If There Could Only Be One: Twitter or Facebook?


bomb on a busPop quiz, Hot Shot. There’s a bomb on a bus. You’re a small business and you only have the resources to invest in one social network. Which do you choose: Twitter or Facebook. What do you do? What do you do?

Is it even an option? You flippin’ choose Twitter.

I was reading an interesting article the other day. It was from Entrepreneur Magazine and was written by a man named Mikal Belicove. In the piece entitled The Twitter Class, Mikal aims to give startup owners advice on how they can use social media to elevate their online cred quickly and cheaply. Awesome. However, Mikal’s social network of choice for small businesses? Facebook. Not Twitter. Facebook.

First off, I’m a fan of Facebook. I’ve written at length about the value that can be found in Facebook Fan pages and Facebook Groups. And, z0mg, we all know the ad targeting capabilities on Facebook make it a huge winner for local businesses. However, even with all that combined, I still don’t think you’ll get as much bang for your buck from Facebook as you will from Twitter. Not if you’re a small business.

In his post, Mikal argues that Facebook is the number one social network for small businesses because tweets have a short shelf life. You shouldn’t expect them to “drive substantial traffic” and should, instead, use them for nothing more than company announcements and in-the-moment specials. I’m sorry, but its comments like that which tend to make me (respectfully) wonder how familiar Mikal is with using Twitter as a business tool. [I tried to check out his site to learn more about him and his service offerings but…the site appears to be down. Up and at it now! :) ]

boredIf Mikal isn’t familiar with constructing Twitter campaigns, I’d like to point him to a Twitter case study of a commercial brand so that he can look at the year-long results one company has had using it. And if you don’t believe those results, feel free to see how other brands are using Twitter. The fact is, Twitter does bring a substantial amount of traffic. I know that it’s one of our top referrers and that it remains the top referrers for many, many others, even for those who were once very skeptical of its effectiveness.

If you’re a small business and you only have enough resources to invest in one social network. That network should be Twitter. Hands down. End of story.


Because though Facebook may be able to tout 220 million members, you’re not going to reach those 220 million members on a daily basis. You’re not going to get them to engage with your brand every day or to check out your Facebook Group each week or to leave comments on your Facebook Fan page. Why? Because Facebook allows people to be passive about their love for you. It makes it really easy for them to join your Group, become your Fan and then never again have another interaction with you. Think about it. How many Groups or Fan pages have you been guilted into joining? How involved in those are you?

Facebook is a stale marriage. Twitter is hot affair. I’m sorry, but I’m always choosing the latter.

Call her Twitter.

You can just call her Twitter.

Twitter users are engaged. They’re constantly talking. And even if they’re not talking directly at you, Twitter makes it really easy (and socially acceptable) for you to chime in on their conversation. Especially, when you can help them and solve their problem. You can’t eavesdrop on Facebook. That’s actually the point of the site.

With Twitter, you can engage more deeply with your customers through real communication. There are genuine conversations and relationships being formed through Twitter every day because everything is happening right in front of your eyes in real time. There’s something about the immediacy factor that connects people.

On Twitter, you can be notified expresses frustration with one of your competitors, so that you can be “helpful” and come in and save the day for them. You can subscribe to an RSS feed so that if you’re a mechanic in Troy, NY (I, um, need one, BTW) you can be notified any time sometime located 30 miles from your shop tweets about having car trouble. That’s targeted exposure. You can transform Twitter into your very own customer service queue and answer questions in the moment. You can point people to resources, you can share company news (as Mikal suggests), you can constantly, and subtlety, brand yourself with every tweet you send out.

And above that, small business owners can drive hoards of qualified traffic to their site. And yes, you absolutely can drive LOADS OF TRAFFIC to your Web site using Twitter. If you know how to use it. We’ve done it with Outspoken and we do it every day for our clients.

Earlier this year, Abrams Research asked more than 200 social media leaders which social networking site they would recommend for business owners. And they chose Twitter. They chose Twitter 2 to 1 over Facebook. In fact, Facebook didn’t even come in second. Mikal’s third choice LinkedIn took that honor.

I’m not saying there aren’t great opportunities for businesses on Facebook. But when it comes to ranking them and when it comes to focusing on just one site to make your “home base” as Mikal suggests, that site isn’t Facebook. It’s Twitter.

