New Facebook Timeline for Brands: 6 Reasons Small Businesses Should Use Twitter Instead

Much has been written about this whole Facebook Timeline for Brands ordeal, but how does this affect social media marketing as a whole? Many small businesses have historically (you know, like since 2006) relied heavily on Facebook to push content, run promotions, and keep fans apprised of recent happenings. Why? Because it was “free” and offered businesses the chance to reach people as they went about their daily stalking business on Facebook. With Facebook Premium sure to be flooding feeds with paid advertisements and the new Timeline design limiting the type of promotions that marketers can run and how they run them, many small business marketers, in particular, will need to rethink their social strategy.

With that being said, I’ll touch briefly on some of the new features Facebook Timeline for Brands does extend to marketers that attempt to make up for the loss of the reveal tabs/fan gates that were long used for calls to action. Among these new features:

  • Cover Photo: More visual (Like a landing page). The problem here is that you are limited in the type of language that you can include. Calls to action such as “Like us” or “Share with your friends” CANNOT be used. No URLs can be included.

  • Message A Brand Page: The new Facebook Timeline allows brand pages to message Facebook users. This can be useful for contacting winners or reaching out to fans individually.
  • Pin a Post: Page managers can pin a post to the top of their page for up to 7 days. This is obviously Facebook’s attempt at making up for the loss of the landing page by showing visitors content that the marketers want them to see first. Nice of them, but it doesn’t really have the same effect or capabilities.

Despite these little olive branches, Facebook is severely limiting the scope and reach of small businesses using social media to market. So, why do I think more small businesses will and should flock to Twitter (and other platforms) to run social promotions? Here is my short list:

6 Reasons Twitter Will Become the Promotional Playground For Small Businesses

1. Twitter Will Let Your Promotion Go Viral

In May of 2011, Facebook implemented guidelines for promotions which forced marketers to use third party applications for contests, sweepstakes, or other promotions. These rules were  irksome to marketers (and many marketers just decided to ignore them), but this was the turning point that set the stage for Facebook Timeline for Brands and Facebook Premium. Marketers could no longer require users to use Facebook features (write, share, post, comment, tag themselves in, etc) to enter a promotion, tell users that they’d be automatically entered if they liked a page, or contact Facebook users via message.

With the introduction of these rules, Facebook was doing their best to prevent marketers’ promotions from readily showing up in organic feeds. Despite the fact that this severely limited the viral nature of marketers’ content (And was just generally annoying), third party applications helped fill this void by offering fangates and other nifty features that helped spread content across organic feeds. The new Facebook Timeline for Brands design constrains these third party apps that were traditionally used to run promotions and further demands marketers pay attention to their rules.

Twitter, on the other hand, doesn’t have strict rules or regulations regarding promotions. In fact, they seem to want to ignore this element of Twitter all together because you won’t find a help section on promotions. Instead, you’ll find best practices guidelines which touch on general information for establishing a business presence on Twitter. The raw design of Twitter allows for marketers to easily pull hashtag or mention information using social media software to successfully track social campaigns (much of this basic software is free). Want something to go viral? Twitter > Facebook.

2. Twitter Allows For Marketers To Have More Control Over Who Sees Their Message

The introduction of Facebook EdgeRank at last year’s F8 went unnoticed by many, but if you’re a marketer, you probably got the message loud and clear. Facebook introduced a formula for determining which content will show up in a user’s feed. The three basic components to the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm are Affinity, weight, and time decay. I won’t go into too much detail, but certain interactions on Facebook carry more weight and certain types of content secure more visibility in feeds than others.

The EdgeRank formula significantly altered the way in which content was displayed and lessened the chances that an individual would see a Facebook Business Page post in their feed unless that individual or their friends interacted with that business page on a regular basis (For more on the specifics of EdgeRank, read this piece.). For a user, this might be either useful or frustrating depending on the type of person you are (Do you want to see new things or the same stuff from the same people?). To a marketer, it limits the potential reach of your message.

Twitter, on the other hand, is a what you see is what you get kind of establishment. There is no magic algorithm to determine which content you see and which slips between the cracks. Twitter assumes that if you’re following a business, that you want to see their content. On the same note, with so much information being pushed out, making tweets stand out from the crowd can be a challenge. Despite this obstacle, if done right, marketers have more control over who sees their messages on Twitter than on Facebook. You can schedule variations of tweets to appear upwards of 4 times a day at times when your audience is more likely to see them. Twitter doesn’t attempt to tell people which content it thinks is relevant to them based on behavior; Instead, it allows users to choose what they see and when.

3. Twitter Won’t Force Marketers to Spend The Big Bucks

If you want to take advantage of Facebook Premium and have your updates distributed across users’ feeds, Business Insider reported that it will cost at least $25,000 per promotion. If small business marketers had $25k to spend on social promotions, they wouldn’t be small businesses. Hopefully Facebook will see that their new advertising policies are alienating small businesses, but until then, running a promotion on Facebook without the cheap (and often free) fan gates and third party applications becomes unattractive and in some ways pointless.

