Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Twitter is not the new facebook, deal with it!

We are in the midst of a new marketing obsession, people calling twitter the new facebook or holding twitter up against Google as a search tool. I've read blogs, seen tweets and found articles pitching twitter against other major online services. I don't get it. Why do we always have to evaluate one website in the context of another? This week's blog looks at why we should embrace the differences and not try to force comparisons.

There is an excellent thread started by Patricio Robles on Econsultancy.com (Fail Whale: Twitter as a search engine) debating whether twitter will ever replace Google as a search tool. The general concensus is that it won't, even can't. However, there are some really good arguments about how the two tools can work in unison to deliver a more sophisticated search program.

The point that got my attention was how twitter supports search in a brand monitoring way better than Google can. Take the example of Dell, who do a lot of direct selling & engagement work via there multiple twitter accounts. Dell uses twitter search tools to monitor brand conversation, such that it can respond to comments made about Dell, in real time. This is not the traditional search of Google but it enables a holistic view of brand communication.  

Tools such as Twitterfall facilitate search monitoring. I use Twitterfall to monitor talk about my twitter profile, my name and the company I work for, e-inbusiness. Through this I've picked up on people commenting about my blog and responded. I've seen people retweet content relating to e-inbusiness. I've been able to engage with individuals more closely than I ever could using Google search. 

And that is the point - the two are different. I love Google, the behemoth; Google set out its stall to dominate search and provides the best customer tool out there. If I want to research information and find websites, I will use Google 100% of the time. I can't remember the last time I looked at Yahoo or MSN. Yet Google does not enable me to nurture a personal social network and monitor my brand traffic as effectively as twitter. I can't use Google to send an important article link to my band of merry followers. However, I can use my knowledge of SEO to make sure the article I posted on the e-inbusiness website is accessible to millions of people via natural search. If I use the two in tandem, I get a powerful search & communication program.

And what about facebook, wonderful facebook, digital media's darling? facebook is definitely not the same as twitter. Again, there are similarities - facebook also enables networking and sharing of content. However, it is more commercial. facebook encourages content to be shared on profile pages, twitter via 140 character updates. facebook is a strongly visual tool where photos, videos, widgets, apps etc are prominent. Twitter uses apps to faciliate individual users but not to populate profiles. You would not use facebook to monitor who is talking about you but you would use it to share conversation across groups of friends. facebook is what Friends Reunited never became, a global platform for friends & colleagues to connect, catch up and then move on. facebook also has its advertising platform; it is likely that twitter will follow suit to monetise its audience, I hope not.

As a brand, would I benefit from one or the other, or both? Only your customers know the answer. The right question is who in my target audience uses these social networking tools and how can I use them to increase my engagement? If 2% of your audience is on twitter and 5% on facebook, wouldn't you like to have great engagement with 7% of your customer base and get them to spread the word virally? You have to use them differently.

My view is that facebook, Google & twitter are different tools, part of the overall communication mix and whilst there maybe some similarities, they serve different purposes. Don't have a face off, determine how you can use all of them to benefit both your website and your customers, then put the effort into making them work. 

What do you think? Do you agree or do you think i'm wide of the mark. Join the debate, social media debating is the new black.......


Kate Horstead said...

I agree - the comparisons you refer to are baffling and a bit pointless. I think the problem is that people always expect the next thing to build on the last, and for each invention to be more advanced, when often they should focus on the fact that a variation on something can complement it without necessarily replacing it. Facebook is not the new Twitter – Facebook is primarily a social tool, where people occasionally create groups that promote their business interests. Twitter is for the most part a business tool which business people can use to get to know each other on a social level. The process of getting what you want to say into 140 characters is a challenge but is undoubtedly an effective way to catch people’s attention and keep to the point.

As far as I am aware, Twitter was never meant to be a search engine or to compete with Google – again, they are separate things. While Google directs the customer to the exact piece of information they are looking for, it does this in a purely functional and impersonal way, while on Twitter they are presented with interesting but random snippets of information that they might never have set out to find but are often useful nevertheless. Also, they can build up a network of followers in their field so that the information they receive is relevant and is accompanied by human interaction, which makes it more like an eye-opening conversation in a pub or a seminar where they have the opportunity to offer your opinion. Google, on the other hand, is more like a satisfying lecture or lesson where you receive the information but do not get the chance to comment on it.

As a brand, you can benefit from all three, and reach your customer in different but equally important ways. With Facebook and Twitter I wouldn’t bombard people with too much business speak, but use them as a channel through which your customers can get to know the human side of your business, and they will slowly come to know your business that way. Of course, Google is also important from a visibility point of view, and will drive more customers to you before they know get to know you. You are right to use both search engines and social media to promote your brand – it isn’t a case of one or the other.

James Gurd said...

Hi Kate
Thanks for the comment, what you say makes perfect sense. I think the world is obsessed with comparison, we have to make something new like something old. Just look at music, everyone sounds like the Beatles apparently.......