Facebook vs. Twitter: Beyond Monthly Users and Net Reach
Poor Twitter just can’t catch a break. As The Verge reported after last week’s earnings, nothing Twitter is doing is working. Meanwhile, Facebook seems to be doing everything right.
“Ad revenue climbed 57% year-over-year, to $5.201 billion, and mobile ad revenue—which accounted for 82% of total ad revenue—was up 75% compared with the first quarter of 2015, to $4.2 billion.”
Facebook also claimed 1.65 billion monthly users worldwide. Twitter, by comparison, reported a five million increase in users (actually beating Wall Street’s expectations) and is still experiencing slow growth in its ad revenues. According to the Los Angeles Times and eMarketer:
“Twitter is projected to capture 7.9% of worldwide social network ad spending this year while Facebook is expected to take 67.9%, according to eMarketer.”
“New ad products — such as First View, which gives a brand a top spot in a user’s feed, event targeting, and audience matching — have some advertisers listening. The pitch for Twitter as the best place for real-time event targeting still rings true to some. ‘While their user base may not be growing, there’s still tons of people using it, especially during big events, Grammys, Super Bowl and especially this year being a political year. That’s where conversations start,’ said Rye Clifton, director of experience at ad agency GSD&M.”
User Engagement Levels: Twitter’s Losses and Facebook’s Wins
The amount of time users spend using an app is a key part of any successful advertising monetization play. Take a look at Twitter and Facebook and their sub-brands (Twitter: Periscope and Vine; Facebook: WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger) in this graphic thatInternational Business Times created using Verto data. (Data reflects monthly users during the month of March 2016; U.S. adults age 18 and older.)
Beyond the user numbers, look at the time spent and the actual stickiness of these two platforms. The Verto Stickiness Index (VSI) compares daily users with monthly users to reflect the active, loyal, and engaged part of the audience. The higher the stickiness, the bigger the share of daily users versus the monthly users is.
While the two properties are not that different in net reach, Twitter’s stickiness is significantly lower which means that users are not using the app that much or for that long. Here’s a further breakdown.
Real-time Events and Mobile Engagement Is the Key to Success for Twitter
Our data shows that while Twitter still captures a huge audience today in the U.S. if all elements are taken into account – including its external advertising traffic – its user engagement and stickiness is problematic. What’s also worrisome is that most of Twitter’s engagement still comes from PC users. Our data shows that the average time spent on Twitter, per user per month, is highest among PC users; the average Twitter PC user spends two hours a month versus 1.1 hours on smartphones and 1.4 hours on tablets. Ultimately, Twitter needs to drive mobile engagement if they want to leverage mobile advertising growth fully in the future. Twitter’s market cap also does not benefit from portfolios of apps in the way Facebook or Google can – Vine has 37 million monthly users in the U.S., and Periscope has eight million – not terrible, but not on par with Instagram, Facebook Messenger or YouTube.
Facebook, in contrast, has 151 million monthly users on smartphones and 75 million on tablets in the U.S., which showcases its successful transition to mobile with the help of its portfolio of apps, namely Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. The question is whether Facebook can continue to build its portfolio of mobile apps, increasing both reach and monetization and whether it will embed itself more deeply int0 consumers’ lives via virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
And the question for Twitter is whether it will get past its management shakeups, product development delays and lack of mobile penetration to entice its massive user base to return day after day.