December 12, 2014

Facebook property Instagram tops Twitter for monthly users

In April 2012, Facebook paid $1 billion to acquire Instagram, the wildly popular photo sharing app. More than two-and-a-half years after that purchase, Instagram has officially outpaced microblogging site Twitter for total number of monthly users, reporting that 300 million individuals use the app. Six weeks ago, Twitter reported 284 million monthly users. 

Though they offer vastly different services, many observers can't help but pit Twitter and Facebook against one another. Both have transformed the way people communicate and publish material online, just as Instagram created a new paradigm for how photos are shared. The growth of Instagram's app user footprint stands as a big payoff for Facebook, and speaks to the growth a smaller company can enjoy following a high-profile merger. 

In March, Instagram reported that it had 200 million monthly users, so the figure has grown by at least 50 percent in the last nine months. In the same period, Twitter added 38 million new users. Facebook still towers above other social networks with 1.35 billion users globally, though services like Twitter and Instagram provide a narrower focus on words and photos, respectively.

"Instagram's rapid growth, while impressive, is hardly surprising. Visual posts, and especially video, have become the hottest growth area in social networking," wrote Vindu Goel in The New York Times. "Facebook has been changing its news feed over the past year to better showcase video content, and Twitter is focusing more on building up its Vine short-video service."

The news puts that trend toward visuals into perspective. As large tech companies shop for properties, social networks with unique image components could be smart long-term purchases to grow usership and generate revenue. For now, it shows that smart mergers and acquisitions can set a corporation far ahead of its competitors.