Doesn’t it seem like there’s another social network to learn how to use every few months? When Facebook first came out, it was for college students only, but now it seems like every business has a page. Then, Twitter joined the scene. Next came LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest. And let’s not forget all of the social networks that came and went, like MySpace and Friendster.
If you’re a small business owner, all of these social networks can be incredibly helpful for your brand. However, they can also be incredibly confusing. If you use every social network the exact same way, you’re doing it wrong. Today, let’s look at two of the biggest social networks, Facebook and Twitter. What’s the difference and how should you use each one. Or do you even need to use both of these social networks? It’s time for a Facebook vs. Twitter showdown!
Want an overview of all social networks? Check out this social network engagement course on Udemy!
The Basics: What are Facebook and Twitter?
Let’s start by talking about the very basics, in case you’ve never used Facebook or Twitter.
On Facebook, uses create profiles, which serve as the home for information about them include where they work, what movies and music they like, and who they’re dating or married to. Some people fill out lots of information, such as favorite quotes, where they’ve traveled, and more. Others fill out less information, opting instead to keep this data private. Each user can decide what they want to show publicly and what they want to show only to friends. Users can also create groups of friends and show certain information only to those groups.
Once you’ve filled out your profile, you can begin adding “updates” which show up in a stream on your Facebook profile, kind of like a blog. These can be simple text comments, or you can share links, videos, and pictures. Again, you can decide if you want each update you make to be visible to everyone, just your friends, or just certain groups of friends. Others can “like” updates to show their approval or they can comment on the update with their thoughts.
When you see someone you know on Facebook, you can request to become their friend. Until your request is approved, you’ll simply be following them. Updates from everyone you’re friends with or following will show up on the homepage when you log into Facebook. If you’re following, you’ll only see updates that user chose to make public.
Facebook users have the option of starting a page. Pages are what you’ll use for you business. This is like a profile, but instead of a single person, the page will be for a business, website, group, etc., and all updates are public. Instead of “friending” a page, you’ll simply “like” it. This will allow that page’s updates to appear in your homepage stream.
You won’t see every update. Facebook uses an algorithm that many people dislike, which shows you updates from friends and pages that it things you will like best, based on your past activity.
Udemy has a number of great courses available for learning more about Facebook. Check out Grow Your Business with Facebook Pages for up-to-date training on creating the best page possible, Facebook Rockstar for an introduction to using this platform, and Facebook for Small Business for a course specifically for small business owners who want to make the most of our their time online.
On Twitter, you make a profile just like on Facebook, but you are not able to include nearly as much information. Twitter is all about being brief. Your profile can include a link, a short blurb, and your location, but not much else. However, on Twitter, you do have the opportunity to customize your profile with different colors and backgrounds, which is not an option on Facebook.
Updates on Twitter show up on your profile in a stream, just like on Facebook, but in this case, you’re limited to 140 characters. While on Facebook, you sent a friend request and hope that someone wants to become your mutual friend (i.e. you follow one another), on Twitter, you simple click the follow button and they may or may not follow you back. There’s no difference between a personal, individual on Twitter and a small business or brand on Twitter. All profiles are the same.
You only have two privacy options for your updates on Twitter. First, you can set to private, which means that you have to approve someone before they can read your updates. Most people, however, have their profiles open, which mean everything you say is public to the whole world.
On Twitter, you will see the entire stream of anyone you’ve followed, in real time as they are tweeting. Unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn’t use an algorithm to determine what it thinks you want to see. However, this means that for many people, the stream moves REALLY quickly, especially because you can follow thousands of people. One way to solve this problem, to ensure that you’re not missing the updates from the people who really matter to you, is to create lists. Lists can be public or private. You might, for example, create a private list of “top customers” for your business, to make sure you always see and reply to their tweets.
This Twitter for Beginners course is great for even more in-depth information about Twitter, or check out this Twitter marketing course, which shows you how to combine Twitter and SEO for awesome results.
Facebook vs. Twitter: Hashtags
Hashtags originated on Twitter, but are now used on Facebook as well. In both cases, they can be awesome to use for your business, but they’re used differently on these two platforms. Hashtags are the pound symbol (#) followed by a word or phrase.
Let’s start by talking about Twitter, since this was the birthplace of the hashtag.
