Facebook and Twitter have both become integral parts of many web users digital lives, whether they are accessed on the best ultrabook or the humble office PC, or even on smartphones and tablets.
Consequently, both social media sites are also vital in a business context, offering companies the opportunity to reach millions of potential customers. Each however has particular strengths and weaknesses, and therefore needs to be used differently to help generate profits.
A straight numbers comparison between Facebook and Twitter has obvious flaws, the chief one being that, while the two are competing for users attention, they are not direct rivals offering the same service. Most notably, Twitter allows users and brands to instantly self-publish to the world, while Facebook is mostly intended to be an extension of real life social networks, and posts are therefore generally limited to friends or fans.
Nevertheless, it is useful to have a quick look at a few statistics that give a broad overview of the two social media services.
First, the big one, number of users. Well, in October 2012, Facebook announced that it now had over one billion users registered and using the site monthly, and over 600 million active daily users. In comparison, Twitter has approximately 500 million registered users, but only 140 million active users, according to data published on The Social Skinny.
Facebook is then the clear behemoth of the two, and the definite market leader in the social media space. It therefore offers a compelling opportunity to advertisers, who can not only access over a billion potential customers, but also target their ads in ways that simply werent possible previously, based on the information in users Facebook profiles.
If you want to reach all 18-25 year olds living in Los Angeles, you can. Likewise, if you want to target all female Glee fans living in the US, you can do that too. In fact, any ads reach can be customised according to location, gender, age, and interests to ensure that you are only contacting potential customers.
If Facebook is the market leader then, Twitter is a niche, but it is has some of the typical advantages of a niche, including a certain cache of exclusivity and greater level of commitment to the medium from its smaller user base. And then theres its biggest advantage, Twitter is a real-time communication medium in ways that Facebook simply isnt and cannot be.
As noted in an article on CNBC, the Super Bowl blackout illustrated this perfectly, the event having an instant impact on Twitter and generating 231,500 tweets. Advertisers reacted just as quickly, with the first promoted tweet appearing in Super Bowl blackout searches within four minutes of the event.
There are also indications that Twitter is simply better suited to corporate use than Facebook perhaps because while people follow their friends on Facebook, they generally follow companies and famous individuals on Twitter, ensuring they expect and perhaps even hope for tweets regarding special offers, sales, discounts and new product launches, information that on Facebook would seem like an intrusion into what is essentially a personal sphere of communication.
This view is backed up by data from the Digital Surgeons website that shows that while 51 percent of Facebook brand followers will purchase that specific brand, for Twitter, this figure is 67 percent, indicating a significantly greater level of customer engagement.
Facebook then is great for what might be termed background advertising, the sort of advertising that we now accept as the constant background to our digital lives and that can be meaningful if done in an interesting and thought provoking way. The ability to target users is vital for many advertisers, and the sites enormous reach is undeniable.
For those companies who want to make an instant impact though, Twitter may be the way to go.