September 6, 2012 7:06 pm

Twitter beats Facebook on mobile ads

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Twitter has taken an early lead over Facebook in the mobile advertising market, analysts say, despite the 140-character messaging site's fewer users.

EMarketer, a market research group, published a report on Thursday suggesting that Twitter will earn almost twice as much revenue from mobile advertising as Facebook this year in the US, both group’s largest ad market.

The group put Twitter’s 2012 mobile revenue at $129.7m, versus $72.7m for Facebook, but projected the two would reverse positions next year, with Facebook recording $387m in mobile sales and Twitter $272.6m.

Yet despite the forecasts that it will overtake its rival next year, Facebook's projected lead over Twitter in the American mobile advertising market is expected to be slimmer than its far greater user numbers might imply.

Twitter will have 31.8m monthly American users across all devices in 2012 and 39.6m by 2014, according to eMarketer, while Facebook on mobile alone will have 70m this year and around 100m in 2014 in the US.

Though eMarketer does not make a direct comparison, its figures suggest Twitter may be able to generate more money per user from mobile marketing than Facebook, despite the latter's far larger ad sales on PCs.

The revenue forecasts reflect Facebook's later introduction of advertising to its mobile apps, which have recently been overhauled. But eMarketer's figures also illustrate the scale of Facebook's challenge in making money from mobile devices, where it cannot show as many ads, in comparison to Twitter, whose "promoted tweets" and other ad formats are seen as integrating more seamlessly into its apps.

"Twitter is built from the ground up to be very easy to use on mobile devices," said Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at eMarketer. "It makes sense that advertising is a better fit. For Facebook, it's been a learning experience."

A Twitter spokesperson did not comment on the forecast but said that the San Francisco company was “excited with the continued adoption of our Promoted Products, particularly in the mobile space ... The big difference is our ads look and feel the same to a consumer, no matter where we show them”.

Facebook also declined to comment on the report, which coincided with the closure of its acquisition of photo-sharing app Instagram, first announced in April. Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s vice-president of engineering, said the company “can’t wait to work with the talented Instagram team to improve the [Facebook] mobile experience”.

Instagram, valued at around $730m by the deal, said that a total of more than 5bn photos had been shared through its mobile apps, up from 4bn in July, suggesting that the Facebook association has boosted activity.

Despite their rapid growth, both Twitter and Facebook lag far behind Google, the dominant leader in mobile advertising, with a more than 50 per cent share of the US market. EMarketer expects Google, which generates mobile revenues from both search advertising and banners in apps, to see US sales of $1.4bn in 2012 and $3.6bn in 2014, net of payments to app makers, publishers and other partners.  

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