Instagram Rivals Twitter In Reach, Facebook In Engagement

Watching Facebook and Twitter navigate the rapid migration of their audiences from desktop to mobile was a key storyline of 2012 and 2013. But the mobile-first social networks are going to be the important narrative of 2014. We are not only talking about the super-charged rise of the messaging and chat apps like Whatsapp, LINE and SnapChat. Keep an eye on the corner of Instagram and Vine as well.

The power of Instagram in particular is evident in the latest study of social media use by Pew Research Center. The big news is that the mobile-first photo sharing network is now used by 17% of the online population, up from 13% a year ago. That puts it just a point shy of Twitter’s reach of 18%, and at a faster rate of growth than the microblog, which only expanded from 16% last year.

Among young adults, however, Instagram has reached a true critical mass of 37% penetration, up substantially from 28% last year. African-American users (34%) are especially well represented on the photo sharing network. Which is to say that Instagram represents a very enticing promotional platform. It not only has deep coverage in key demos. But it is inherently rich in messaging potential, with both images and video at its core.

There is especially good news in this for Instagram owner Facebook, because that social network also enjoys a 71% reach, still far and away the deepest penetration of any rival. While Facebook lost some of its cool this past year, apparently it did not lose much of its overall audience. Even better for these sister brands is that both Facebook and Instagram enjoy the greatest engagement of any of the social nets. While 63% of Facebook users say they visit their feeds daily (22% weekly and 14% less often), 57% of Instagram users open the app daily (20% weekly and 22% less often).

This puts Instagram and Facebook pretty much in an engagement class by themselves. Twitter, by contrast, is used daily by only 46% of its audience (21% weekly and 32% less frequently).

I am eager to see marketing creatives make artful use of the mobile-first, visually driven social nets in the coming year.  I believe we will get a peek next month at the Mobile Insider Summit, where I have planned a panel specifically on making the most of Instagram and Vine.  At our annual meeting of the mobilistas on Captiva, we will have a bumper crop of marketers sharing their lessons: Toyota, Diamond Foods, Quiznos, Microsoft and more. 

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