Twitter and Facebook Compete: Do Users Win?

Facebook and Twitter have long vied for the attention of users, and it is questionable whether consumers always win when the two social media giants compete. On the one hand, each example of social media one-up-manship between social networking monoliths has enhanced the way in which users interact with one another, as well as share news about their favorite products, events and celebrities. On the other hand, as each outfit dog piles services in an effort to best its competitor(s), it is becoming increasingly evident that this entire bid for user loyalty has been a means to an end. Namely, that end is subscriber purchases and ad revenue.

Social networks gain a following by becoming a vehicle to self-expression. One of the ways that social networking enhances individual sense of self-expression is to create a link between products, events and celebrity figures that a subscriber holds in high esteem and create an indirect link between that service and individuals. For example, Tom likes Kraft macaroni, the movie Kill Bill and the actor Jennifer Garner, and he can show people that he likes these things, as well as keep up with news and promotions associated with these things, through social media.

Facebook released a new version of its popular social networking app in July aimed specifically at the celebrity demographic. This app will encourage famous or celebrity account holders to engage in more contact with everyday Facebook users, rivaling Twitter’s popular hash tag based trending news that unites social media influencers with the public. Called Facebook Mentions, the application is only available for iOS devices, and is currently exclusive to the U.S. market. This service will both imitate and improve upon services that Twitter already provides for high-profile subscribers.

Mentions offer superstar users a more filterable view of notifications. Once vetted, celebrities will be able to see the highlights of their fan activity, track media mentions, and monitor comments and news via other social media influencers. Celebrities can also host Q&A sessions with fans or media, in real-time, thanks to this new app from Facebook.

The service has the potential to bridge the gap between celebrity and pedestrian Facebookers, reinvigorating the notion that Facebook is the social network. Facebook, with over 1.28 billion users, according to a report, is seeing a decline in its youngest account holders. Twitter, in contrast, boasts a predominantly youth-based demographic that wants to stay in the loop about what the most “it” celebrities are up to right now. Facebook Mentions aims to change all of that.

As sites such as Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest compete for the fleeting attention of mobile audiences, some users do not realize that what is at stake is not only selfies and updates. According to marketing research, mobile audiences account for at least 30 percent of the traffic to e-commerce powerhouses Amazon and eBay, with 15 percent of sales happening on mobile devices. As a result, eBay and Amazon have both invested in interactive and engaging marketing campaigns with Facebook, which researchers say remains the most intimate and “trusted” of the leading social networking sites. While some users may resent the subversive undertones of advertisers and services invading the “privacy” of their online profiles, others appreciate the convenience and ease of shopping that such sharing provides.


Both social networking behemoths, Twitter and Facebook, are now turning their attention to retail opportunities today. Facebook and Twitter each reign supreme in the area of connecting mobile users with services, and in 2014 each brand is hoping to cash in on the estimated $300 billion industry that is the e-commerce marketplace. Each of the mobile platforms have begun marketing in-app purchases and “buy now” options as a way for small businesses  to “reduce friction” in online transactions. Facebook and Twitter sales aim to cut out the middleman, and if they are successfully adopted, could permanently revolutionize online purchasing. Users will soon be able to take advantage of Twitter sales codes and coupons to purchase tickets, clothing, and accessories, donate to charitable causes and so much more, all without exiting his or her news feed. Likewise, Facebook users can purchase items on Facebook from local businesses, and can save purchase information and preferences, not unlike eBay or Amazon. By connecting consumers with trusted advertisers and retailers, major social networking platforms stand poised to earn serious revenue if these services take off.

These are only the most recent rivaling services that highlight how Facebook and Twitter continue to siphon winning ideas from one another, competing for the most time and attention from registered users. Facebook’s option to become a “fan” of the service mirrors the way that Twitter users follow one another for news and updates. Vanity URLs came to Facebook after Twitter introduced them, and over time, Facebook has adopted Twitter’s practice of suggesting that users follow celebrities or trending topics.

Ever since Facebook failed to acquire Twitter, offering $500 million in Facebook stock to purchase the service, the two services have seemed to compete, with users ultimately winning the spoils of the ever-richer social media dialogue that has been created thanks to the two brands over the past collective decade. These changes are poised to further integrate social media and mobile convenience into the lives of consumers everywhere. Given the proven addictive nature of online sharing and social media, the success of these campaigns could be unpredictably successful for businesses, and may have fewer positive results for the impulsive consumer. With Facebook preparing to roll out more in-app purchase options, as well as a feature to organize links and content in Facebook called Save, the social media giants are positioning themselves to continue to up the ante in the bid for users time, attention and money.

By Mariah Beckman

Venture Beat

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