Social Media consultant Tom Raftery recently wrote a blog post about the power of Twitter versus Facebook as communications tools. Tom had recently used both tools to aid his search for a new job. Ultimately, he found the Twitter community responded to his to his messages much more frequently than his attempt on Facebook and he sites that the power of Twitter is in the network.
I couldn’t agree with Tom any more. From my own personal experiences, I have found Twitter to be a much more valuable networking tool than Facebook. For the most part, I think it comes down to the nature of the two beasts.
Facebook is Passive
When it comes to reaching our to your social graph for help or answers to questions, Facebook leans towards a very “traditional marketing” approach in the way that it lets you communicate. You can either directly contact someone with your message or post something in your status or profile. When you go down that path, your only hope is that someone is paying attention and sees it in between games Scrabulous games and warding off Vampire bites.
As echoed many times throughout the course of 2007, business professionals are adopting the use of Facebook at a rapid pace. That still doesn’t change the mostly passive way it operates as a communications tool. For the business professional, Facebook is a fun, great less formal alternative to LinkedIn. It allows you to build an online calling card of sorts and it provides the ability to keep your contacts up to date on the latest happenings in your life through photos and video. True conversation can be found through discussion threads within Facebook groups. Finding groups that both match your interests – and that are consistently active – can be a hit or miss situation.
Twitter is Active
On the other hand, Twitter does one thing and it does it well. It’s all about the conversation and there is always someone there to who will see your message. From the outside looking in, it’s often hard for people to understand the value that Twitter brings to the table. Its value is directly related to the quality of the people that you choose to follow. My Twitter network has grown substantially faster than my friends on Facebook. In fact, a good portion of my friends on Facebook are folks who I originally connected with on Twitter.
Facebook and Twitter are also fairly different when it comes to demographics. In October of 2007, Forrester’s Charlene Li presented that 34% of Facebook’s user base is comprised of business professionals. Twitter didn’t start as a student targeted platform and, from personal observation, I would bet that professional use dominates the platform by 90% or more. Younger generations are already deeply engrained in SMS messaging and standard instant messaging. This difference keeps the conversation on a generally more “mature” and honest level. Experienced Twitter users are always ready and willing to lend a helping hand, no matter if it’s with raising money for a friend in need, or voting on the best commercials during the Superbowl.
Who wins the battle?
In the end, I don’t think either Facebook or Twitter can be deemed better than the other. They both server different purposes and provide different mechanisms for communicating with your peers or target audiences. Facebook is feature-rich and offers passive and indirect communication tools. Twitter focuses specifically on the conversation and enables more immediate and direct communication with your all of your “Followers.”
Based on these reasons, it definitely pays off to put some thought into the tools you use when communicating with your social graph. Choosing the correct tool based on the your specific needs will give you the most “bang for your buck” – even when the tools are free!
What do you think? If you have a Twitter or Facebook success story, we’d love to hear about it!