If There Could Only Be One: Twitter or Facebook?

August 27, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Social Media

Pop 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! :) ]

If 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.

Why?

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.

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.

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