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Summary:

There is no doubt that Facebook is the 900-pound gorilla in the world of social networks. But recently I read a post about Facebook being better than Twitter for business, and I don’t think that’s always true. Granted, I recommend Facebook Pages to my clients, swoon […]

279226_boxing_gloves_and_dumbells_1There is no doubt that Facebook is the 900-pound gorilla in the world of social networks. But recently I read a post about Facebook being better than Twitter for business, and I don’t think that’s always true. Granted, I recommend Facebook Pages to my clients, swoon over Facebook’s Social Ads program and am grateful for the information I can gain from Facebook’s Insights. However, the most important things to think about when utilizing social media for business are:

  1. What are your business goals? What are you trying to achieve?
  2. Who are you trying to reach? Where are they talking?
  3. Where are the conversations happening around your company or brand? How can you appropriately join the conversation?

In a direct fight between Twitter and Facebook for business — which is challenging, because Facebook and Twitter are two distinctly different kinds of tools with different functionality — I can’t say that Facebook always wins. Let’s take a look.

Community/Size

Yes, Facebook is bigger, while Twitter is getting the media hype right now. But while it is tempting to go for sheer numbers in the hope of engaging consumers, you need to understand that people use each tool differently. The way you accumulate page fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter is different. So even though you might have a larger pool to dip into on Facebook, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll actually reach anyone you really want to reach. You might gain a fan on Facebook just because someone sees someone they know becoming your fan. You gain followers on Twitter — genuine and engaged followers — because they actually want to hear what you have to say.

Sure, Facebook has Facebook Social Ads (which I’d argue are far more effective than the traditional banner and skyscraper ads). However, there is no more direct method of reaching out to the people you want to connect with (potential customers, clients, etc.) as  following them on Twitter, responding to them with an @ message so they know you’re listening to them, or retweeting one of their messages.

Analytics

While I really like Facebook’s Insights statistics tools, I don’t think you can discount the number of third-party applications that are parsing Twitter data in meaningful ways. You can track clicked links from your Twitterstream using Cli.gs or Bit.ly. You can measure Twitter influence with a tool such as Twitter Analyzer, and your growth with Twitter Counter. You can get a sense of sentiment using Tweetfeel, Twendz or Twitrratr. Yes, you have to cobble together disparate tools to get the full picture, but Twitter usage is measurable.

Viral Promotion

Facebook’s news feed turns just about everything a member does into a potentially viral action; there is something so pervasive and easy about it that can make any marketer giddy. Still, Twitter has viral potential, too, and I would argue that it’s actually more powerful. When someone retweets you, they have to think about it and have to take an action to make it happen. They have to take a very deliberate step, unlike the automatic nature of Facebook’s news feed. They are conveying an implied and personal seal of approval of you to their followers. There is intent in Twitter, which is far more powerful than Facebook’s news feed.

Advertising Platform

There’s no question that Facebook wins here. But so what? Until more traditional marketers realize that social media isn’t about advertising, they aren’t going to use social media appropriately or effectively. Social media is not about placing an ad to capture eyeballs. Social media is about engaging in meaningful and appropriate conversations with consumers, because today’s savvy consumers are no longer passive couch potatoes watching a stream of advertisements. They are empowered with social media tools that provide them with the platforms to have their say about the products they love or the companies they hate.

Facebook Connect API

Hey, I won’t argue that Facebook Connect is cool. But not every brand or company needs that kind of Facebook integration to participate meaningfully in social media. That kind of integration isn’t as impressive — or as useful — as the functionality that is provided by a multitude of Twitter-specific third-party applications that can enhance your use of Twitter. From Twitterfeed to TweetLater to TwtPoll, there are tools that can help better manage your Twitter presence. These tools do not exist for Facebook, which can be more challenging to manage.

Final Thoughts

Facebook is more mature and has a much larger community of members than Twitter, but I’d argue that maturity and size don’t always matter. It’s what you are trying to achieve, who you are trying to reach and which tool or set of tools best serves your needs that really counts. For the record, while I love Twitter, I’m definitely not saying any single social media tool is the be-all and end-all for authentic and effective social media marketing.

Editor’s note: If you’d like to keep up-to-date with social media, the real-time web and how we all consume and create information on the Internet, check out the NewNet section on GigaOM Pro, our subscription research service.

What do you think about the Facebook vs. Twitter face-off?

Image by stock.xchng user andysteel.


