Facebook versus Twitter

Chances are you are on Facebook and if you are reading this you may also be on Twitter. Some people talk about these two like they are the same thing. Not really. If you examine it beyond the superficial, the individual behind a Facebook profile and a Twitter @ name may be the same, but how each service is used is completely different.

Betty White, during her stint as host of Saturday Night Live, explained the appeal of Facebook as a way to stay in touch with old friends and added a great joke about how a Ouija board, for her, would be more apropos. With that line in her monologue, she explained the exact reason why there are 500 million Facebook users and only a 100 million Twitter users.

Facebook is for old friends. Twitter is for new friends.

Nearly everyone I’ve added to Facebook is someone I personally know or knew in my past. Nearly all my Facebook pictures are from my past. My friends are grouped by stages in my life – high school, college, etc.

Facebook is a scrapbook of my life with tidbits of today. It’s a way for those of us at a certain age to find and interact with the people who were important to us “way back when.” It’s nostalgia. It’s “look who got fat” and “look who lost all his hair.” It’s about looking back.

On the other hand, Twitter is all about the here and now. It is a rushing tidal wave of what people are doing now, right this instant. I don’t group those I follow on Twitter by how I knew or know them, but by shared interests and ideas. While Twitter is good for quick Direct Messages between friends you know in real life, I’ve had more fun finding new voices in the Twitterverse that make me laugh or stimulate a thought or two or direct me to information I would never have found on my own.

Facebook can connect you to your Little League baseball teammate, but Twitter helps you make new friends. Both are social media and each have their place, but they’re like apples and oranges – not really the same at all.

On the other hand, businesses using Facebook and Twitter should be doing nearly the same thing – interacting with customers and potential customers. All the time. Everyday. Branding your product or service and creating the right “voice” will generate interest and get people talking about you to you and to potentially millions more.

There are businesses who Tweet their daily specials everyday, send out coupons to their followers and post links to relevant information. A Facebook business page should be doing the same.

Conversation threads on Twitter and Facebook can answer questions, resolve conflicts and broadcast your expertise. Remember though, Twitter is fluid and viral. I’m sure Southwest Airlines would rather Kevin Smith  not tweeted his whole “too fat to fly” ordeal. With Facebook, brands have tighter control, but immediately deleting anything remotely negative on the Wall, Sarah Palin’s Facebook page comes to mind, showcases you really aren’t interested in conversation or converting.

The way we personally use Facebook and Twitter is quite different – reconnection and new connection. However, the way brands use them is nearly the same – interaction and conversation. Understanding the difference can help propel your social media strategies both professionally and personally.