Let’s survey the social media landscape: Google Plus? Barely qualifies as a social network. Instagram? Pretty pictures with little real interaction. Pinterest? Is it social to collect pictures of weddings, food and crafts? Tumblr? It’s really just a sharable blogging platform. Foursquare? I’m sorry, did you really say Foursquare? SnapChat? Way too soon to tell.
What does that leave? The same platforms we’ve been talking about for five years now: Facebook and Twitter. They are the Adam and Eve of social media. And, because they’ve been around for so long, we feel like we know them so well that we can take them for granted. But we can’t. In the years since they became marketing tools, they’ve undergone a series of changes, some evolutionary, some revolutionary. Knowing who they used to be isn’t as useful as knowing who they are now, so let’s take a look at the Romulus and Remus of having a reason to stare at your phone.
By The Numbers
- 1.3 billion active monthly profiles (680 million of them access via mobile).
- 48% of all profiles log in every day and spend an average of 18 minutes on it.
- The average user has 130 friends (that’s 169 billion connections) and is connected to 80 pages, groups or events.
- In 2013, it made $6.15 billion in revenue.
- Almost 650 million active users (277 million of them access via mobile).
- 46% of active users use it at least once a day.
- Manages 500 million tweets a day (on average) but once had 143,000 tweets in a single second.
- Average user has 208 followers.
- In 2013, it made $405 million in revenue.
What’s changed recently?
Aside from buying everything in sight (Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus Rift), a lot has changed. Facebook’s biggest problem is that it made $6 billion last year, all of it from ads and sponsored posts. These sponsored posts compete with brands’ non-sponsored posts (organic reach). Between the two, there’s way too much stuff in our news feeds and Facebook is concerned about overload.
To fix this, Facebook is making it so that organic reach only touches about 1% of followers (this means that for all the work and money you put into building a 10,000-strong fan base on Facebook, your posts will only reach 100 of them unless you pay Facebook).
At the same time, Facebook is busy playing with its newsfeed algorithm so that you see fewer “junk” posts like memes and the like. It’s trying to make your feed more valuable, but a cynic might say that the only thing Facebook is doing is trying to make your feed more valuable to Facebook. It even launched Paper, an app of nothing but “useful articles” from your Facebook feed, separate from your Facebook feed.
For the last two years, Facebook saw a huge chunk of its traffic come in through mobile, but couldn’t send them ads effectively. They’ve cracked this problem, so now they can make money off every user no matter what device they use.
In a way, Twitter has been the anti-Facebook. You picked who you followed, you managed the amount of information you saw by following more or less people. If you were a power user, you could make a list of all your favorites and just watch that list to keep from getting overwhelmed.
Twitter was fast, breaking news and sharing links far faster than Facebook. You really only saw one promoted post at a time, and a majority of people use Twitter on devices and clients far removed from the twitter.com web site. It was a very different experience.
That difference limited its growth relative to Facebook. It is much smaller than Facebook, but in some ways its influence is on par with the behemoth: Most world leaders, headline-makers and celebrities are actually on Twitter, whereas their Facebook pages are run by handlers and PR people. Twitter is rawer, more direct and more engaging with no filtering.
Or at least it was. Having gone public has lead Twitter to make all sorts of small moves indicating it wants to make a lot more money for its shareholders. You can upload multiple photos, connect to events, play music and video, show off a product, or even encourage people to install new apps. And now you can tag users profiles in photos. Is it just me, or is this starting to sound like Facebook?
What it means?
While Twitter seems interested in dipping its toe in Facebook’s profitable waters, it has to know that it succeeds because it isn’t Facebook. Facebook has already claimed that space, so Twitter must find its own unique positioning.
Facebook has become the TV of the Internet. It’s a pay-to-play marketing model whose primary value is its incredible reach. In the same way that TV can reach pretty much every human being who might have the currency to buy from you, Facebook can help you reach them, too. A lot of potential customers (1.3 billion) are at stake here; and people get starry-eyed thinking about them all. But unless you have a few billion dollars in your marketing budget, you’ll never reach them all. Facebook is on its way to becoming the Super Bowl commercial of the Internet; it only has value if you can afford it.
Twitter is still the teletype of the Internet. It’s the means by which news and other information spreads. When Ellen did the Oscar selfie, she wasn’t looking for likes, she was fishing for re-tweets. And while Twitter is looking for short-term gains by integrating Facebook-like features, it is that speed of information that makes it valuable as a platform. If you lived in a small town a hundred years ago, the telegraph machine and the newspaper were the only ways news got in and out. Being able to attach your marketing message to that information stream is what made newspapers such a huge industry for so long. And Twitter’s position is to keep doing exactly that.
Twitter’s exit interviews suggest that the two things that drive people to leave it is the inability to filter their twitter feed and the inability to find their friends on it. If Twitter sticks to making it easier and smoother to grow each person’s network, they will be less inclined to leave and Twitter can continue on as the anti-Facebook.
So when you are building your social media marketing plans, don’t make the mistake of lumping Facebook and Twitter together as “the same, roughly.” They are very different mediums with very different use cases and differing marketing models. Keeping them as separate channels is the best way to make them work for you.