On Twitter, hashtags can be used to search for people talking about a specific topic. Using a hashtag in your tweet makes the work clickable, so you can see the entire stream of people tweeting, even people you aren’t following. Sometimes, hashtags are about a specific event, like people using the hashtag #Sochi2014 to talk about the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Other times, the hashtag is used during a specific time that everyone designates to speak about a specific topic, like the weekly Sunday night #blogchat, when bloggers use that hashtag to talk about a specific topic of the week (this is called a “Twitter chat” or “Twitter party”). Still other times, hashtags are simply used when speaking about a specific topic at any time, year-round. For example, people typically use #amwriting to share updates about their latest writing projects or the writer lifestyle, or people use #recipes to share links to their favorite foods.
Hashtags are awesome on Twitter, and can be used by business in several different ways. For example:
- You can use a hashtag to find people tweeting about a topic where you’re an expert, so you can start conversations and find new people to follow.
- You can participate in Twitter chats/parties by using a hashtag, again, connecting with people who are interested in your industry so you find new people to follow who are possibly interested in following you too.
- You can tweet with hashtags in order to be found more easily by other people. If you share a link about a certain topic, see if people are using related hashtags.
- Hashtags can be funny! Sometimes people use long, made-up hashtags to convey a sense of humor. For example, a friend recently tweeted about being cold and she used the hashtag #sendhotchocolate. No one else is using this hashtag; she just did it to be funny. So, this can be a way for you to show a little personality.
Now, Facebook uses hashtags too, but the use on this platform the culture is completely different. Facebook hashtags are still a relatively new addition, and while you will see people using them in the funny way listed above, people rarely click on hashtags to search for other speaking about the same topic. On Twitter, it’s all about finding new, interesting people and companies, but Facebook is a more intimate setting, so people aren’t typically seeking out strangers to have conversations with. Typically, it does more harm than good for you to use hashtags on Facebook, since it takes away from links that you actually do want people to click.
There is one way that hashtags are helpful on Facebook for brands, and this use is valid on Twitter as well: contest tracking. You might require people to use a certain hashtag when sharing on Facebook and Twitter in order to enter a contest. Using a hashtag allows you to use tools to more easily track entries. Just be careful that you’re compliant with each platforms’ rules on running contests if this is something you plan to do.
What to Share
Once you have your profiles on Facebook and Twitter set up…now what? One of the most common questions I get asked as a consultant is this: What should I share?
Facebook and Twitter are not the same, so don’t use shortcuts to post the same updates on each. I do recommend automation tools to help you schedule posts, but not to replicate posts from one platform to another.
On Facebook, share:
- Longer, more thought-out posts that encourage a conversation
- Images that people will want to like and share
- Questions that require a response
- Fill-in-the-blank updates (example: “The best part about working from home is ______.”)
- Blog posts, especially those with great images
- News about your company
On Twitter, share:
- Quick updates
- Links you’ve curated that are interesting in your industry
- Responses to other people talking about similar topics
- Fun facts about your company or industry
- Answers to questions people are asking
In other words, on Facebook, it’s more about staying on your own page and interacting with people there, often in a very visual way, about your company and your community. On Twitter, it’s more about going out and jumping into conversations and sharing information that helps you solidify yourself as an expert in your industry, even if the links are not to your own site.
Pay to Play
Both Twitter and Facebook offer paid options, which allow you to reach more people if you’re willing to shell out some dough. However, on Twitter, this is not used as readily as it is on Facebook. Twitter allows you to pay for sponsorship of a hashtag, which basically means that is someone looks at the stream for a certain hashtag, you’ll be at the top, listed as a sponsor.
On Facebook, you can pay for sidebar ads, ads within the stream, and sponsored posts (though this option will be going away soon). However, paying for ads on Facebook is a bit controversial. Remember, not everyone who likes your page on Facebook will see your updates in their stream, since the algorithm only shows a percentage. If someone likes your page organically, they are probably a true fan and more likely to interact (like, comment, and share your posts). The more interaction you get, the more people who will see you posts.
However, if you pay for sponsorship, the likes you get might not be from people who are quiet as gung-ho about your brand. So, they’re less likely to like, comment, and share, which means they’re actually hurting you in the long run! Fewer people will see your posts.
That doesn’t mean that you should never pay for ads on Facebook. It just means that you have to be careful. More likes isn’t always a good thing! Make sure your ads are incredibly indicative of the content you’ll find on your page, and consider other alternatives to getting fans before you start paying.
Which Should I Use?
In the Facebook vs. Twitter battle, there is no clear winner. I encourage you to test both so you can see which is best for your small business. Typically, if you have a more visual industry, like food or fashion, Facebook is the way to go, which if you work in a more abstract business, like consulting, Twitter is the way to go. But there’s no reason you can’t use both.
Want to learn even more about Facebook and Twitter? This Online Marketing Crash Course is a great place to start, as it talks more about social media and other ways to find customers through digital marketing.