Study: Twitter Beats Facebook for Media Attention in 2011

Facebook was the second most-covered social site of the year with about 45% of all media hits, according to a report by HighBeam Research.

Twitter was the media darling this year, earning nearly half of all the combined social media attention in the press and leading every month except for two when Facebook edged the other network. Facebook often makes headlines for its legal and privacy issues in addition to product changes that affect the social network’s 800 million users. Twitter, on the other hand, gets a lot of mentions in the press because of the celebrities and other notable people breaking news and feeding gossip on the site. Facebook has started to make a push with its Subscribe feature to get high profile people using the site as themselves rather than less personal pages. How this evolves could have implications for the type and frequency of stories that mention Facebook next year.

With the rollout of Timeline, Facebook PR pointed the media to the profiles of Britney Spears, Tim Tebow, Rajon Rondo, Lea Michele and Nicole Richie, who seem to have had early access to Timeline based on the dates associated with some of their posts. We expect the company to continue to build relationships with celebrities as it competes with Twitter.

According to data from HighBeam, Twitter received between 46 and 51% of media attention about social sites each month in 2011. Facebook only led media coverage in February and April. The social network redesigned its pages product in February, giving page owners more tools for managing communities. Also that month, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned amid protests that were widely reported to have been organized through social media sites.

In April, Facebook introduced Deals, which gained some attention for being a Groupon competitor. The social network was also in the news because of legal issues. The Winklevoss twins lost their appeal that month about the size of a settlement they received from Facebook in 2008. Meanwhile, another man Paul Ceglia refiled a case claiming up to 50% ownership of the company.

The HighBeam report also looked at press mentions for LinkedIn, MySpace and Foursquare. LinkedIn earned 3.33% of media attention this year as it filed for IPO in January and became publicly traded in May. MySpace took 1.3% of total press mentions, mostly in stories about its demise. Foursquare is largely off the media’s radar, accounting for 0.71% of press coverage about social media platforms.

The report did not offer data about Google+.