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The crucial differences between Facebook and Twitter

The crucial differences between Facebook and Twitter Lauren Friedman

The differences between a tweet and a Facebook status update are much broader than Twitter's 140-character limit. Veteran community managers know that the content, context, and approach to these platforms are very different, and hinge upon an important distinction. On Facebook, the goal is user interaction, while on Twitter, it's all about brand evangelism, with retweets acting as the most valuable currency.

While marketing goals for disparate social media platforms are similar -- mainly, engaging users to build brand visibility and loyalty -- the tactics brands cultivate to accomplish these goals should be specifically tailored to the platform. Bottom line: Don't treat Facebook as if it were Twitter, and vice versa. Before getting into the tactics you should use to get the most out of each social network, note that beyond interfaces and use cases, one of the biggest differences between Facebook and Twitter is sheer adoption. Facebook's population is more than 500 million, while Twitter's hovers around 190 million. When trying to understand how to communicate with customers on each platform, be mindful of the fact that Facebook has been much more broadly adopted.

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Here are some tactics to leverage your community and make the most of each platform:

Conversation vs. interaction
Both Twitter and Facebook enable brands to learn about what people are saying, but the difference between the two platforms is in the direction of the message.

On Facebook, a community manager can see direct reactions to specific pieces of content. Many retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands already use Facebook to gather information and reactions to new products. When The Body Shop recently brought back its Cranberry Joy fragrance for the holiday season, the status update alerting its fans of this new product received many comments with a variety of feedback regarding the scent. To these brands, Facebook can serve as a platform for customer-guided research and development. Additionally, Facebook offers brands the opportunity to engage in a variety of ways beyond conversation: From custom applications to the ability to moderate a page, brands have access to more tools on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the instant satisfaction of Twitter offers brands immediate insight into what customers are doing and thinking. Reactions on Twitter are often even less edited than on Facebook (where users frequently don't intend for the brand to see or respond to their tweets). The actions a user can take on tweets (@replies and retweets) are extraordinarily simple and easy to perform.

Social media currency
The end goal of posting Facebook status updates is to encourage interactions and engagement on that update and to push creative content using a variety of media that users can share with their friends. Facebook conversations offer marketers a unique opportunity to engage in market research and gain feedback about programs, products, and campaigns directly from users.

Twitter measurement lies in the retweet, increasing awareness and leading to more quality followers. Conversations are not as easily traceable on Twitter, yet it's still important for them to take place. Twitter allows users to track conversations happening around a brand, even when these conversations aren't directed at the brand. Reaching out to brand talkers who engage in these conversations boosts awareness and provides a positive experience. Interacting with users, mutually following, @replying, and retweeting content that relates to the brand are essential to building a community on Twitter.

Facebook's currency is, ultimately, the Like button. The more Likes a brand page has, the more engagement and potential reach it can obtain. By creating relevant content, users can then "like" the individual update, comment, and share it with their friends to increase the virility of each post.

A social customer service experience
Using Facebook and Twitter as a customer service and satisfaction line is becoming de-facto for brand marketers. Many people turn to these social networks to express their distaste or negative experience with a brand or company. If used appropriately, these networks offer brands an opportunity to turn a bad experience into a good experience and reach out -- on a personal level -- to a customer who might not have expected a response. Both Facebook and Twitter provide an opportunity for immediate and on-the-level recovery or crisis management that other channels simply can't offer.

Some brands have shown a level of customer service excellence that all should strive for. Brand pages such as Toyota Prius have implemented specific customer service based tab applications in order to control and consolidate feedback in an easy-to-read manner. Other brand pages consistently reply to questions and comments that arise on their Facebook walls. Responding and interacting with comments posted on the brand page shows that the brand is listening and values the experiences of their customers.

As a customer service channel, Twitter offers the ability to monitor and extinguish potential problems as quickly as they arise. Twitter often gives customers an unexpected opportunity to change their minds about a particular brand experience, despite the inability to delete other users' tweets. Virgin Airlines uses Twitter to alert passengers of flight delays and to handle any subsequent customer service issues. The network is used as an outlet to handle customer communications immediately and personally. Through Twitter, a brand can resolve problems, portray itself in a positive light, and correct any negative feedback it receives with user-desired immediacy.

Social media and the enterprise
Moderation is an iterative process with no set end date. It requires dedicated resources to handle the immediacy of some requests, and brands that put forth that effort inevitably see positive results. As more companies are infusing social into more enterprise functions, they're investing in tools that help streamline their efforts across different networks. A good brand, community manager, or a team of community managers will use these tools to help an organization appropriately target posts and messages to best leverage each platform's strengths.

Understanding the respective strengths and weaknesses between Twitter and Facebook, and how consumers are using these social media tools, gives brands the ability to interact, engage, and gain loyal advocates. Knowledge of the medium is the first step toward engaging and building communities in the social space.

Lauren Friedman is a community genius at Context Optional

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Lauren Friedman is the head of Global Social Business Enablement at Adobe.  She's a digital and social marketing authority, with extensive experience working with Fortune 500 brands to integrate digital and social media into their overarching...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Lauren Friedman

2011, January 20


I don't think there's much of a difference in social media etiquette regardless of location. Thank you for your comment!


It's always a good idea to ask your community -- they are the drivers of success on each platform and they use each differently as well! Thanks for your comment!

Commenter: Ashley Edwards

2011, January 20

As a Community Manager for the company I work for, AND someone who's actively involved in social media on a personal level, I appreciate your piece here. There is most definitely a distinct difference between the uses and functions of Facebook and Twitter.

Oddly enough, I read another similar article recently and decided to go to our Community to see what they thought. As of yet we've not heard any feedback. I'll be interested in getting their perspective though.

Commenter: Piche Jean

2011, January 07

Hi Lauren,

As a University marketing teacher I appreciate your article. Do you think their is a diffrence in the use of the Social Média by the company and the people from Canada & USA.
My felling is that you guys in US are more web social than the canadian?

Thanks your article is appreciated any way and I wish an very good 2011!