Twitter quietly started an Instagram account this week, using the photo-sharing service to promote itself as a destination for breaking news and important conversations. The account, which launched Friday with little fanfare from Twitter, is the latest plank of a marketing campaign launched in October with billboards and digital ads. As noted by The Drum, Twitter used Instagram Stories on Wednesday to showcase tweets about the Oscars.
Twitter declined to comment about its Instagram account. But the move is notable in part because of the companies’ long, complicated history, which saw them nearly combine early in Instagram’s life, only to have their relationship fray after Facebook stole it away. And it highlights how Twitter is seeking new avenues to promote itself in the face of slow growth in its core user base.
For most of its life, Instagram has seen Twitter as a frenemy. Early in its life, the companies (and their founders) were so close that Twitter attempted to buy the photo-sharing service. But Facebook swooped in to buy Instagram for a then-shocking $1 billion, and that’s when the trouble started. A few months later, Twitter blocked Instagram from using its API to find your Twitter friends on Instagram. Shortly thereafter, Instagram disabled its integration with Twitter, preventing photos from showing up in the feed.
All the while, Instagram as continued to use Twitter as a marketing channel, regularly posting popular photos and news about the app to an impressive 40 million followers. Now Twitter hopes to do the same, racking up about 50,000 followers in its first week on the platform.
In its first few posts, Twitter has borrowed imagery from its broader campaign, which pairs Twitter’s iconic hashtag with an event in the news.
The company is also experimenting with video. In one case, it posted a recent tweet from President Donald Trump, with a video of the number of replies, retweets, and likes soaring into the thousands.
On one hand, sure, it’s just a marketing account. But it’s also a reflection of a new reality — one in which Twitter needs Instagram more than Instagram needs Twitter. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad idea. Sometimes, successful self-promotion means swallowng your pride.