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 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:
- What are your business goals? What are you trying to achieve?
- Who are you trying to reach? Where are they talking?
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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What do you think about the Facebook vs. Twitter face-off?