I write a lot about small businesses. It’s become something I’m fiercely passionate about. And when asked, Twitter will always be the tool I recommend above all others for branding, lead generation and for sales. The ability to connect and engage with your audience is just too strong to make any other site your “number one”. Not that anyone asked my opinion, of course.

Your Comments

  • kenny

    Twitter is a four letter word.

  • Michael D

    Fuckin A Lisa! I was recently going through our referral sheets in the office and counted how many times “twitter” was written since Jan 09. The numbers are good, so good I decided not to share them yet, except among friends. Amazing thing is I’ve tweeted more about meaningless stuff than anything related to my business, likely to the dismay of many a social media guru. :)

  • Lauren (@beebow)

    Great post, Lisa. Couldn’t agree more. Excellent lusty metaphor, too. “Twitter? I hardly know her!”

  • Dylan Spencer

    I agree, Twitter is much more useful. We’ve used both and had more success using Twitter. The appeal of Facebook is that it’s easy to set up, brand, target and grow fans. The problem, like you said, is that it is passive. Depending on the product, Facebook can be pretty useless. Twitter is much more active, you can engage with your customers, develop relationships, etc. It is a much more useful tool for a small businesses. Especially now that they are enabling users to geotag tweets.

  • Joe Hall

    I agree I like twitter more, and oh yeah, I like the third picture in this post too!

  • Sarah Bray

    Completely agree. Twitter brings by far the most traffic to my site. I think the naysayers are the ones who wanted to be a superstar from day one. Or day 30.

    It takes time to build thise relationships. And you have to be willing to look like a loser for a good while before people trust you enough to follow you. The relationship-oriented “there’s no quick way to do this” nature of Twitter turns a lot of people off in the beginning.

    But it’s so worth it! It’s just freaking good business. Gwen Bell turned me on to Twitter back in November, and I will be forever grateful. :)

  • john andrews

    When Google stops under reporting Twitter referred traffic, and lets it appear in GA, I’ll take another look. Until then, I know Twitter rocks for Social Media traffic.

    Facebook? Isn’t that the site for unpopular college students and middle-aged moms? Or maybe I’m confusing it with Plentyofffish….

  • Joe Hall

    Ok, so I am now bored with the sexy pic and have actually given this post some thought.

    I do like twitter more for so many reasons that you have already stated, but i wonder if perhaps they are both useful depending on the business model. It seems that folks that use Facebook are more “normal”. For example my parents are on Facebook, people I went to high school with, and many more people that aren’t a part of the social media craziness. Those are the folks that i want to market a local hamburger joint to. However, if I want to market the latest and greatest widget or app, i won’t even waste my time with Facebook.

    So could it be that brands that depend on the mainstream public should maybe looking into both outlets?

  • Easton Ellsworth

    If there could only be one — man, that’s hard. I think it’s like comparing chainsaw to a jackhammer — it depends on what you need to accomplish. (Me, I’d probably pick a chainsaw regardless of the situation – just looks awesomer.)

    Overall, I use Twitter more than Facebook when promoting businesses, but I am also amazed at how sometimes (like earlier today, in fact) the most random yet marvelous business relationships grow out of Facebook – just seeing that someone said something about something and then pinging them and grabbing them in a live FB chat window, for example.

    I think it’s important to try to use both Facebook and Twitter to promote your business and see what happens, and just be open to the possibilities and be creative.

    Where do you get your images for posts, Lisa !? :)

  • Todd Mintz

    I’m not smart enough to market through the incredible noise that is Facebook…I’ll stick to Twitter.

  • Lisa Barone

    Michael: Um, yeah, right there with you on tweeting meaningless stuff. :) Still, I don’t think it matters so much all the time *what* you’re tweeting. Just that you’re out there, having conversations with folks and forming real connections with them. Because then, when they need a chiropractor in the LA area, they remember they already know someone. And they call you.

    Lauren: :p

    Dylan: Could not agree more! (obviously.)

    Sarah: Exactly. Anyone who says they can’t find the value in Twitter simply hasn’t put the time into trying it. You’re not going to get a mass following off the bat. You need to prove, time and time again, that you’re worth following and that people can trust you. But, just like in life, once that trust is formed, you have a real friendship that you can leverage when needed. I love Twitter’s ability to really connect me with people. And Gwenbell is awesome. :)


    Facebook? Isn’t that the site for unpopular college students and middle-aged moms?

    No, no, that’s the one. :)

    Joe: But how are you going to market that local hamburger place on Facebook? Are you going to create a Facebook ad for it? That’s nice, but how many completely tune out those ads? Are you going to great a Facebook Group or Fan page? Do you really expect people to join that? What’s the value there for them, really?

