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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.


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

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  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

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  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.

  11. i think the answer is that your business needs to be where your customers are.

    1. I love it when a person sums up an article into one sentence.

  12. Leah R. Garnett Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    I’ve only been on Twitter for 6 weeks, and it’s the 4th largest driver of traffic to my (new) site – http://www.musicafter50.com

    I have to admit that I don’t use my Facebook fan page because Facebook is not intuitive to me. Perhaps it’s possible because I didn’t “grow up” with it (I’m 49). Not that that is an excuse…

    Twitter is intuitive and fast. I can spend seconds or minutes a day on it, and I always find something of interest or learn something new.

    1. Twitter sends me more visitors, but Facebook gives me sales (B2C). StumbleOn gives me enormous spikes in visitors, but they don’t stay or buy. I find LinkedIn only good for B2B. Others I’ve given up on because I just don’t have that much time!

  13. Caroline Kawashima Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Hi Aliza, gr8 post and couldn’t agree with you more. It’s not a matter of which, but how and why. As you point out, it’s easy for marketers to look at social media as a “push” tool – just another channel in their marketing mix – but they miss the point you bring up about interaction, and a direct action. Facebook and Twitter from marketshare perspective can battle it out but what’s more important is for marketers to understand how to truly engage with social media in the right manner, with an approach that engages and hopefully builds a lasting community.

  14. I personally hate Facebook for business (I’m B2B). It serves its purpose as a way to stay connected with friends & family– though as a ‘user’ I’m not particularly impressed with all its bugs, downtime, lack of control, privacy & security issues, etc. But having people mingle their parents, ex-boyfriends, happy hour buddies, clients & prospective clients together seems like a ridiculous business strategy (am I really the only person with multiple Facebook accounts?)

  15. Great post. Another way of thinking about it is that Facebook is the current version of “mass marketing” and Twitter follows the new customer engagement model. With Facebook you can reach a large audience, but with Twitter you can listen to what people are saying, get into real conversations with them and cultivate interest in your product or service. You engage with your prospects and they follow you because they’re actually interested in what you have to say. Oh, and one of the side benefits? If they like what you have to say, they retweet it … that is, they send it out to their network of contacts with an implicit endorsement. I’ve posted more thoughts on this at http://lajump.cloudprofile.com.

  16. I commented at http://bit.ly/gpfF6 yesterday on a related topic. As I said there:

    “It’s not that Twitter is the be-all-end-all tool. It’s just that if it is used properly it can become the constantly in motion “front line” where your business (or your individual) interests can connect with other relevant people in the world who you are not yet connected to. That’s a powerful value.”

    However, once relationships are under way we often see them gravitate towards richer forms of engagement than are possible with Twitter alone. In many cases, we see this engagement flow through to a Facebook Page (or multiple Pages) where they can surround and digest lots of different forms of content. In a light weight sense, Facebook lets you “like” different content, which is an exact corollary for retweeting, so the argument that FB doesn’t enable similar constructs doesn’t hold water for me.

    Ultimately, we think the most critical thing is that businesses engage in both and engage with their customers and constituents wherever those customers want to – whether Twitter, Facebook, on their socially enabled web site, or whatever.

    On balance, IMHO:

    – Twitter is a bit better for discovering new relationships.
    – Facebook is a bit better for ongoing deeper forms of engagement.

    We’re trying to tackle these issues with CloudProfile, so ping me at http://hawkinson.cloudprofile.com if you would like to try it. This is great dialogue within this group and would love to have your feedback.

  17. I read somewhere that Twitter is like a cocktail party where you meet new interesting people and Facebook is the dinner party or BBQ where you get to know people better. That sums up my personal experience.

    1. And my experience is the opposite. I get to know people really well through Twitter and barely scratch the surface on Facebook because it is too much superfluous stuff (apps, games, quizzes, invites) & I can hardly pay attention.

  18. I have to admit, most implementations of Twitter nowadays seem forced. (case and point, the http://www.pay4bugs.com homepage, sigh). This only goes and proves how most companies, even startups, are not utilizing these platforms well.

    I am very impressed by what a good Facebook Connect application can do though, a new one will soon be coming from my day job, and it’s really amazing.

  19. If I had the time I would be doing the Twitter daily thing for my business as well as Facebook. But I have so many other avenues I have to catch up on. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to it soon though.

    Donny
    http://www.riskeasyreviews.com

    1. Managing both independently plus a search optimized site is an untenable load for small businesses. Check out the comment by http://fourfirkins.cloudprofile.com on Mashable at http://mashable.com/2009/08/31/cloudprofile/. You are not alone in that challenge!

      1. Alex. You are spot on. On both Twitter and FB take time to understand and time investment. Both are littered with companies who begin with a flurry of posts and then disappear…

    2. You might want to check out HootSuite – http://hootsuite.com

      Hootsuite is an online Twitter client that will allow you to schedule tweets. We do a lot of pre-scheduled tweets, sometimes days or weeks in advance when trying to promote certain products, services, or specials.

      Good luck!

  20. I’ve been n twitter for a while ( @niftyknits ) and have had the experience of my trekkie meerkats going viral due to other users (thanks!!!) and indeed when I started on facebook a few days ago it was again down to twitter that I got to 100 fans quickly and was able to rename my page http://artist.to/niftyknits/ My biggest problem on facebook is navigating it – I keep getting lost between my two pages, and sharing a link was a nightmare before I was able to rename.

  21. I’d like to see some actual evidence of either platform’s effectiveness – this is really just a casual observation of the differences between the two sites. My experience shows Twitter to have a far more engaged audience than Facebook – and Facebook to be so much about social lives that people are generally not very responsive to anything that does not sit nicely in the ‘social life’ category. My actual experience has shown me that Twitter is far far better as a business marketing tool than Facebook.

    1. It’s just one anecdote, but as a real-life example take a look at http://fourfirkins.cloudprofile.com and use the follow link in the upper left to gauge engagement by their customers on both Twitter and Facebook. Twitter is tending to drive more initial relationship discovery with new prospects, and Facebook is being used a bit more for in-life engagement with current customers.

  22. Cosmic Firm: Our favourite blogs | Cosmic Firm – Online Business & Startup Management Friday, September 4, 2009

    [...] Web Worker Daily [Is Facebook Really Better Than Twitter For Your Business?] [...]

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  24. Well, I guess the key is to try both Facebook and Twitter and see which one works better. Post the same thing on both sites and track the response…

  25. Twitter and Facebook are two very different applications. I doubt I could choose one over the other. What we need here are ways to make the two better compliment each other.

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