22nd January 2015

many thumbs up with speech bubbles

Both Facebook and Twitter are in the market to cater for everyone, whether in a personal or business capacity, and the goal of both platforms is to enable the sharing of information, be it written, as photos or infographics, or through video content.  There is definitely a fundamental difference between the two platforms, however, a difference which can be found within the companies’ predefined visions.

The grand vision of Facebook, according to its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is about “connecting everyone and improving the world through sharing”. Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter sees his social media platform as “the global town square” and Twitter’s mission as stated on their website is ‘to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly and without barriers’.

The founders have outlined the basic objective of their organisations, and, whether this was intentional or not, Twitter leans more towards being a network for ideas and information, whereas Facebook puts more emphasis on being a network connecting people.

That doesn’t mean either is limited in its capabilities. Both are able to connect, and both have the capacity for putting forward ideas and information. It is the content and context in which these are achieved which is often different.

By looking at certain attributes and characteristics of each platform, a more detailed comparison can be made.

 User Volume

Facebook has nearly 4.5 times as many active users (Facebook 1.358bn, Twitter 327m*). However, the gap is narrowing and we find young people are migrating towards Twitter as their parents take on Facebook accounts. A research study by Princeton University predicted a loss of 80% of Facebook’s users by 2017.

facebook_logo So although Facebook wins outright on the total number of users this may be short lived.

*sources: Internet Live Stats 21 Jan 2015

Real Time News

This is the area in which Twitter performs best. The 140 character limit ensures messages are concise and to the point, enabling a rapid flow of information which can be categorised by hashtags, and linked to external content. Twitter, unsurprisingly, is now one of the primary sources for breaking news among journalists.

Despite Facebook’s attempt at introducing hashtags last year to status updates, they haven’t caught on to the same extent. Facebook comes across as being less immediate, less spontaneous, and can feel ‘scripted’ compared to Twitter’s direct interaction.

Twitter-logo This is a win for Twitter.

Connecting with the Right People

Facebook’s mission statement, ‘putting connection over information’, is enforced by the mechanics of having to accept (and have accepted) friend requests. With Twitter you are able to follow anyone, but this may result in many one-way connections if they don’t follow you back. Facebook will give more ‘real’ connections with people you actually know. This is great for your social circle, but for businesses who network, the intention is to connect with those you don’t necessarily know.

In filtering relevant connections, Facebook defaults to delivering content into your news feed from your closer friends and although you can visit the pages of any of your friends at any time, you won’t be overwhelmed by stories from people with whom you have a ‘passive’ connection. Twitter’s default setting is ‘Most Recent’, which means your news feed can become a constant flow of information with which you cannot keep up, and you don’t have the time to filter through. User settings and apps can assist in organising users into lists which eases the issue a little, but you may still miss vital tweets if you are following masses.

True to its mission statement, Facebook comes out top on its ability to make ‘real’ connections.

Twitter-logo However, in the realms of connecting for business, where a more speculative link is sometimes required to form a business relationship, Twitter has to be more appropriate.

 Account Profiling

Both Facebook and Twitter have similar tools to allow the account user to set their user profile making a statement of who they are, what they’re about, and who they want as their audience. Using photos and words the profile can give a specific vision of the account user.

Twitter requires less information for registering, and pseudonyms can be used, whereas Facebook requires real names and identity. Facebook is more user friendly for sharing photos and videos.

Twitter-logo facebook_logo Depending on whether you need your profile to be more of a public one than a private one will depend on who wins the contest over account profiling and this will very much depend on your type of business. For example, a members only club is more likely to want a private profile and will therefore be happy with the features that Facebook offers. A social enterprise will want a public profile and may see Twitter as being more suitable.

Use on Mobile Devices

The format of using only 140 characters in a tweet, and Twitters roots in SMS means it is conducive to use on mobile devices. In Sept 2013, when Twitter filed to go public, advertising via mobile devices was listed as 65%. When Facebook listed in 2012 its comparative revenue was 0%.

Facebook is more geared to desktop usage, and is becoming the top homepage set by users.  However, as the shift continues from desktop web to smartphones and tablets, Facebook will be just one app among many, and despite the acquisition Messenger and Instagram, it is struggling to make its mark in mobile use.

Twitter-logo Twitter, due mainly to its short-messaging roots, is the hands down winner when it comes to use on mobile devices.

Ultimately, the Social Media platform favoured by a business will depend on what that business values most – connection or information? Twitter is by far the winner when it comes to sharing information, whilst Facebook maintains its stance in creating solid connections.

This comparison of just two of the many social media streams highlights the fact that no two platforms are the same. A business must take time to understand the rules for engagement on each individual site, find the right network for the business, and seek the correct audience whether by age, geography, gender or topics of interest.

So, as to whether you choose Twitter or Facebook …..? Engage with both, and other Social Media platforms too. Use each platform making the most of its particular merits, and always link between your platforms, using them to drive traffic to the content on your website.

And finally …… remember that engaging in social media is like engaging in a conversation with someone – you must interact and respond. Therefore, you must have the time to interact and respond, and to answer any questions put to you. You wouldn’t walk away from a client in mid conversation, would you?

Written by Davina Young @ Nwes

Next week we look at the merits of LinkedIn.

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