    However, on Twitter, you can search for people hungry during lunch time or asking for suggestions and you can offer them a discount to come in. You reach people in the moment, when they need what you offer. I’m sorry, but if I’m starving in LA and someone from The Habit reached out and offered me 5 bucks off my order, I am TOTALLY going to The Habit for lunch that day. And I’m going to remember that and probably put them in my weekly regime. You don’t get that on Facebook. Not even close.

  • Kevin Hansen

    Great post! I’m going to spend some effort trying to make twitter work for my photography I think!

  • Jeffrey Rosen

    Can’t say I agree. See

    http://twitter.com/Wolfire vs. http://facebook.com/Overgrowth

    Our Facebook page drives way more traffic and has literally 50x the user engagement.

    I’d love some tips on how to get our Twitter presence equal (or supposedly even way, way surpass) our Facebook presence. :) What am I doing wrong?

  • graywolf

    I’ll agree with you that right now twitter is absolutely a better choice and drives way more traffic and is infinitely sexier.

    Something to remember most affairs are short term and the passion fades quickly, and as sexy as that bad boy is today, he’s probably not the long term relationship kinda guy. He wont be loading the dishwasher or picking up the kids from school five years from now, like fickle early technology adopters he’ll have moved on.

    So ride the twitter wave, but don’t build a business plan on it.

  • Lisa Barone

    Graywolf: I have no illusions of marrying my affair. I’m simply using him for whatever goods and, um, services he can provide in the moment. He’s helping me get off where I need it and I’m thankful for that. Now. Facebook got me hot and bothered 3 years ago. Today, it’s older, pot-bellied and slower. Today, Facebook is my dad.

    Next year (or the year after), another stallion will emerge to fulfill my needs and I’ll adapt to ride it the same way I’m riding Twitter now. That’s the game. No one’s going steady.

  • Lisa Barone

    Jeffrey: That sounds like a whole new blog post for Outspoken. Looking at both accounts now. :)

  • Martin Lindeskog


    Couldn’t FriendFeed be the next ride for you? Nowadays it is powered by the old hack / working horse called Facebook…

  • Joe Hall

    Lisa, this is the fan page for the local bar that I hang out at. They have 565 fans! HOLY CRAP! This is a three mile island not a bustling city! I think their bar can only hold like 75 people before breaking safety codes! So why and how did they get all those fans? They leveraged social media to extend their community on the internet. The folks that joined that fan page did so because they have brand loyalty and want to belong to a community. And because they now have the opportunity to engage that community when they are hung over in the morning they are becoming more entrenched in it and are more likely to return the next night.

    So why can’t that bar replicate that with Twitter? Because their fans aren’t on twitter! Trust me i know a great deal of those drunks and they aren’t using twitter!

  • Nick Gowdy

    “Facebook got me hot and bothered 3 years ago.” […]
    “Today, Facebook is my dad.”

    Uh… that’s gross.

    Back on topic, my business’s Facebook status would never change if it weren’t for Twitter. I feel like I want to do more with Facebook, but it’s so much slower and distant… it feels like a wasted effort relative to making immediate connections on Twitter. It’s becoming more of a resource / feed for our fans than a communications tool.

  • Merry Morud

    aimClear office agrees- Twitter is a fantastic promotion tool for driving traffic. Facebook fan pages and groups are merely a “piece of flair” to post on your profile and engagement is pretty minimal within.

  • Lisa Barone

    Martin: FriendFeed could be next for me. To be honest, it’s perhaps the one site I (purposely) haven’t played with. I imagine once my Twitter affair dies down and I’m looking for something to replace it, I’ll give it a try. Right now, I’m just watching Robert Scoble make babies with it from afar. :)

    Joe: If they’re fans are on Facebook, then sure, it makes total sense for them to be there. I just don’t think that’s the norm. And there are definitely ways they could leverage a similar effort on Twitter…but if that’s not where the bulk of their people are, then stick to Facebook. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? :)

    Nick: I think that’s my main issue with Facebook, as well. It’s the newspaper equivalent to a blog – it’s outdated as soon as you leave the site. And it’s a passive stream. It’s way too easy for people to forget about you. It’s a lot harder to do that on Twitter when you have people talking in your face 24/7.

