A month ago in the middle of #TVnext I was struck with a powerful, though perhaps common, question: Which is better for social engagement in media, Facebook or Twitter? I realized the panelists were talking about Twitter far more than Facebook, but when it came time for questions I chickened out on asking, assuming they’d give the super obvious answer of “it depends on what you’re doing.” (Looking back, I should’ve freaking asked. Next time I will.)
That conclusion didn’t satisfy me, so I put the question to my friends. I’ve summarized some responses below, but keep in mind only 2% of my friends are on Twitter, while 90% of them troll Facebook like it’s their day job. (And doesn’t that fact say something about the face-off?)
But the kicker came last night as I was doing dishes. My boyfriend (who has zero interest in social media), was watching a TV commercial in the living room when he suddenly yelled:
“Is it just me, or is Twitter getting more popular than Facebook?”
I stopped mid-scrub.
“That’s EXACTLY what I’m talking about!”
So I’ll spill it up front: For mainstream media, I believe Twitter is a WAY more powerful marketing/advertising/social engagement tool than Facebook. Why? Twitter’s front door is wide open, welcome mat in place. Facebook has deadbolts and a No Trespassing sign.
Here’s what my friends said:
“I think that when you’re trying to sell an item? Facebook. When you’re trying to sell a brand / identity? Probably a combination.”
“A big issue with Twitter from a corporate standpoint is its labor-intensive nature…it moves very very quickly.”
“Facebook is fantastic for sharing more in-depth updates (especially media based i.e., video and photo), but currently I think there is less ambition for media organizations to have the back and forth dialogue with audience members.”
“Twitter is the greatest online tool for interactive engagement in my opinion, whereas Facebook is more of a sharing platform for organizations.”
“Twitter is perfect for breaking news.”
“It seems that Twitter is great for promotion, because you can send a “I’m on David Letterman tonight” message or “listen to this radio station, in’t on in 5 minutes” message and your fans get the info quickly, since most everyone has a phone app for Twitter. Plus, it’s short messages, so you have to be able to sell something in 140 characters.”
“I’d have to say Facebook. On Facebook, you can say “I’m at the bar, I’ll buy a round for anyone who shows up.”
Twitter is more “someone just bought me a beer!”
In the End…
Does it come down to promotion vs. sharing? But can’t sharing be a type of promotion, and vice versa? And what about this article, that shows just how much more prevalent Facebook is compared to Twitter? Does that mean Facebook automatically wins because more people are on it? I don’t like that explanation.
After this little experiment, I still stand by my original thesis: Twitter will be more valuable to mainstream media when it comes to observing, measuring, and affecting audience engagement purely because it’s way more open.
But maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?