In social advertising, where is your money better spent—on Twitter, or on Facebook?
Facebook allows for some useful targeting, with a variety of expressed and implied interests available as options for targeting its users, and it has worked hard to improve its ad platform since its IPO last year.
Still, although 85% of marketers polled at the beginning of 2013 by AdAge said they use Facebook as a marketing tactic, among them just 61.5% said they have used it for advertising. Facebook’s Sponsored Stories ad product gets rave reviews from some, yet less than 30% have given it a shot.
Twitter, on the other hand, offers a variety of “Promoted” products—Tweets, Accounts, and Trends—and worked hard at improving its self-serve platform in the year prior to its broad rollout in April 2013. Yet, again, results are mixed, and it seems Twitter still has a ways to go as an advertising platform.
Twitter Vs. Facebook: Network Reach
Facebook gets an A+ for network reach, with 1.15 billion active users that share 4.75 billion items daily.
Twitter has decent reach, but not nearly as large, with 232 million active users posting 500 million tweets a day.
According to the Wall Street Journal, that’s just not enough of an audience for some advertisers. This much smaller reach is probably why Twitter claims just 13% of social media advertising budgets compared to 57% for Facebook.
Twitter Vs. Facebook: Ad Performance
It’s difficult to make an exact apples-to-apples comparison of ad performance on Twitter versus Facebook, because Twitter doesn’t release all the same metrics. But here’s what we do know:
According to AdWeek, “engagement rates” for Twitter ads can be as high as 1-3%, much higher than Facebook’s average CTR of 0.119%. The benefit for Twitter is that its ads are in-stream, rather than pushed off to the side. However, average CPM (cost per impression) is significantly higher on Twitter, at up to $3.50 compared to an average CPM of $0.59 on Facebook, and Twitter does not release stats on ROI (109% for Facebook).
One exact comparison is revenue per visitor (RPV): $0.93 for Facebook compared to $0.44 for Twitter. Facebook’s RPV is double that of Twitter’s, but note that Twitter’s RPV is up 300% year over year, while Facebook’s RPV has only improved by 39% YoY. (Facebook’s first click revenue per visitor is also double that of Twitter: $1.63 and $0.82, respectively.) Further, share of social referred visits is down for Facebook (at 62%, down 20% YoY), while Twitter’s share of social visits is just 6.8%, but growing fast, up 258% year over year).
Some further considerations:
- Twitter claims that Promoted Trends provide a 22% lift in brand conversion, 30% lift in positive mentions and 32% lift in retweets. These promoted trends can cost more than $200,000 a day, 33% more than they cost in 2012.
- Facebook ad marketing performance varies greatly by vertical. For example, average CPC for alcohol brand ads is 45% higher than average. Gaming ads, on the other hand, have 30% higher CTR than average and 40% lower cost per click. (PDF)
- An AdAge survey ranked five online advertising platforms in terms of importance by ROI. Google was the clear winner, followed by Facebook, and then Twitter.
Twitter Vs. Facebook: Mobile Ad Performance
In some ways, Twitter has the advantage here – on smaller mobile screens, it’s even more important for ads to be well-designed and feel organic. Because Twitter ads show up in the timeline instead of off to the side, they’re in a better position to dominate on mobile. Facebook ads, on the other hand, are in the right rail, which doesn’t even exist on the Facebook mobile app. As such, Facebook is failing its mobile advertisers.
Note, also, that Facebook only has one native ad format in the Facebook app, the App Promotion Ad. All Twitter ads show up both on desktop and mobile.
Here’s how the two networks are doing in terms of mobile performance metrics:
While Facebook currently leads in mobile market share, expect big growth from Twitter in this area. By 2015, Twitter is expected to net $1.33 billion in worldwide ad revenue, and more than 60% of that will be from mobile ads.
Twitter Vs. Facebook: Ad Formats
Facebook cut its ad format options in half, in response to requests to simplify the system and eliminate redundancies. Facebook’s ad formats now include:
- App ads
- Domain ads
- Mobile app ads
- Offer ads
- Page-like ads
- Page post link ads
- Page post photo ads
- Page post text ads
- Page post video ads
- Sponsored stories
According to Robert Hof at Forbes, “rather than having to plan their campaign around which of 27 ad formats to use, advertisers instead will make choices on what they want to accomplish–such as amassing fans, getting people to install their app, or driving people to physical stores–and Facebook’s ad system will suggest the right kinds of ads to run.” My take is a little more cynical – in my view Facebook basically admitted that more than half of its ad formats didn’t work. This is generally not a great sign.
Twitter’s ad format offerings are much simpler:
- Promoted tweets
- Promoted accounts
- Promoted trends
My guess is they will introduce more ad options in the next year or so. Historically Twitter is slower to release new features than, say, a Google. (Not that the recent shift to include images in timelines is probably meant to increase ad clicks.)
Infographic: Twitter vs Facebook