Instagram Now Bigger Than Twitter On Mobile -- And Why That Doesn't Matter

Nielsen created ripples last week when it released data  showing that Instagram has on average 32 million monthly smartphone users, versus Twitter with “only” 30.8 million. Oh, the humanity!

Here are some other stats for you to “worry” about:

--     The smartphone video 18- 24-year-old audience is twice the size of TV viewers in the same age group.

--      LinkedIn users with a college education index 175 over the average LinkedIn user.

I am telling you that none of these highly tweetable stats matter. Well, it does matter if you are specifically looking for a target audience of young smartphone users, or a college-educated target audience.

Our obsession with “mine is bigger than yours” in digital is really an old-media argument. Bigger used to mean more reach, and therefore a higher ticket price. But we don’t live in that world anymore. “Better Delivered,” “higher engaged” or “highly relevant environment” matters more and should cost more, with “how many” as a secondary cost qualifier.



We are about to enter the nonsensical circus called upfront for TV, and its digital partner “Newfront” (which I want to add to the list of marketing expressions we need to ban -- see my column of last week). And I am sure we will hear lots of arguments about user base and why bigger is better.

But in the grand scheme of advertising decisions, the absolute size of any medium does not matter. Even a tiny medium may serve a need or a niche at some point along the advertising messaging journey. There was (is?) a market for Newsweek as well as Garden & Gun Magazine.

By the way, Garden & Gun has almost 160,000 likes on Facebook and has a printed circulation of 261,854 per ABC 2012. The new Newsweek has fewer than 100,000 print circulation and 10,878 likes. I know which to choose if I want to reach gun-wielding daisy-growers.

The “Twitter vs. Instagram” question came up a lot this past week. I also get the “Facebook vs. Twitter” question a lot. So is Twitter a less viable medium now that Instagram is bigger? Is Twitter even the same as Instagram or Facebook? Of course it isn’t.

If people really want to classify each of these media, what I tell them is that Facebook is a news magazine (we used to call them general-interest magazines: a bit of news, a bit of gossip, some light entertainment, etc.). Twitter is a newspaper. Yesterday’s Twitter feed is yesterday’s news. Yesterday’s Facebook feed may still contain something that is of value today: Darn, Fred had his birthday -- let me post something on his wall quickly. Instagram is ruled a lot less by what was today or yesterday: I often browse through pictures in longer sessions, just to see what the world of my friends looked like over the last couple of hours or days.

So, if you insist on a classification, Facebook is Newsweek, Twitter is USA Today and LinkedIn is Businessweek. And Instagram? How about a mix of National Geographic, Life, Bon Appetit andCondéNast Traveler?

And with those classifications, size now matters less than audience demographics. As always, first understand your target audience and place your message where you can find that audience. Buy enough of them to deliver your goals at what you consider a fair price. And stop fretting about total size, OK?

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