The social media world is buzzing with big announcements, exciting news and important changes that are being rolled out now and into the New Year.

Recent highlights have revolved around Instagram – first with the recent news that its 300 million active users have surpassed the 270 million active users on Twitter. Although the debate between fans of either platform has sparked some contention, with fans of each defending their platform of choice, there have even been some passionate remarks from stakeholders, see quote below from Twitter co-founder, Evan Williams.

“If you think about the impact Twitter has on the world versus Instagram, it’s pretty significant. It’s at least apples to oranges. Twitter is what we wanted it to be. It’s this realtime information network where everything in the world that happens on Twitter—important stuff breaks on Twitter and world leaders have conversations on Twitter. If that’s happening, I frankly don’t give a shit if Instagram has more people looking at pretty pictures.”

Some important points which surround this debate are as follows:

In favour of Instagram

Instagram remains a champion of engagement amongst major social channels with “an average engagement rate (people that have liked or commented) of 3.31%” compared to the 0.07% engagement rate (retweets, replies or favourites) for those same brands on Twitter.
The 300 million figure announced reflects the number of monthly active users, a statistic which draws attention to the infamously high number of fake user and inactive accounts on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Instagram is taking strides to combat spam accounts with Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom making the following statement:

“We’re committed to doing everything possible to keep Instagram free from the fake and spammy accounts that plague much of the web.”

Instagram is deactivating fake user profiles which inflate some users’ profiles follower counts, and has also begun to roll out verified badges for big personalities to claim their official accounts.

In favour of Twitter

Despite the buzz surrounding Instagram’s recent performance, there is still question of its potential for delivering real revenue figures compared to Twitter which has been successful at monetizing its user base. Mobile advertising on Twitter accounts for 85% of its revenue, the success of which has bolstered Twitter’s Q3 performance which reported 114% increase from a year ago despite a decline in shares.
Though the popular fixation on number of users has remained a constant problem for Twitter and its performance with shareholders, there is debate about the value of this figure in judgment of its worth. In favour of Twitter are the vehement 270 million active users who tweet 500 million tweets a day compared to the 70 million photos and videos put forth by Instagram users. Among these tweeting are influential figures including 80% of world leaders who are connected on Twitter. As Williams says:

“Twitter is what we wanted it to be. It’s this realtime information network where everything in the world that happens on Twitter—important stuff breaks on Twitter and world leaders have conversations on Twitter.”

Though this debate may be driven by shareholders and a question of which social power will outperform the other, the questions which arise do have implications for marketers and advertisers. Some brands will shift their efforts to Instagram where they will seek the benefits of its high engagement rates. Others will continue to question where to invest their efforts and if the two are even comparable with such stark intrinsic differences. Overtime, however, the one question that will remain is which has better revenue opportunities.