Twitter, on the other hand, doesn’t force you to shell out the big dollars to have an impact. Although they offer paid advertising in the form of promoted tweets, accounts, and trends, the previous points I mentioned illustrate how you can easily run a social campaign on Twitter without using these paid channels.

4. People On Twitter Are Looking For Content

Facebook is a social networking platform in which users go to share their personal stories, photos, and content and to in turn, see the content from and interact with the people in their social networks. Where Facebook users turn inward to their established social networks for content, Twitter users tend to look outward for information. In fact, Twitter doesn’t claim to be a social network at all:

“Twitter facilitates social networking, but it’s not a social networking website. In fact, Twitter works quite differently from social networks: when you accept friend requests on social networks, it usually means you appear in that person’s network and they appear in yours. Following on Twitter is different, because instead of indicating a mutual relationship, following is a one-way action that means you want to receive information, in the form of tweets, from someone. Twitter allows people to opt-in to (or opt-out of) receiving a person’s updates without requiring mutual following.”

When users are actively looking for content from outside sources, marketers’ messages will be better received than on a platform where people are aimlessly clicking in search of pictures of their neighbors’ new baby or judging their ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s Likes (Ew! Nickelback. Really?).

5. There Are People On Twitter

In these examples, I have focused on the major differences between Facebook and Twitter. One of the managing partners brought up a good point, “Well, what about Google+?” To which I responded, “What about it?” Although Google+ doesn’t have the stringent regulations Facebook now has, my opinion is that A) Ultimately Google’s goals with Google+ are focused on advertising and B) From a basic user standpoint, Google+ is ghost town. My Google+ “stream” is more of a shallow puddle than a stream of information.

I’m not saying that Google+ doesn’t possess the basic hardware for marketers to leverage. It does indeed have some of the similar attractive features (maybe even more) than Twitter does for marketing. But the difference is, there are already people on Twitter. The numbers are in for now and Twitter gets over 600 million visitors a month. Google+ claims it has 90 million registered users, but the number of those users that actually visit the platform after registering is far fewer, as mentioned in the recent WSJ article that dubbed Google+ a “virtual ghost town”.

6. Twitter Doesn’t Call For As Many Visual Elements

Many people might be mystified why this could possibly be a good thing. “Isn’t the web favoring more visuals? Don’t you know anything about Pinterest?” Yes, yes, but bear with me. Most small business marketers are challenged with squeezing a whole lemonade stand out of a lone lemon and simply do not have the resources to create professional visual elements for multiple outlets. One of the factors that made social platforms so attractive for marketing was the pre-packaged interface. Visual elements were nice touches, but users were already accustomed to the look and feel so marketers did not need to add much into the mix to run a successful campaign. Many might say that the new Cover Photo and tab policies might actually be advantageous for the small business, but visual elements will actually become even more prominent with the new tabs being featured below the Cover Photo.

Twitter, on the other hand, calls for the bare minimum visually, making it less expensive and cumbersome to run promotions. Marketers can rely more on the actual business domain for further visual elements if necessary.

That’s All She Wrote (For Now)

So, the next logical question would be, “Well, what about the other social platforms? What about the rookie Pinterest who is doing all that unicorn pinning magic?” Using Pinterest for promotions is a great idea (I encourage small businesses to take advantage of Pinterest in this blog post), especially if you have content that is highly visual. However, at this point, seeing the ROI on Pinterest is more difficult than on the more seasoned Twitter. There isn’t any analytic software (yet) that makes it easy to pull basic insights. Although you can track repins and comments, it is more challenging to see all this information in one place and to determine whether or not a campaign was a hit or miss. Also, marketers will be hard-pressed to manage a campaign on Pinterest, again, due to this lack of software and analytic information. Moving forward, I’m sure we’ll see software emerge to make the logistics of running promotions on Pinterest easier.

If you’re a small business that never leveraged Facebook for promotions, but instead, mostly used it to keep fans and interested parties apprised of your recent news and updates, then keep on keeping on- but know that using Facebook in lieu of a newsletter or blog doesn’t have the same benefits it used to and that you are only reaching on average about 16% of your “Likes” when you post.

Twitter may indeed skip merrily down the same path as Facebook in the near future (Some brands have Twitter Brand Pages already and we can assume more will come), but in the interim, Twitter has all the features and tools necessary to provide small businesses an alternative social realm in which to market (if they already aren’t doing it) more effectively.  The danger? Twitter could become even more overrun by marketers than it already is. We will see how this all unfolds. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below. Like this? Retweet!

One Comment

Anton Koekemoer

Great – Great post for any small business to read before making the choice of going “facebook” rather than “Twitter” . Twitter is a much better option as I tend to agree , especially if you are in a large city or a large competitive market.

Great post once again.

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