Asking a marketer to choose between Facebook and Twitter is like asking people to choose between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, or Android and iOS. You’re never going to get a definitive answer. That’s because it’s really not about which social networking site is better. It’s about which site is best for your specific goals.
Facebook and Twitter are the senior class of social networks, outranking freshman and sophomore sites like Instagram and Google+. We’ve seen a good deal of other social media sites come and go over the past decade, but Facebook and Twitter have both stood the test of time. The secret? Their ability to pivot, adapt constantly and push social networking forward by catering to both consumers and marketers.
With all that being said, the question still remains: Which site should marketers put their efforts toward?
Facebook vs. Twitter: By the Numbers
As we saw in our Instagram vs. Facebook post, it’s practically impossible for any social networking site to compete with Facebook in terms of number of users. It has a clear lead and that’s not going to change any time soon. But that doesn’t mean that you should completely count Twitter out.
- 968 million daily active users
- 844 million mobile daily active users
- 1.49 billion monthly active users
- 1.31 billion mobile monthly active users
- 83% of users outside of the US and Canada
Data provided by Facebook.com
- 316 million monthly users
- 80% of active users on mobile
- 77% of users outside the U.S.
- 500 million tweets sent per day
Data provided by Twitter.com
What Twitter lacks in overall users compared to Facebook, it makes up for in other areas that are very important for businesses. For instance, 49% of monthly Twitter users follow brands or companies, compared to the average of 16% for other networks. As we’ll see later on, this has a lot to do with how people use Twitter versus how they use Facebook.
If we’re going solely based on numbers, Facebook has the upper hand. But there are plenty of other factors to consider.
Facebook vs. Twitter: Audience
This is where things start to get interesting. For companies looking to get started with social media marketing, Facebook is typically the first profile they make since it has the largest audience. Despite the popular notion that everyone is on Facebook, the truth is that your target demographic may actually be spending more time on Twitter. That’s why it’s key to know what each site brings to the table in terms of audience.
For quite some time now, Facebook’s audience has been sliding away from the younger generation of millennials and toward the older demographic of 50-plus years old. There are plenty of explanations for the shift, but it mainly boils down to younger consumers moving on to the newest trend. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any young users on Facebook, because as you can see in the graphic above, 18-29 year olds are still very active on the site.
When you look at Twitter’s audience, the main factor that stands out is the younger demographic. A majority of Twitter users are under 40 years old. Given the speed that Twitter moves at and the large amount of content that gets passed through, that’s understandable. The younger generation likes to receive information in bite sized pieces and consumes it quickly. Whereas older users tend to prefer the more static nature of Facebook.
Another interesting point to take from the difference in audiences is that Twitter is primarily used by people who live in cities instead of more rural areas. Depending on what industry your company is in, this could impact your decision to put your focus toward Facebook or Twitter. For instance, a new SaaS startup would probably do very well on Twitter, but a company in the agricultural industry might not see the same level of success.
Do some research to find out who your target customer is, and use that information to help you decide whether Facebook or Twitter is the best place to reach them.
Facebook vs. Twitter: Engagement
Engagement could easily be the deciding factor between marketing on Facebook or Twitter. Over the past few years, companies have complained about the significant decrease in the amount of organic reach their Facebook posts were getting. The main complaint being that unless you pay to “boost” a post, your content won’t get anywhere near its maximum reach. Research from the team at Social@Ogilvy showed that organic reach for content posted to Facebook declined by 49% in less than six months. As you can imagine, that also had an impact on the amount of engagement posts started to receive.
Despite the drop in organic reach, Facebook posts still get engagement. But how does it stack up against Twitter?
According to this study from Forrester, for every one million Twitter followers there were 300 interactions. For every one million Facebook followers, there were 700 interactions.
In a separate study from Shareaholic, the company looked at the quality of referral traffic that came from different social media sites. Specifically, it looked at the amount of time users stayed on site, the average number of pages they visited and the bounce rate of the traffic from Facebook and Twitter. Again, it’s a tight race. Facebook users spent more time on site, but Twitter users visited more pages.
One big advantage Facebook has over Twitter in terms of engagement is that the content you post on Facebook has a longer lifespan than a Tweet. Since Tweets get wiped from your stream so quickly, brands are practically forced to Tweet multiple times throughout the day to avoid getting lost in the clutter. With Facebook, you can post a handful of times in a week and still stay fairly relevant, especially if you’re boosting your posts.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Coca-Cola has over 90 million Likes on Facebook and a little over three million Twitter followers. If you look at the dates of its Facebook posts you’ll notice that the brand will go days or even weeks without posting something new.
On its Twitter account, the brand sends out a new Tweet almost daily.
We’re excluding the replies on both Facebook and Twitter.
Notice how much more engagement Coca-Cola’s Facebook posts get than it Tweets. Each Facebook post gets thousands of Likes, shares and views. Its Tweets, on the other hand, don’t get anywhere near the same amount of activity.
