When webmasters ask for advise in driving traffic to their websites, one of the first pieces of advice to come is “use social media.” It’s free, it’s chock full of interested users and the platforms are built to cater to marketers, with systems like Twitter’s website cards and Facebook’s Atlas PPC network.
The next question a webmaster might ask would be “which platform?” The standard answer is “any platform your users are on.” Are your users Facebook fans? Find them there and establish a presence. Do they like microblogging on Twitter? Encourage them to follow you and retweet your messages. Do they love artistic images? Find them on Pinterest and show them what you’ve got.
There can be no doubt that the big two social networks are Facebook and Twitter. Google+ has a large audience, yes, but it’s a very specialized audience and the platform is arguably losing steam. Since Google killed Authorship, there has been less reason to set up shop on that platform unless you’re a local business in need of a presence in the carousel.
So you have the choice; Facebook or Twitter? Honestly, you should have a presence on both, regardless of what your goals. You can use them slightly differently, complimentarily, for marketing benefit.
Facebook excels at having a huge number of people and sending traffic to your website. Twitter is great for customer service, time-sensitive announcements and mobile microblogging. Facebook in turn takes precedence when you want an app. It seems like a toss up.
According to Facebook’s newsroom company info profile, the site has 829 million daily active users. They have 654 million active users on mobile devices. However, only 18.3% of those users are in North America.
Contrast this with Twitter’s company profile. Twitter has a mere 271 million monthly active users – monthly, compared to Facebook’s daily. The platform records 500 million tweets sent every day, however, which is a huge volume for a small number of people. Twitter claims 22% of its userbase is in the United States. Additionally, Twitter’s Vine platform includes 40 million users.
Judging by sheer numbers alone, Facebook is the clear winner. This is supported by data from Parse.ly, a URL referring service used by many large sites like Reuters and Mashable. According to their report, Facebook refers nearly 74 million URLs per month through their service. Twitter, meanwhile, is at less than half of that number, just under 30 million.
Of course, this is data from one single source. It’s entirely possible that Parse.ly has a disproportionate number of Facebook users compared to Twitter users. This would make sense, particularly since Twitter users tend to use Twitter’s own URL shortener, rather than a third party. Then again, the numbers do match up. Facebook, by sheer volume of users, would beat out Twitter any day.
There’s one major caveat to all of this. You can look at all of the data in the world, but none of it will help you put your plans into action.
First, there’s no reason you should only use one platform. Facebook and Twitter compliment each other, they do not compete. Unless someone has a gun to your head and will pull the trigger if you register a second profile, you should have a presence on both sites.
Second, there’s the audience factor. If your audience is made up of teens who have forsaken Facebook for greener pastures, but who still use Twitter avidly via mobile, you may have a very different experience. Your audience would be primarily found on Twitter, and your Facebook presence would be minimal. This would trump the numbers found in statistics from URL referrers and company profiles alike. What matters is where you can connect with your users, not where statistics say you might find them.
Third, Facebook is by far the better platform for PPC advertising. Twitter marketing is limited, even though their analytics are robust. If you have any marketing budget whatsoever to spend on PPC, you’re almost definitely going to need to invest in Facebook.
Facebook PPC is, in fact, poised to overtake Google’s AdWords system. Google has long had the advantage, due to the fact that Facebook was limited to, well, Facebook itself. With the release of Atlas, however, Facebook has the potential to expand to websites all across the Internet, using a unified Facebook system to track people, rather than PC cookies.
Regardless of which profile you choose – hint, it should be both – you need to learn to use the platform appropriately. Here are some general guidelines.
Additionally, you need to post frequently, but not so frequently that you may be considered a spammer. For Facebook, this typically means 1-3 posts per day, focused around peak hours. For Twitter, it can mean as often as 6-10 tweets or retweets per day, spread throughout the day. You can easily use a program like Buffer to schedule your posts so they don’t clump up.
Success on either social network – or both – depends on how you use it. Be willing to analyze your progress with Insights and Analytics. Figure out what works best for your particular audience and pursue that technique until you come across something better. With a little patience, a little luck and a lot of study, you can pull traffic out of even the smallest available audience. Of course if you really want a tiny audience, check out one of the newer social networks, like Ello. You probably won’t find many fans there, but you never know; maybe being an early adopter will work out great for you.
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