    Merry: Werd. :)

  • Jowita Blak

    I’ve used both, Twitter and Facebook, for my clients and it seems like it really does depend on the business model, industry and target audience. For some websites Facebook is better and drives enormous amount of high value traffic…traffic that converts. For one of the websites I work on, Facebook is the second highest source of traffic. And yeah I agree FB can be passive, but only if you allow it to be. Like all social media strategies, this one too requires a good amount of time to be invested before you see any results. You have to give a reason to people not only to join the group but also return regularly. It’s good for building niche communities, platforms for people with the same interests, passions to meet and interact. Twitter is better for short tips, hints. For promoting competition or new blog post and also to interact with people but in a slightly different way. And I absolutely love it! Personally I’m not a big fan of Facebook but I think some companies should include it in their marketing strategies. As I said before…I know for fact it works for some of them.
    The other thing is people do indeed tend to jump on things that are new and forget or get bored of using ‘older’ social sites. They like investigating new things, they are curious. But some of those who switched to Twitter, opened their accounts, posted few lines and…yeah didn’t really know what to do next. The statistics show clearly that the amount of Twitter users grow but the amount of time they spend on it is going down…whereas the average amount of time spend on FB continuously grow.
    So yeah..personally Twitter is my fav!
    for business – it depends, usually is good to combine it

  • Martin Lindeskog

    Scobleizer is a real fan of FriendFeed. I sent a small symbolic donation to Louis Gray in order to get The Unofficial Guide for Newbies and Power Users. Description of the PDF:

    “A handy, definitive, how-to guide to one of the fastest-growing
    social networks on the Web today, from one of its earliest and
    more visible users. The eBook will provide “the missing manual”
    to the popular aggregation site, and help give guidance to tips
    and tricks – without boring you senseless.”

    Link to the PDF: http://ff.im/6lLKB

    P.S. What are your experiences with Thesis? “Hello world! by admin on April 6, 2008” My under construction site http://www.EgoSoleTrader.com has the same welcome message, dated April 2, 2009… ;) I don’t want to neglect my site, but I am “stuck” with the “sitemap” at the moment. I want to use a clean cut and simple template in the future.

  • Tiffany Patterson

    Jeffrey – The same thing here. we get way more excitement from facebook than anything else. I think for most of the general public, they still don’t get twitter. I also do not think that twitter makes it easy to use from their new home page. Someone that has no knowledge of how twitter runs is lost. Facebook has been around for awhile and i’ve noticed a larger growth with 40 something’s and beyond and they get facebook. Okay, i know i’m off topic, sorry.

  • Vinny O'Hare

    I am not a fan of facebook at all but I must be there for now. Twitter for me is that hot steamy affair and I hope it last for a while. This post was right on, I still think orkut will be bigger someday after all the big G owns it. Right now I get double the traffic from Orkut then Facebook

  • Yawn Webmaster!

    Wow, that was a load of cr**.

    You’ve fallen right in the to trap of getting sucked into to your own follower and referrer count. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Everyone is so desparate to find meaning in Social Media, the magic formula.

    While I do agree that Social Media is about singling the right ones our for what you want to achieve, to say draw a comparison of Twitter with Facebook leaves me only with these few words of comfort.

    Take another holiday, and this time, don’t take a computer.

  • Chad Richards

    I don’t agree that Facebook is passive. Groups are, yes. But when you make status updates on a Page or post note, import a blog, upload photos, videos, etc….those go on the stream that people see on the home page. We have clients set up on both Facebook and Twitter and so far, we’re seeing significantly more interaction on Facebook than we are Twitter. I know it’s different depending on your business and how you’re using these, but that has been my observation.

  • Caleb Pike


    Using twitter you don’t have to deal with all the apps, friends, and general “fluff” giving you at least 2 times as much time to spend interacting with others and social media.

  • iGoMogul

    For personal use, I have no desire to join Twitter. However, for businesses, I have to say that Twitter does sound useful to build relationships and cater to potential clients both individually and as a group. On the other hand, Facebook seems to be more universally understood by more age groups and is less likely to bog itself down in the minutiae of constant tweeting. The chat feature does give Facebook users the potential to have instant personal contact with others. All of this is a moot point, however, as I’m sure a year from now some new social media site will come along that improves on everything, catering to businesses as much as individuals.


  • Jacob Stoops

    Yeah, Twitter is the sh*t!!! I don’t know why, but my time on site from visitors coming from Twitter is fricken amazing! Facebook’s got nothing on it.