hard enough time competing with Facebook, and now it has to contend with some threatening numbers from Instagram.

Last week, Instagram announced that it now has over 300 million monthly active users, overtaking Twitter’s count of 284 million MAUs. Twitter co-founder and board member Evan Williams wasted no time in pooh-pooing the news, telling Fortune that he “couldn’t give a shit” about Instagram overtaking Twitter’s figures.

Here’s William’s full quote:

If you think about the impact Twitter has on the world versus Instagram, it’s pretty significant. It’s at least apples to oranges. Twitter is what we wanted it to be. 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. 

That’s an admirable bit of bravado from Williams, and he does have a point about Twitter having a bigger impact on the world instead of “people looking at pretty pictures.” However, William’s isn’t thinking about social media marketers, who might view the news a little differently.

Social media budgets are limited, and when a marketer sees that Instagram has more people using it than Twitter on a monthly basis, it’s definitely going to affect where they spend their ad dollars. Twitter might have a head start in terms of its ad products, targeting features and television deals, but Instagram is growing at a quicker pace. Let’s not forget it has access to the juggernaut that is Facebook’s ad tech team, which will no doubt be eager to monetize Instagram’s platform.

More importantly, Instagram is used much more by the coveted teen and millennial demographic, while Twitter continues to struggle with the image of being a tool for the media elite. As it turns out, people like pretty pictures, regardless of who created them, which is why Instagram has been able to post some very encouraging engagement figures for its initial ad tests. On Twitter, brands continue to try and hijack topics and manufacture real-time marketing gold, while Instagram is much more suited for traditional marketing, that appeals to the desires and needs of the consumer. 

Instagram might not help facilitate the next revolution in Iran, but marketers were never interested in that. To them, social media has always been about reaching the right audience at the right time, and engaging them in the most attractive way. And on that front, Twitter needs to seriously consider the Instagram threat.

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