Instagram In and Twitter Out? Not So Fast, Say Experts

While it’s been a banner week for Instagram, Twitter’s latest numbers show the social media platform falling far short of expectations. However, some experts say that marketers should think twice before fleeing from Twitter toward Instagram’s greener pastures. 

Earlier this week, an eMarketer projection predicted Instagram’s mobile ad revenue would hit 2.81 billion by 2017, putting the photo-sharing platform above both Twitter and Google. And the hits just kept on coming for Twitter, as the social media site reported a negligible growth in Q2, up just 2 million users from Q1. And with Instagram inching above the 300 million user mark to unseat Twitter as the second-most popular form of social media, many marketers could be tempted to jump ship.

However, it can be damaging to rush to conclusions when it comes to social media, according to Sari Stein, strategic consulting director for DAC Group, a digital performance marketing agency.  

“Every time a piece of research like this crops up, companies tend to rush to conclusions, but it really starts by understanding that ‘social media’ is an umbrella term,” Stein says. “People use different networks in different ways.”

Too many marketers pit social networks against each other, in terms of user base and revenue. Instead, they should focus on what consumers use each platform for and create integrated strategies that use platforms in conjunction with one another to move users down the purchase funnel. 

For example, the under-30 crowd tends to use Instagram for discovery, but Twitter users are farther down the funnel with more purchase intent. Stein recommends altering content to fit the mood of the social media user, not piping the same content into different social media platforms hoping for different results. 

“Facebook is more like a living room, while Twitter is more like an office,” Stein says. “Instagram is the photo album in Facebook’s living room. Brands who have tried and failed on Instagram have been trying to be too broadcast-y or too businesslike, the way they would be on Twitter, but it should really be more like a story than an ad.”

And while Facebook and Instagram seem focused on rolling out new ad products, especially in the video arena, they haven’t been tried and tested. As a result, many advertisers might not be getting as much ROI as they’re counting on, according to Liz Miller, CMO Council vice president of programs and operations.

“The fact of the matter is they’re having a really hard time proving that investments are actually paying off,” Miller says. “We’re still not sure if anyone saw [these videos]. Platforms can only guarantee that less than 50 percent of videos were placed in the upper half of viewer’s screens, so with autoplay, you can get artificially inflated numbers.”

Social media marketing comes down to content, no matter which platform has more users from week to week, Miller adds. 

“We’re going to see ebbs and flows in this, but one thing will not change. If you are delivering an irrelevant message, it’s not going to matter,” she says. “You can spend all the money you want; if your content isn’t relevant to your customer, it won’t create engagement.”

Image via Shutterstock

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