Recently there has been a lot of talk about Facebook versus Twitter and which is more valuable to web publishers. If you’re looking for the short answer, IMHO it’s Facebook; but, to understand why, you need to have deeper understanding of how each system works.
One of the key aspects of Twitter’s meteoric rise was a very low barrier to entry: basically all you needed was a working email address. This is also one of Twitter’s drawbacks, making it extremely easy for one person to create and manage more than one Twitter account. If you’ve ever gotten a robo-tweet from an egg account after mentioning the word “iPad”, “iPhone” or the word “dating,” you known what I mean.
The second issue with Twitter lies with how it’s used by the power users and social media experts. The Twitter maven drank the kook-aid about being Malcom Gladwell style connectors and mavens. Their misguided belief that their style of curation and expertise was some how unique–enough to be a value add–shows how truly delusional they are. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “connector” and “maven”, I strongly suggest reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book the Tipping Point. It contains essential lessons every marketer should know.
Next we need to look at Facebook. While the barrier to entry is still low (requiring just an email), there is an element of social proof built into it. It’s not hard to get 50 people to friend/follow you on Twitter. It’s a lot harder to get 50 people to be your friend on Facebook. There will always be friend whores in Facebook, but there are a lot less of them (percentage wise) compared to Twitter.
Another key difference is that a large part of the Twitter population, especially the darlings of the media, is nothing more than a marketer or social media guru looking for a retweet or click. They are not looking for a quality lead or conversion. Social media for many people is still about traffic and eyeballs, not sales and conversions. If you’re trying to build a follower base, these type of users are practically useless. They may retweet your message, but only to other digital con men. They simply are never going to fill out your lead gen form or pull out a credit card. To be honest, when you’re looking for followers who are going to turn into prospects or customers, traditional social media metrics like klout are useless. You should be much more interested in the person with a 12 klout score with 50 friends and followers who’s generally (or genuinely!) interested in your product, service, or area of operation. One person who is interested in what you’re selling is much more valuable than 500 people who will simply retweet your message to 500 other social media parrots.
However, it’s important to note that, like nature, spam will adapt and find a way in. Since Facebook consolidated its social equity into the “like button“, it has become an attractive target for marketers, so much so that it’s even got a name: “like -gate“. Basically the “like” action is being corrupted and incentivized the same way links were on Google. Some companies are even having a bit of fun being irreverent in acknowledging the insincerity of the like action (screen shot credit MarketingPilgrim)
As a marketer, what should you do? Right now Facebook isn’t prepared to deal with the incentivized likes, so it’s in your best interest to take advantage of that before the gap is closed. I’m not saying go out and buy as may likes as you can, I’m saying buy as many qualified likes as you can while it’s still cheap and easy. Remember Facebook traffic and Twitter traffic have different values and should be treated differently and given different priorities and resources within your overall marketing plan.