  1. What to read on the GigaOM network Monday, August 31, 2009

    [...] Edit Staff | Monday, August 31, 2009 | 9:46 AM PT | 0 comments Is Facebook really better than Twitter for your business? (WebWorkerDaily) Track money habits by location with TIE Your Money on Android (jkOnTheRun) Fox to [...]

  2. I’m glad I’m not the voice in the desert any more. You make excellent points on both sides but at least right now I think Twitter is a better tool for engaging with your community. Facebook pages don’t feed into a user’s stream and therefore it’s something else they manually have to visit. Sure they can become a fan and you can broadast messages but I think Twitter is much easier to manage and it’s easier to engage your customers.

    Facebook just isn’t a good business platform (yet).

    Good stuff.
    @tsudo on Twitter
    KnowtheNetwork.com

    1. Is it true Facebook Pages no longer feed into the News Feed? I know when the big redesign happened, legacy Pages had to encourage & instruct their Fans how to go in and actively choose to get their Feeds but new Pages went into Feeds. Has that changed now? Can’t keep up with Facebook’s whims.

    2. False. Pages to feed into the stream.

  3. Jarrod Skeggs Monday, August 31, 2009

    Our approach has always been to recommend meeting and connecting with your market on whatever social networking platform they choose. The truth is, some clients and prospects like and use Twitter and others don’t. Some like and use Facebook and others don’t. If you make sure that your business is on as many social networks as possible then your market can connect with you where ever they wish to do so.

    @skeggsjp on Twitter

  4. New York Time magazine yesterday (8-30) had this on demise of FB http://bit.ly/eHPG9
    Some say privacy issues on FB turn them off FB for business–business folk want control over their public image/conversation. Also some say the FB rep is casual friends or fun business info–hard to take seriously. Now to find out what businesses use FB successfully and happily!

    1. The demise of Facebook? LOL. I love how traditional media likes to feed the hyperbole. Sells papers. Magnifies a tiny sliver to make it seem like a wide swath.

  5. This is really spot on. I often tell me clients that Facebook isn’t for everyone when it comes to having a business presence on there. For some businesses and industries, it just doesn’t make sense as their target audience is not really going to be interacting socially on Facebook. I will however, recommend that most of my client’s at least have a Twitter presence with an account that looks active. Twitter lends itself more easily to realtime one on one interaction than does Facebook.

  6. Is Facebook Really Better Than Twitter For Your Business? [WebWorkerDaily] | Twittermazing Monday, August 31, 2009

    [...] Is Facebook Really Better Than Twitter For Your Business? [WebWorkerDaily] Hello there! If you are new here, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.Powered by WP Greet BoxThere is no doubt that Facebook is the 900-pound gorilla in the world of social networks. Read More [...]

  7. Biljana Pesevska Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    In my experience Twitter has proven to be more effective communication channel. I am sure this is because I work in a B2B environment. Facebook is more appropriate for B2C, since people do not use it to build professional networks, but to connect with their friends.

    1. that Facebook is generally better for B2C and Twitter better for B2B sounds intuitively right to me, but it would still depend on the company and the goals of the campaign.

  8. giedrius majauskas Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    They are 2 different, slightly overlapping places.
    Twitter is definitely better for problem – based approach. On twitter, you can ask questions and address anyone with @.
    Facebook provides more options for engaging/branding your business and richer content integration, though. You can build a better overall community on FB. Twitter fans do not listen to you, as there are plenty of bots too. I even argue, that FB fans are more connected than twitter ones.
    For some business one will work better than other. IMHO there are much more underhyped social sites that can be used.

  9. Great article.

    It’s hard to generalise as there are different cases for specific types of business.

    Key is not just going where the most members are, but where they are more likely to ENGAGE. Facebook may have 250 million members to Twitters 40 million, but most people join Facebook to connect and share with friends and family; they don’t use Facebook with a suit on. So, they are less likely to engage with suppliers, especially if they are B2B — who wants to be seen to be a “fan” of their accountant or print supplier?

    B2C and retail works better on Facebook, especially if you have a fashionable or aspirational brand that people are happy for their peers to see them associated with.

    Let’s also remember that the world doesn’t end with Facebook and Twitter. If you’re looking to build a network of contacts to do business with there is also LinkedIn, XING, WeCanDo.BIZ and more.

    Ian Hendry
    CEO, WeCanDo.BIZ
    http://www.wecando.biz

  10. I suppose it is not so. Facebook and Twitter both enhance business, but Twitter contributes more, Twitter is faster and is better than Facebook in tracking the latest trends and technology. Tweets reach out very fast to the web world than Facebook.
    Facebook mainly links the friends but Twitter links the business professionals.

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