On Twitter’s mistakes and Instagram’s success

Why is Twitter not as successful as Instagram although the platform has basically the same features use hashtags, to post images and short videos like Instagram?

A user on Quora asked me the very interesting question above. Here’s my two cents.

You could argue that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social networks all have more or less the same functionalities.

However, as you know the networks above are not seen or used in the same way by the same users.

The main reason is how every network positions itself. You could easily post cat memes or start heated political debates on LinkedIn, but it would be frowned upon by the users. However, the same users would approve of you doing the same exact thing on another network. This is due to the fact that LinkedIn has always positioned itself as a network of professionals: a place where you go to find a job, hire someone or connect with other professionals.

Imagine a similar real-life situation: you and a colleague are in a meeting at work. You might make some small talk but you’ll spend the bulk of the meeting talking business. The same evening after work you might go to a bar and you’ll probably have a whole different conversation. The tone, language and content will be different. Because the setting defines the context of your interaction.

So, going back to your question, what did Instagram do better than Twitter? Instagram was a visual medium from day one. It was the place to post photos and it saw the prevalence of mobile devices early on and it decided to remain a mobile-only medium.

It also tried to maintain its visual quality. It’s remarkable that in its early days all of the ads submitted to Instagram had to be approved by the company’s CEO himself!This is real dedication to what Instagram stood for.

Sticking to their guns and having a clear vision, led Instagram to be the platform where influencers are made and where they want to be. The rise of the influencer culture as well as Facebook acquiring Instagram led to the rapid expansion of its user base.

Twitter on the other hand was always known as the place where you had 140 characters to write your message. The 140-character limit wasn’t arbitrary but it was established to reflect the limit of a typical SMS. This showed that its founders saw Twitter as a written rather than a visual medium, and that’s how users still see it.

That’s why it quickly became a place where journalists and politicians could voice their opinions. This trend coincided with a growing polarization in – especially American – politics and frequent incidents of verbal abuse, trolling, hate speech.

Unfortunately, Twitter failed to moderate hate speech effectively (Facebook and Instagram for example have a far stricter content policy) which alienated a lot of its users.

All in all, this shows that technological features alone do not define how a product will be used. The way you position it and market it to users will play a big part on how it will be perceived by users.