Twitter or Facebook: What Messages Belong Where?

Written by James GunterMarch 17, 2011

One of the fantastic things about social networking is that it is still evolving. But it’s not evolving because the social media sites themselves are trying to change in any way, but rather because users behavior is changing and adapting to these new systems. In the social networking landscape, it is not the networks that drive innovation; it is the users who drive the network toward change. As such, these social communities are all slightly different and they’ve been adapting to their core users in ways that create unique sets of norms and social rules. For example, behavior considered normal on Twitter may not be acceptable on Facebook and vice versa.

So, if you’re thinking of jumping into the social media marketing fray, you need to understand how the etiquette of these systems differs in order to better use them as effective marketing tools. And that difference is not in how the tools are used but, rather, in understanding and effectively managing the expectations of your Facebook audience versus your Twitter audience.

Twitter is a Stream

First let’s take a look at the Twitter audience. Your Twitter audience is generally going to be more highly engaged than the general public. Twitter users, in general, are the type of people who want to know what is going on in the world and within their specific area of interest on an ongoing basis. These are the people who want to be the first to know something is happening, and they want to be the ones to tell their friends about it. Although Twitter is a “social” networking site and has many social tools, it is also a giant stream of information, where anyone who has a specific interest in just about anything, can follow their passion. And Twitter’s 140-character limit also forces those bits of information to be short and succinct. As such, there is not a lot of philosophical discussion on Twitter. Rather, there is a near constant stream of little bits of information. This is what your Twitter audience expects when it comes to a brand or company who has started to tweet.

Twitter Messaging: Share and Share Alike

Because the parameters of Twitter don’t allow for long personal messages, much of Twitter is filled with retweets and link sharing. That is not to say that you can’t share original material on Twitter, but that a lot of Twitter messaging consists of sharing information from other sources—in fact, this is encouraged. If you like a tweet or a link that has been shared by someone you follow, the best way to show your appreciation is to retweet it. Likewise, your value on Twitter is, in part, gauged on the amount of quality information you share on a regular basis from other Twitter users and from around the internet.

And because Twitter is a stream, users expect you to tweet on a regular basis—perhaps several times a day. In addition, tweeting the same link multiple times is perfectly acceptable. Because tweets are such short bursts of information, if a follower has already seen your link they can just skip over it, no problem. This is not to say you should tweet the same link every hour for a week. That’s annoying. But retweeting it a handful of times over a few days is neither unacceptable nor frowned upon.

Facebook is a Pool

If Twitter is a fast-flowing stream of information where people get in and out quickly, Facebook is more of a lazy pool. Instead of careening down the stream grabbing bits of information, Facebook is place where people come to hang out in their free time and have fun with their friends. Your Facebook audience is going to be much more like a slice of the general public. Facebook users tend to be less interested in what is happening in the news and more concerned about what is happening within their circle of friends. Although recent studies have shown that the vast majority of Facebook users are willing to follow a brand, the focus of Facebook tends to be more social and less commercial than Twitter. And this is important to keep in mind when crafting messaging to broadcast over social networking channels and interacting with users.

Facebook Messaging: Brands on the Sidelines

Just like any other social space where people want to hang out with their friends, users don’t want brands interjecting in the conversation. Being a brand on Facebook is like being that annoying guy at a dinner party who keeps steering the conversation back to how Amway has changed his life no matter how irrelevant his comments are to the current topic. There are two ways to get around this problem. First, provide valuable so users don’t feel like they’re being marketed to in their social space. And, second, respect user’s personal space. Let’s take a look at these separately.

Users will follow your brand on Facebook because they are interested in it and want to know more. But just because someone wants to know more about your brand doesn’t mean they want advertising. What they want is insider information and engagement. If your brand is a product or service, users will probably want to know about special deals and discounts, or they may want to know more about the manufacturing process or how your company works. What they don’t want is for you to tell them they should buy something twice a day. On the same note, keep in mind that users are following your brand, not you personally. That means they want to hear about news and updates from the brand, but they don’t care about what YOU think about it or what YOU are doing with it.

Remember, Facebook is users’ personal space and you have to respect that. Whereas, on Twitter, it is perfectly acceptable to share the same link multiple times throughout the day, on Facebook that’s considered annoying. Share a link once and be done with it, and if you are going to share a status update, make sure that update adds value to your followers experience. In other words, ask them what they want to see in your next product launch; don’t tell them that you just had a meeting with the marketing department on new advertising slogans.

Add Value

Really, that’s what social media marketing comes down to no matter what network you’re using—adding value to your followers’ experience. Through Twitter that may mean sharing relevant links that keep followers in the know. On Facebook that may mean following up on user comments and asking opinions. But whatever you do, make sure that the messaging you use helps followers feel like they are getting great information from your brand that will keep them engaged.

Social login powered by Gigya