Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Instagram: An Overview

Social media helps billions of people worldwide stay connected. Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) and Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) are among the most successful social media brands. The three sites appeal to different demographics. Facebook has broad appeal across ages. Instagram users tend be younger, and Twitter is favored by affluent college graduates.

Nearly one third of the world's population is connected over Facebook.

Facebook

There are 7.6 billion people on the planet, and 2.5 billion of them use Facebook at least once per month.  With nearly a third of the world's population connected over a single social network, it's worth asking: who isn't Facebook's target market?

To say that everyone is Facebook's target market is not an understatement. Facebook had 248 million monthly active users in the United States and Canada at the end of 2019. About 68% of all U.S. adults have an account. There are some slight differences when digging into the demographics. For example, 74% of adult women are Facebook users, compared with just 62% of all adult men. And the platform, as is all social media, is more popular with younger adults. Roughly 80% of 18- to 49-year-olds have an account. But older Americans are still represented. In the 50-64 age group, 65% are on Facebook, as are 41% of those 65 and older.

Facebook users are not distinguished by their ethnic background. However, high school graduates are less likely to use the platform compared to college graduates, as are those living in rural parts of America. But for the most part, almost everyone who uses social media as a means of connection uses Facebook.

This is perhaps why Facebook's initial public offering (IPO) was one of the most anticipated in financial history. It went public in May 2012 at a valuation of $104 billion, which was the third-largest IPO in the U.S. at the time.

Facebook makes money primarily through targeted digital advertising. It reported $70.7 billion in revenue in 2019, up significantly from $55.84 billion the year before. However, earnings fell to $18.48 billion compared with $22.11 billion previously, as costs and expenses rose.

Founder, chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the largest shareholder. He held 12.17 million Class A shares and 365.72 million Class B shares as of April 2019. This gave him 53% voting power over the company.

Facebook made two large acquisitions following its public debut. It bought Instagram in 2012, paying roughly $1 billion in cash and stock. Facebook acquired messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, a deal that appreciated to $22 billion in value thanks to a rise in Facebook's shares. 

Twitter

If you want to keep up with the latest missives from President Donald Trump, you need to be on Twitter. The micro-blogging service gives Trump direct access to the 31 million Americans who are on the platform. He had more than 75 million followers as of April 2020.

About 24% of adult Americans say they have a Twitter account. Men and women represent its users nearly equally. Like with Facebook, users skew younger, especially among 18- to 24-year-olds. In this age group, 45% report they use Twitter. This compares to 33% for the 25-29 age group, 27% for the 30-49 age group, and 19% for 50-64 age group. High school graduates are less likely to use Twitter compared to college graduates. Its users also tend to be more affluent and live in a city.

Twitter went public in November 2013 and achieved a valuation of $25 billion on its first trading day. It reported $3.46 billion in revenue in 2019, up from $3.04 billion the previous year. The bulk of revenue came from promoted tweets, while data licensing accounted for the remainder.

Jack Dorsey, who is a co-founder, CEO and company director, holds 18 million shares, or 2.34% of the company.

Instagram

Young people cannot seem to survive without Instagram. The social network for photo and video sharing is especially popular among 18- to 24-year-olds. In this age group, 71% say they have an Instagram account. Usage drops off significantly for older Americans. In the 25-29 age group, just 54% have an account. Only 40% of Americans in the 30-49 age group report using Instagram, and the figure is 21% for those 50-64.

71%

Percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds who report using Instagram.

Facebook says 1 billion users are active every month, and 500 million use Instagram every day. About 47% of Facebook users also report using Instagram. More women than men say they have an account: 39% to 30%. Users are typically college educated, urban and affluent.

Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion. The purchase was met with skepticism because the photo-sharing site was just two years old and didn't have any significant revenue at the time. But that changed. In 2018, Bloomberg analysts estimated the platform was worth $100 billion, with revenue surpassing $10 billion. Because Instagram is an app, it's helped Facebook shift from web browsers to mobile devices.

Key Takeaways

  • Facebook has broad appeal: 68% of adult Americans report using the platform.
  • Twitter users are more likely to be college graduates, affluent and live in a city.
  • Instagram users tend to be young. About 1 billion users check in with Instagram monthly.