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Unique Twitter, Facebook strategies key to maximizing social media

Recently, my wife has been threatening to quit Facebook.  She says she’s tired of a news feed that has less and less information she is interested in (not to mention the inane comments from some “friends” from a lifetime ago).

Then I spoke, via Skype, with a journalism class at the University of Georgia where several students said they were getting Facebook fatigue. Several said they prefer Twitter for its breaking news and faster-paced delivery.

Has Facebook gotten too big, or worse, too boring? Will Google+, with its circles and hangouts, do to Facebook what Facebook did to MySpace?

More interestingly, is Twitter the answer to your Facebook woes?

The answer to the last question, I believe, is no. And it’s too soon to guess about the answers to the other questions.

As Facebook and Twitter try to be a little more like each other, they each have unique strengths which are critical as you try and develop a social media strategy.

While Facebook is still the dominant and most-used social media platform, 2011 was Twitter’s breakout year.

According to one recent study, Twitter garnered more media coverage than any other social media platform last year.

From a mediabistro.com article (which cites a Highbeam Research study):  “Twitter completely dominated 2011 – on a month-by-month basis it consistently edged out Facebook as the most talked about social platform, with Facebook winning only two months in the year. Both of these channels ruled media coverage of social networking in 2011, with all the other ‘major’ social networks hardly being mentioned at all.”

Why? “The continued influx of celebrities, plus Twitter’s growing stature as the place for breaking news, as well as being an on-the-spot source of news itself, effectively guarantees an onslaught of column inches,” Shea Bennett wrote on mediabistro.com.

Before you jump off the Facebook express for the Twitter train, remember it’s not an either/or proposition.

They each bring something important to the social media party.

The advantages of Twitter:

  • Its real-time nature allows schools and conferences to deliver information to their followers instantly, without relying on newspapers to pick up their stories.
  • The number of loyal consumers following a brand on Twitter rose by six percent from last year.
  • Twitter allowers you to find followers interested in your content (or school or sport), instantly creating an interested audience.

The advantages of Facebook:

  • Facebook provides the best one-stop destination for sharing stories, photos and videos.
  • One-third of consumers claim greater loyalty to a brand if they are “fans” of the company.
  • 80% of social network users admit Facebook is the network they employ the most to connect with businesses.   (Portions adapted from BuySellAds.com and Column Five)

What has been really interesting to watch is how Facebook and Twitter are adding features to make each work like the other.

Facebook has added real-time features, such as its timeline, ability to subscribe to public updates and social readers.

Here is Facebook’s description of the subscribe feature: “You’ve always been subscribed to friends. Now you can hear from journalists, celebrities, political figures and other people too. Click the Subscribe button on someone’s profile to get their public updates in your News Feed.”

Sounds a lot like a Twitter feed on Facebook, doesn’t it?

For its part, Twitter’s latest redesign makes it look more like a Facebook page, with built-in photo galleries, an easier way to follow conversations and their first attempt at creating a “home page.”

One of the challenges of Twitter was the multi-step process needed to attach a photo to a tweet. The new design allows you to do it with one click, just like you can on Facebook.

Despite the attempts at convergence, I would not recommend dumping one social platform exclusively for another for several reasons:

  • Twitter, quite simply, cannot duplicate Facebook’s reach or ability to share with people that know you. All the research indicates a person is more apt to act on something from someone they know. Twitter can let you see what celebrities are saying and doing, but it has yet to really cut through the clutter like Facebook does..
  • Facebook cannot replace Twitter as a breaking news tool; in the sports world, breaking news is the straw that stirs the drink. An inherently mobile – and fast – tool, Twitter’s ability to capture news in real-time is unparalleled. One example: I had to fly out of the Indianapolis airport the day after the Super Bowl. Worried about long wait-times at the security checkpoint, I scoured the internet for information. Nothing. I jumped on Twitter and in less than 60 seconds could see what everyone was tweeting about the Indianapolis airport. No wait, no worries. Try that on Facebook.
  • Twitter cannot truly capture the emotion of sharing content and opinions the way a Facebook page can. At the NCAA, our second most popular sports page is NCAAWrestling, with more than 150,000 likes. It’s a destination for college wrestling fans, where they can talk with each other. Twitter can’t do that.

What do you think? Where are Facebook and Twitter headed?

Next week, I’ll delve into what I think is one new, major opportunity for Twitter in the coming year.

Ronnie Ramos is the managing director of digital communications for the NCAA. Before that, he spent 25 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, splitting his time between news and sports at five newspapers, including The Miami Herald and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter.

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