Every brand doesn’t Tweet more often than they post to Facebook. Larger companies may be able to Tweet occasionally without losing their audience. However, if you’re a small business or in a competitive industry where your competitors are very active on Twitter, sending out more Tweets could work to your benefit. Just as a general guideline, it’s recommended that you Tweet five or more times per day, and post to Facebook three to 10 times a week. Make sure you’re testing and measuring to find out what social media posting schedule works best for you.
Facebook vs. Twitter: Functionality
Facebook and Twitter serve two different purposes. Most people go on Twitter to see what’s currently going on, connect with new people and to discover new content. Facebook, on the other hand, is primarily used as a way to communicate with friends and family. That’s why you’ll notice Facebook posts with hundreds of comments and conversations going on within the comments section. But on Twitter, conversations generally only take place during Twitter Chats.
Facebook has apps, games and community pages that all push users to connect and interact. Alternately Twitter is where users go when they want real-time content. If a company is hosting or attending an event, Twitter is where people go to follow along with the action while it’s happening. As soon as people consume one Tweet, they quickly go back to their feed to see what else is happening.
When users are on Facebook, their purpose is to see what their friends are up to. They’re not necessarily looking for company news or valuable content. But Twitter is one of the primary tools people use to discover content whether it’s from people they know or not, which is ideal for social media marketers. Twitter makes it easier to connect with people and brands you don’t know. Connecting with influencers is one of the best ways to use Twitter, and also something that’s not as simple to do through Facebook.
However, the problem with Twitter is the amount of content you’re forced to compete with. We’ve mentioned it a few times, but Twitter moves very quickly. In a matter of seconds your stream can fill up with new Tweets and look like this.
Once someone clicks on that, all of the old Tweets get pushed to the bottom. On the bright side, Twitter has been experimenting with some new features like “while you were away” which can help your Tweets stop going unnoticed.
One thing that both Facebook and Twitter have both shifted toward is video, which is great for social video marketing. But the way video is handled on each network is different. Short clips work best on Twitter. A while back Twitter purchased Vine and integrated it into the platform so Vines show up right inside your Tweet.
Just gonna leave this here.. https://t.co/judIHdNCHa
— Funny Vines (@FunnyVines) September 5, 2015
Twitter also purchased Periscope which lets you live stream video. That adds an entirely new element for social media marketers.
Facebook has taken a different approach to video. In some ways, it isn’t even competing with Twitter as much as it is with YouTube. Facebook’s native video uploading has been a huge hit. In fact, it gets more reach than any other type of content on Facebook.
Understanding how people use each platform can really help you get a feel for what type of content to post on Facebook and what to Tweet.
For time sensitive content, Twitter is going to be the clear choice. But if you’re trying to push traffic to your website for a new product or service you’re offering, then Facebook videos could be a better option.
Facebook vs. Twitter: Running Campaigns
Facebook and Twitter both make it easy to create and track campaigns. Whether you want to run paid ads or just track your non-paid campaigns, each site makes it fairly simple.
Both Facebook Ads and Twitter Ads will give you a wealth of information on your paid campaigns. Facebook’s platform is the leader in social media advertising because it allows you to target your ads better than any other site. The Twitter Ads feature is still growing and shaping, but Twitter is doing some creative things to make it easier to reach your audience and get them to take action.
One of the challenges for Twitter marketing in the past was lead generation. But thanks to Twitter Cards (specifically the lead generation card), companies can gather emails and start generating leads easier than ever. This also makes it easier to track your ROI from Twitter Ads and see the stats for each campaign.
For non-paid advertising campaigns, you’ll want to use a social media management tool like Sprout Social. It will make it easy to see what kind of engagement your Facebook posts and Tweets get. A good idea is to post a few messages to both Facebook and Twitter and see which one gets more engagement. That’ll help you get a clearer picture of which platform is giving you the best results.
In the end, most brands end up using a combination of both Twitter and Facebook because they work very well together. Some companies get more engagement and a better ROI from Twitter, while others see better results with Facebook. Test out both, measure your results and find a healthy balance between the two.
What’s your take on the Facebook vs. Twitter debate? Let us know in the comments.
so basically Twitter doesn't have as much users and the other demo's of the age cohorts are much lower. I am going to focus on one, that being Facebook. Thanks for the info.
Great article, thanks for the information. One of the best comparisons of Twitter vs. Facebook I have seen. Both have their benefits, it boils down to building an effective social media strategy and than execute consistently and flawlessly.
I think Facebook and Twitter stats need some clarification. I assume the percentages represent % of overall population vs. % of Facebook users.
In other words, 66% of all men use Facebook and 77% of all women use Facebook, as opposed to 66% of Facebook users are men and 77% are women.
I'm certainly no math whiz but the statistics for Facebook don't seem to add up - how can 66% of users be male and 77% be female? The rest of the numbers don't add up either - sure I'm missing something ...
Both are important depends on various factors. Both are sides of the same coin and we can't ignore any one.
@pankajzone agreed! Thanks for reading!