Data provided to Business Insider from social media analytics company Socialbakers shows Instagram is not only gaining traction in sheer numbers of users, but posts from the biggest brands on the photo app are receiving almost 50 times more engagement (at the highest level) too. More users and more engagement? It's easy to guess which medium advertisers will prefer.
Socialbakers looked at interactions of the top 25 "most engaging" brand profiles globally across both platforms in the quarter to December 9. For Instagram that includes brands like Victoria's Secret, Adidas, Starbucks and Urban Outfitters. On Twitter, it's brands like Playstation, Taco Bell, Nike and Paddy Power.
The average post on Instagram among the top brands had an engagement rate (people that have liked or commented) of 3.31%. The average tweet from those brands had an engagement rate (retweets, replies or favorites) of 0.07%.
The average interaction rate between users and the top profiles also follows a similar trend.
As does the total profile interaction figure.
Socialbakers' data doesn't compare exact apples to apples. The brands in each of the top 25 are different (for the most part, although there is some crossover: Starbucks and Victoria's Secret appear in both top 25s for example.)
The data also doesn't include reach metrics: Twitter has been very vocal about the power of its vastly underplayed "logged-out audience," which is harder to track. Also, there are completely different ways to "engage" with a post on each platform.
In addition, most marketers agree that they shouldn't be measuring their social media success on social media metrics - the amount of likes, retweets, and so on. Instead they should be looking to business metrics: At their simplest, sales; but also brand metrics like affinity, loyalty, awareness and so on.
However, the analysis is another indicator that Twitter is losing out, on yet another measure, to rival social networks.
Jan Rezab, Socialbakers CEO, told Business Insider: "We were shocked by what the different was between the difference in engagement between Twitter and Instagram. What Twitter will say is 'Engagement is easier to do on Instagram.' But then the question back should be "Shouldn't Twitter have a lighter form of engagement too?"
It's a fair point. One of the criticisms of Twitter, and an area the company itself has admitted it needs to improve on, is that there is a lengthy onboarding process when a user first joins Twitter. The company is trying to reduce the steps when you first register but even then: a "favorite" means different things to different people even amongst established users, and some people are blissfully unaware of the subtweet faux pas many longtime Twitter users detest seeing.
Instagram, on the other hand, is fairly straightforward: Click the heart to like, the speech bubble to comment. Simple.
The gap in engagement rates between Instagram and Twitter may not always be so cavernous, as Instagram evolves. Indeed, a separate study released in April this year from Forrester Research, which looked at Interbrand's top 50 global brands, found that the average Instagram photo generated 120 times higher user engagement per follower than a tweet. So that gulf is already narrowing.
At the time of publication, author of the report Nate Elliott, Forrester's vice president and principal analyst serving marketing professionals, says the extremely high levels of engagement on Instagram versus competitors are unlikely to last as the feed becomes more cluttered and if Facebook tries to algorithmically engineer the Instagram feed as it has done its own platform, causing organic reach of page posts to drop dramatically.
Rezab doesn't agree. In fact, having just come back from the Middle East where he says Instagram is even bigger than Facebook in some countries (like Saudi Arabia,) he believes Instagram will be the next network to reach 1 billion users. Engagement rates may decline, but with that kind of reach, advertisers weighing up where to place their social media dollars will drift ever more towards Instagram.
Twitter's founder Ev Williams might not "give a shit if Instagram has more people looking at pretty pictures," but he might sit up and take notice when brands start moving their Twitter dollars over to the photo sharing app.