Why Twitter followers are worth more than Facebook fans

Social media is a wily beast. Between engagement, click-through, reach, and post frequency, there are a million and one potential factors to consider when planning, executing, and gauging the success of your social media strategy.

Add to that a plethora of different social networks to amp your content, and it can be impossible to know which one to focus your attention on. If you ask any content marketer (and I did) which social network they value the most, they’ll say it depends on anything from the audience being targeted, to the content being shared, to what the goal of the campaign is.

I asked Andrew Hutchinson, Digital Strategy Consultant, and he said that exact thing: “Are Twitter followers more valuable than Facebook fans? Depends on who to. It’s impossible to say one is more valuable than the other. Some people like Facebook more, some like Twitter more — your audience is the only one you need to worry about in this regard.”

I see his point, but I tend to disagree. There has certainly been research on which social network is conducive to which industry, and lots of data about usage and time spent on social media, but nothing seems to accurately compare or logically equate, shot for shot, one social network to another, to answer the question: are Twitter followers more or less valuable than Facebook fans? What’s the likelihood that one type of fan will interact and engage with your content compared to another? Which social network should you really be targeting?

Are Twitter followers more or less valuable than Facebook fans?

I dove deep into the research pool to look for some data to try and make sense of all the disparate info about social media. Lo and behold, I came up with a method to figure out the exchange value between two monolithic social networks: Facebook and Twitter.

The result: one Twitter follower is 1.8* times as engaged as a single Facebook fan.

What does that mean? Let’s break it down.

Say you have 10,000 fans on your Facebook page, and 10,000 followers on Twitter. For every post you publish, there’s an average engagement rate of 0.34 percent on Facebook, and 0.60 percent on Twitter.

This means that for every post you publish on Facebook, you engage roughly 34 people. On Twitter, that number almost doubles at 60 people. So, if you consider the same number of followers on Twitter and Facebook, a single Twitter follower is 1.8 times more likely to engage (like, comment, share, retweet, click-through, etc.) with your content than a single Facebook fan. Problem solved, right? Not exactly.

It’s rare that you have the same number of fans on Facebook as you do followers on Twitter. I surveyed 1,000 social media users through GetApp’s research program GetData, asking where people are more likely to go if they like a brand, product, or are looking for content. 41.2 percent said that they are more likely to go to Facebook to follow a brand or company, while only 10.5 percent are willing to go to Twitter (these numbers don’t come as a surprise considering that Facebook has 1.3 billion monthly active users, while Twitter has a paltry 271 million in comparison). The remaining 47.3 percent prefer not to go online to follow brands, while only 1 percent will choose a different social network.

Using this data, consider that if you have 10,000 people that are interested in your brand:

4,120 of those will go to Facebook, while only 1,005 will go to Twitter.

If you consider the same engagement rate as above (0.34% on Facebook and 0.6% on Twitter), 14 of those 4,120 people will engage with every post on Facebook, while only 6 of the 1005 people will engage with that post on Twitter. Yet, those 1,005 Twitter followers are 1.8 times more likely to engage with a single post, which is the equivalent of 10.8 Facebook fans. Facebook might see more engagement, but Twitter isn’t far behind.

So, if you calculate that you have 4,120 Facebook followers and you want to engage the same number of people on Twitter, post for post, you only need 4120/1.8* followers, which works out to 2,334 Twitter followers.

Of course, none of this is as sound a mathematical formula as E=MC2 because these stats are ever evolving and there’s plenty of other variables to consider, including the content itself, time of post, headline etc., but it is an exercise in how there are ways to gauge (aside from monetary return) the relevance of social media channels for engagement.

The clincher comes when you think about post frequency. This average is per post, and post frequency between Twitter and Facebook differs greatly. Common practice sees companies tweeting 14 times a day on average, while the accepted number of Facebook posts per day is between 2 and 3. If you’re tweeting 14 times a day to your 1,005 followers, you can engage a potential audience of up to 84 people; posting to Facebook three times a day means you’d only reach about 42 people.

So what does this all mean?

Twitter can give you more bang for your engagement buck per post because you have the potential to engage more followers even if you have a smaller community than you do on Facebook. The problem is getting those followers, as people are generally more drawn to Facebook than to Twitter. At the end of the day, however, less Twitter followers will get you further than having less Facebook fans.

Nichole Elizabeth DeMere, SaaS consultant and Customer Success Evangelist, see the value of Twitter followers as brand advocates in a different way: “Twitter’s feed moves more quickly, [and] Twitter updates are more compact. This means that any updates about brands won’t take up as much time or space in other members’ feeds, meaning that these members are less likely to view branded content as an annoyance if they’re uninterested in it.”

Maybe it’s time to start rethinking your social media strategy?

Editor’s note: *1.8 has been rounded up from 60/34= 1.76470588

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Originally published at lab.getapp.com on July 9, 2015.

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