Twitter Inc. is at a critical juncture now that the popular Facebook Inc. has redesigned its services to, well, be a lot more like Twitter, according to analysts.
Facebook announced late yesterday that its public profiles have been updated to allow users to share their information with an unlimited number of friends.
The updates, according to Facebook, can “be brief messages” similar to Tweets or longer ones that include photos and videos. The new Facebook setup will also enable businesses, organizations or even celebrities to blast out information to customers, members or fans.
Many of the Facebook updates put the popular social network in direct competition with Twitter, the micro-blogging site whose user base includes companies such as Dell Inc. and celebrities like Lance Armstrong.
News of the new competition between the firms comes the same week that executives from both acknowledged that Facebook last fall had made a failed bid to buy Twitter.
“Twitter is in a precarious position,” said John Byrne, a senior analyst at Technology Business Research Inc. “It looks like their shelf life may be limited.”
He said Twitter is one-dimensional, and people are getting the concept. “Then a company like Facebook comes along with a considerable user base, and they can implement the same kind of mechanism. And with that, they may be able to out-Tweet Twitter, or that’s what they’re hoping for.”
Facebook announced in January that it had just topped 150 million active users.
Caroline Dangson, an analyst at market research firm IDC, said it’s clear that Facebook was trying to buy Twitter to get its hands on the microblogging platform. Since that didn’t work out, the company is simply building its own and will now compete directly with Twitter.
“Are they direct competitors? Before these changes [at Facebook], I would have said no,” said Dangson.
“By adding this now, though, Facebook is taking Twitter on directly. They realize if they have these real-time streams, then people will spend more time on Facebook. If people can do it all on Facebook, they just might decide to do so. Suddenly, they don’t have to go to Twitter.”
She added that the companies that are already finding that Twitter benefits their businesses likely won’t give up that formula.
But companies that are just starting to jump onto the social networking bandwagon may opt to get multiple capabilities from the same source.
Byrne noted that it appears that many social networking users run both Facebook and Twitter. Now that may be unnecessary. Such situations, Byrne said, could prompt Twitter execs to rethink their hesitation to sell the business.
In an e-mail to Computerworld earlier this week, Stone said Facebook wants to remain independent. “We’re big fans of [Facebook CEO] Mark [Zuckerberg] and his team, but we feel very strongly that Twitter is just getting started. We’re planning on building a strong, independent Twitter Inc.,” he said.
And while Byrne noted that Twitter is at the cutting edge with its microblogging idea, it’s going to take a lot of work to stay there. Just ask Yahoo Inc., which was overshadowed by Google Inc. Or ask MySpace.com Inc., which has been eclipsed by Facebook.
“They need to come up with something else, or they need to evolve Tweeting and develop a model for revenue,” he added. “I would say it’s a critical time right now.”
Both Twitter and Facebook offer capabilities that make them great recruitment tools for companies in these tough times.
For instance, industry experts emphasize the usefulness of a brand-related Twitter profile.
Use Twitter to “follow key players in your industry, who are interested in your company’s news,” Jessica Meher, marketing and communications manager at Nashua, NH-based Akken Inc. that offers hosted software focused on the staffing and recruiting market.
She urges businesses to start Tweeting about themselves and slowly aggregate followers interested in what their company has to say, Meher said.
“The only successful way to use Twitter is to allow your profile to build up over time – you have to be an active Tweeter and update your profile continuously.”
By sharing company news – such as internal promotions, new products or industry best practices – you will naturally make both passive and active candidates aware of reasons why they might like to work at your firm, said Meher.
“Use Twitter to market your brand to potential candidates.” Brand is communicated through the messages you broadcast, Meher said.
Many Twitterers are actively engaged in the micro-blogging forum and aren’t afraid to ‘retweet’ or ‘RT’ an important message on their own page – if they feel their followers may benefit.
The only drawback to the Twitter strategy is it is a long process, Meher said. You will need to find the time to develop your online brand, identify followers and understand how to integrate Twitter in your social media marketing mix.
The process can be overwhelming and placing a skilled person in charge of the company’s Twitter account can be a useful way to manage messages and relationships with followers, Meher said.
Twitter allows recruiters to literally eavesdrop on potential candidates and find out if they swear, are hard working and care about the industry.
Job posting tweets
The flip side to actively searching for candidates is to also tweet about job opportunities at your company, which will have many users finding you through keyword searches.
There are more than 124 million keyword job searches on major search engine sites, each day, noted Doug Berg, co-founder of Jobs2Web, a company dedicated to improving recruiting strategies through the Internet.
Unless your company is extremely SEO-savvy, chances are job hunters aren’t finding your post.
Twitter is a smaller arena for job hunters to search through and a free tool for companies to take advantage of.
“We’ve had thousands of people visit our Web site from links on Twitter,” Berg said.
And many find it more appealing to respond to a Twitter job posting, rather than a job board because it allows users to associate the posting with a real face and get to know the recruiter.
“Twitter puts the humanity back into recruiting,” he said.
One outfit that does this well is Mayo Clinic, a Web site featuring health information and research. The Clinic uses SEO techniques to help users find them.
For instance, they have an individual page for nurse jobs, which helps nursing candidates find their pages through a Twitter search.
There are currently scores of recruiters already on Twitter, Berg said, so it is important to add a categorization, such as “finance” or “IT” to your profile name or bio to make sure the right types of job-seekers are finding your profile and job postings.
But Berg warns against posting only job information. Businesses need to develop their online identity by posting company information, new projects, or employee promotions so candidates get a holistic view of the firm.
And he encourages companies to get creative with Twitter. “Why not post a link to a YouTube video with an office tour or employee testimonial”
Recruiting on Facebook
Facebook matches Twitter’s popularity as a recruitment tool among Canadian organizations.
For instance, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) last year launched a Facebook page meant to appeal to a younger demographic.
The Facebook page includes officer profiles and lists the requirements for becoming one. There’s also a three-minute YouTube video on the page, depicting police dramatizations, and accompanied by a powerful score.
A VPD spokesperson called the VPD’s Facebook page the “most comprehensive and involved Facebook Web site for any police department.”
While some have had difficulty locating the Facebook page, the links to both pages are available through vancouver.ca/police.