Why You Can’t Compare Twitter Ads With Facebook Ads… Yet

Although it’s tempting to look at Twitter and Facebook, slap on the label of “social media” and think of ads on both networks as the same, that attitude is far too restrictive for both networks.

Facebook offers opportunities that Twitter does not, and vice versa. The ad products on Facebook are more mature, targeted differently and appear contextually differently within the site. So if your company is looking at Twitter and Facebook ads as one and the same, here are some distinctions to help you tease out the differences and see a bigger bang for your marketing bucks.

Twitter offers four advertising products: Promoted Trends, Tweets, Accounts and Tweets to Followers.

Each of the four has its own unique uses on Twitter. For instance, Promoted Trends are great for getting your message in front of millions of users who aren’t currently following your brand, while Promoted Tweets to Followers are useful for converting current followers into customers.

Facebook ads have been around since 2006, while Twitter’s advertising products were launched in 2010. Twitter is the “new kid on the block” when it comes to advertising, and as such it can’t be lumped in with Facebook’s more mature and established products.

The four products on offer from Twitter right now are all in beta. Twitter has partnered with about 1600 advertisers, up from just about a dozen when the first advertising product launched in April 2010. Only these advertisers have access to ads on Twitter, with any interested company able to apply to become a partner through Twitter’s business website.

Twitter is currently developing a self-serve platform for advertisers to bid on keywords (similar to Google AdWords), but this, too, is not yet open to advertisers beyond their beta partners.

The limited nature of advertisers on Twitter means that it really isn’t in the same league as Facebook is. If I had a business, I could go right ahead and purchase an ad on Facebook today – I couldn’t do the same on Twitter. I would have to first apply and wait for approval, with no guarantees that I would end up being accepted as a beta partner.

Aside from the size of both of the advertising networks, Twitter differs from Facebook in terms of its context as well.

Ads on Facebook reach a much wider audience than on Twitter, simply due to the size of each network. However, Twitter ads are targeted towards users using a different algorithm, and are more akin to a Google or search-based ad than a Facebook ad when it comes down to it.

For instance, a Promoted Tweet will appear at the top of search results that a user conducts on Twitter.com. If I were to, say, search for “hamburger” on Twitter, I might see an ad (which is really a Promoted Tweet) from McDonald’s at the top of the results.

There are nearly 2 billion search queries conducted on Twitter per day, so this is not a negligible market.

All ads on Twitter must be part of the network, organically written tweets from the advertiser. They are not written “as ads”, but rather as tweets which can be turned into an ad and promoted around the network. Again, this is different from Facebook’s approach.

Given the early stages of Twitter’s advertising products, its smaller network of advertisers and the way in which ads are displayed to users, you really can’t compare Twitter and Facebook just on the merit of their both being “social networks”. Ads on these networks are as different as light and day, and while Facebook has the lion’s share of social ad budgets now, don’t count Twitter out just yet. It’s innovative mix of information, social and search has the potential to serve up the right audience for the right ads, once its products become more established.

(Image courtesy of Kheng Guan Toh via Shutterstock)