Facebook is putting Twitter in its place

CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking during a news conference at Facebook's headquarters in Palo Alto, California, earlier this year.
REUTERS/Norbert von der Groeben
CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking during a news conference at Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., earlier this year.

The digital world is pretty efficient at arranging its pecking order. And right now, Facebook is the unquestioned king.

With nearly 900 million users worldwide, Facebook reaches more than half of the globe’s Internet users. Collectively, they view more than 1 trillion pages a month. Yes, that’s trillion with a “t.”

Facebook excels at both personal and business applications. With it, you can talk to friends or advertise to customers. According to the web-metrics firm Experian Hitwise, Facebook “is becoming critical to the success of multi-channel marketing.” A British Web analyst recently calculated that each Facebook friend is worth 20 visits a month to the average retailer’s website.

Twitter, on the other hand, has always been the domain of a relatively small but intensely engaged group of users. It counts 160 million users worldwide, but studies have shown that half of all Twitter users have never “tweeted,” and that 10 percent of Twitter users account for about 90 percent of the tweets.

But Twitter generally has been viewed as a great place to find links to interesting content. It’s a place where smart, passionate users spread the word about great content they’ve discovered.

Now a study by Outbrain, a Web analysis company, shows that Facebook is ahead in that game, too.

According to Outbrain, people are five to 10 times as likely to follow content links from Facebook as they are to follow content links from Twitter. That doesn’t surprise me. Given the amount of time people spend on Facebook, and the amount of material posted there, it stands to reason that a user is more likely to follow a link from Facebook to a news article or an entertainment blog than they are to find the same link on Twitter.

Twitter is still unrivaled on the Web as a medium for breaking news. Think of the Twitter feeds that now routinely accompany natural disasters or political uprisings. Sports reporters depend heavily on Twitter to track down rumors and to post their own scoops.

But increasingly, I view Twitter as a service for insiders rather than as a true consumer communication medium. As a marketer, I believe Twitter is valuable in reaching opinion leaders who are actively engaged. For example, editors and reporters of business-to-business trade magazines tend to be active on Twitter, and a tweet with a link to a company news item might reach them very effectively.

Other important Twitter audiences include subject experts as well as the most vocal and passionate consumers — the kind of people who love to let the world know about their latest discoveries.

But Facebook is clearly the largest, best and most versatile medium for reaching the average consumer. Any company or marketer that’s not actively exploring Facebook programs is missing the boat.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 09/19/2011 - 08:20 am.

    “But Facebook is clearly the largest, best and most versatile medium for reaching the average consumer. Any company or marketer that’s not actively exploring Facebook programs is missing the boat.”

    Actually, I think John has missed the boat. I’m one of those “average consumers” and there’s nothing about Facebook or Twitter that’s compelling. I don’t use either, and I’ve not missed out on anything.

    Statistics show that Facebook use is going down, not up. The mere fact that they have a claimed 900 million users worldwide means nothing. That many people oversharing information, on a service that doesn’t respect privacy or give the user much control is nothing to be proud of; quite the contrary.

    Translating users into dollars through marketing is not working for Facebook, which is why they have no revenue to speak of, and no coherent business model to generate revenue. In short, putting money into it would be a huge waste.

  2. Submitted by Patrick Phenow on 09/19/2011 - 01:27 pm.


    Let me speak for the kids. Or anyone who cares about marketing anything in 2011. To say that you are not missing anything from a thing that you don’t use seems a bit disingenuous.

    Even if only half of their users are active, that’s still huge reach, and greater reach than any other social network. Apparently, facebook is worth something in the neighborhood of $80 billion (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/08/idUSN1E7860M120110908). If investors placing a value on a company means nothing to you, how about their 2010 revenue of 2 billion? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook#cite_note-likely-1) Or their 1st half 2011 revenue of 1.6 billion? (again, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/08/idUSN1E7860M120110908). I imagine Goldman Sachs and Digital Sky Technologies and their 1.5 billion dollar investment would take issue with your suggestion that putting money into it would be a huge waste.

    Certainly there are reasons to complain about it (privacy, those obnoxious games), but you can’t discount it. I say this as someone who is not on facebook very often anymore, but facebook is big, facebook is valuable and facebook matters.

  3. Submitted by Paul Rosemeyer on 09/19/2011 - 06:57 pm.

    I have accounts for both networks and find, as a user, that Facebook seems to have the older news and links, too many “look at me!” posts and too many ads and programs I should play or use. I like it as a means to keep up with friends and family but Twitter can do the same thing without the games and marketing.

    If I read the article correctly, then Facebook is an excellent place for companies to try and sell me on their product or service, which is the opposite of what I want from a social service.

    If so, then if I want to sell a product I should definitely engage Facebook.
    But if I want the latest news and updates in the user perspective, I should go straight to Twitter and log in.

    Did I get that right?

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