Facebook is not Twitter, and Twitter is not Facebook.
For veteran users of both platforms, this statement is well understood.
But for marketers and brands new to either network, or for those with an extensive level of experience in one but not the other, the differences are not immediately apparent.
How Do Facebook and Twitter Compare?
While the marketer’s aspirations for both platforms are similar — namely, to build a large and engaged audience to raise brand awareness and drive footfall — the manner in which each network and audience is approached and cultivated needs to be custom tailored.
Facebook and Twitter have many apparent similarities, both in functionality and in jargon, including:
- User names
- Profile pages
- Status updates
Both platforms also provide an outstanding way for businesses to market themselves to users, and offer first-line customer support. However, the use of similar terminology aside, the ways in which these features are both implemented and received are often very different.
Perhaps the most important difference between Facebook and Twitter is the size of their audiences.
As of July 2011, Facebook said it had over 750 million registered monthly active users. Twitter is cagey with the release of its data but recent estimations put the platform at somewhere between 200 and 300 million users. However, these numbers only reflect registered accounts — the active user count on Twitter is considerably smaller. For example, third party measurement firm comScore shows it reaching 139 million unique users worldwide in May.
Popular Facebook pages typically post one or two updates every day. Whether a page’s fans see that post is determined by the EdgeRank algorithm used in Facebook’s news feed. This aims to show users the most relevant posts in the default top news tab of the news feed, though users can also select to view a more comprehensive stream of updates in the most recent tab of the new feed.
The goal for marketers with Facebook page posts is to attain the most likes and comments, which increase a post’s EdgeRank, and drive re-shares of posts. That in turn exposes branded content to the friends of fans. Therefore, marketers should compose posts that will maximally engage the audience.
Popular Twitter profiles typically post much more frequently, sending out closer to a half dozen tweets a day. Twitter’s stream displays tweets in strict reverse chronological order. A profile followers are therefor only likely to see the tweets if they’re reading Twitter within a small timeframe after an update is published, or if it is retweeted by a high volume of people they follow.
The goal for marketers with Twitter updates is therefore to publish as much solid content as possible in order to catch followers when they’re reading. The real-time nature of Twitter also favors breaking news. The first profile to post about breaking news or something important will often receive many retweets. Therefore marketers should try to turn as much relevant content about their brand into tweets as possible, and move quickly when posting about topics that appeal to a wide audience.
Brand Presence Versus Broadcast Channel
Overall, however, Facebook appears to be most focused on reinforcing its focus on private, real-world connections through ongoing improvements to features like groups and chat. The site is also focused on providing a platform for full-featured brand presences, where business can host engagement applications, contests, and rich media content as well as distribute updates.
Meanwhile, Twitter has settled into becoming a broadcast channel for brands with some conversational functionality.
Facebook and Twitter share some similarities but these are considerably outweighed by the differences between the two networks and their respective audiences. Marketers looking for success on both must invest time and expertise into tailoring strategies that fit within the unique constraints of each.
Learn about more key differences — and how to optimize for each platform — in the full Facebook Marketing Bible article.