How Twitter's User Growth Compares to Facebook's

Here's how Twitter's slowing user growth compares to Facebook's fantastic rise.

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Investors are obsessing over Twitter’s latest earnings report – its first since the social network’s IPO – showing higher revenues but also slowing user growth.

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Twitter’s user growth looks even slower when you compare it to fellow social network Facebook. The two are different ages, so it’s hard to compare the two companies’ current figures, but it helps to start them both from the same point. 

Setting the month in which each network hit 100 million active users (September 2011 for Twitter, August 2008 for Facebook) as Month One, the below graph plots each network’s user growth over time.

Facebook clearly grew much more quickly, hitting 608 million users about two and a half years later. Twitter, meanwhile, is at about 241 million monthly active users.

Sources: AP, CNN

The chart also doesn’t tell Facebook’s full story – the line for that network ends in December 2010, and Facebook today claims 1.2 billion monthly active users. Still, it shows just how fast a social network can grow and that Twitter might be leveling off.

Then again, the bigger point may be that the Twitter-Facebook comparisons we business writers often  throw around are of limited use. While both are major players in the relatively new social networking sphere, they aren’t entirely rivals for users. Plenty of people use both, and they tend to use the two for different things: Facebook is more static, where people are more likely to go for sharing photos and checking in on (read: creeping on) each other. Twitter is more dynamic – it’s where people watch news happen in real time and have direct (but public) interactions with friends and celebrities alike.

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Either way, what matters to an investor is the bottom line – how much these networks are pulling in, largely through advertising things to users. Facebook has the edge here, having earned a little more than $2 per active user last quarter, while Twitter took in $1. And on a metric that investors watch more closely, Facebook also is well ahead, with its most recent earnings per share registered at 31 cents, while Twitter took in 2 cents per share.

That's not to say the situation couldn’t change for Twitter. Facebook arguably had a rockier start after its initial public offering, but has found its footing with improved mobile revenue.