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To tweet on Twitter or post a status on Facebook?

OK, to be fair, these two things aren’t mutually exclusive, as any social media marketer would tell you. Choosing between Twitter and Facebook (and any other social platform) really depends upon the audience you’re trying to reach, the metrics you’re trying to hit, and the goals you’re trying to achieve.

Still, there’s no denying there’s some long-standing rivalry between Twitter and Facebook, with Twitter executives adamant that we shouldn’t compare the two networks. That makes sense, to a certain extent, as the two platforms are out to achieve different things. Yet this year, they may be overlapping in subtle ways that will affect everyone – and that includes marketers, brands, developers, and their users, according to a story in Fast Company. 

In a long, in-depth analysis of Twitter and Facebook, Fast Company’s J.J. McCorvey and Nicole Laporte looked at how they stacked up against each other – and in most of the measurements that count, it would appear that Facebook is the heavyweight. It has more users, more revenue, more profits, and a larger market cap than Twitter, while Twitter’s main asset seems to be its claim to cool through its ties to big names in entertainment.

Here’s a quick rundown of how the two compare:

  • As mentioned above, both networks are going after the entertainment industry. There’s a lot of money to be made in connecting people to the movies and TV shows they care about. If you tune into most shows today, there’ll typically be a Twitter hashtag provided at the bottom of the screen, encouraging users to discuss show developments as they happen. However, live-tweeting a show typically works a lot better for Twitter, with that social network marking its territory in that space.

By contrast, Facebook performs a lot better with movies. Live-tweeting a movie is awkward, but performing campaigns on Facebook tends to be a good approach for marketers looking to drum up buzz ahead of a movie launch with things like trailer debuts. Still, once one of these companies figures out how to share revenue with movie studios, it could easily dominate the other in this space.

  • Compared with Twitter, Facebook wins on the consumer front. One of Twitter’s greatest strengths is allowing users to follow others for their insights and thoughts, and to provide more access to prominent people. However, it takes a fair bit of time for users to build lists of people to follow, and it’s also difficult to grow their own following. However, Facebook is pretty simple – users just sign up, and the network provides a list of people they might want to send a friend request to, based on where they live and where they went to school.

For Twitter, the big challenge will be to make its service more user-friendly. So far, it’s done that by giving first-time users a checklist of the topics they’re interested in, as well as allowing them to upload their own contacts. That’s not too earth-shattering, but Twitter has also announced it’ll show users tweets that are tailored to their interests. That’s a move that’s generated some controversy among long-time users,  as they argue the power of Twitter is to see all tweets in real-time, giving them news and opinions as raw, unfiltered content. So even as Twitter tries to attract new users, it has to be careful to not alienate its current ones.

  • In mobile, Facebook is ahead of Twitter, but Twitter is making strides. One of the reasons for Facebook’s success in mobile is its relationship with mobile app developers. Thanks to its acquisition of Parse, a mobile app development platform, the company was able to help developers build more than 500,000 apps with its tools, compared to the 65,000 it had before the acquisition. Aside from improving Facebook’s developer relations, some of these apps also help generate advertising for the company.

Twitter has created its own mobile developers’ tool with the goal of getting developers to build and grow apps on its platform. Its platform is called Fabric, and it allows developers to tap into Twitter’s mobile advertising platform to display ads inside their apps. It also them to promote their apps on Twitter’s platform, showing Twitter is making efforts to become both  more developer-friendly, and hence, more mobile-friendly. Still, Twitter needs to do more if it wants to catch up with what Facebook has already achieved.

  • Facebook also has an advantage over Twitter in the development of its messaging platforms. While Facebook already has two messaging platforms in the form of Messenger and its acquisition of WhatsApp, Twitter only has its direct messaging (DM) service. However, Twitter hasn’t done much on the DM front, and it’ll need to expand its features if it wants to draw level with what Facebook has to offer.

In short, Twitter does have some reasons to be a bit behind Facebook. After all, Facebook is roughly two years older, and it’s done a better job of monetizing its offerings to marketers and advertisers. Still, that doesn’t mean we should count Twitter out – in its early stages, Facebook also had to work hard to prove itself to its investors and to its shareholders. Twitter will need to do the same if it wants to compete.

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