Twitter Needs Their Own Instagram

Jacob Harper  |

The exodus of teens from Facebook Inc. (FB) is no closely guarded secret. Industry analysts have known for some time now that the gold standard of social media has lost its luster with the all-important youth “demo,” with a recent report from Piper Jaffray indicating that Facebook’s teen usership declined 9 percent in 2013.

Despite Facebook’s withering hipness, there’s nothing to worry about from a business perspective, because Facebook has done a bang up job of making teens forget that Facebook and Instagram are even related.  

Facebook scored a big win when they acquired Instagram for a relatively paltry $1 billion. Case in point: while Twitter Inc. (TWTR) is the preferred social network for 27 percent of adolescents, and Facebook only 24 percent, Instagram beats them both, with 30 percent of that age set citing the photo-sharing service as their go-to.

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This is especially cogent as Twitter releases earnings after the bell on April 29, as special attention will be paid to its relevance with both young people and how young people access the internet. Twitter still sports higher usage with teens, and derives far more advertising revenue from mobile, with 75 percent coming from non-desktop advertising to Facebook’s 59 percent.

However, as an app, Instagram derives virtually the entirety of their revenue from mobile, and as Facebook continues to monetize Instagram more aggressively its mobile revenue slice will continue to get bigger and bigger. While Twitter has successful apps in their hip pocket like video-sharing Vine, the two are inextricably linked in people’s minds. The company makes no effort to separate the two, down to the fact that Vine homepage’s URL still contains the Twitter name.

Not so with Facebook/Instagram; which, probably due to their origin as separate companies, aren’t closely correlated in usage or identity. Even if Facebook does continue to shift older, Instagram remains hot, and different. Twitter’s earnings report should shed light on how their product’s popularity moves. They possibly have retained their younger users. But unlike Facebook, if Twitter has begun to lose traction with young users, they don’t have a hedge not tied so closely to that name, and that could be a problem. That is, until they take a page form the social media playbook and acquire an Instagram of their own.  

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