Why the FTSE 100 prefer Twitter to Facebook

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Despite Facebook being the most popular social network on the planet, it seems two thirds of the FTSE 100 prefer Twitter.

Of the top 100 companies in the UK, just 33 have their own Facebook page, compared with the 63 that are tweeting, according to research by Three_D, the social media division of Threepipe Communications.

I can imagine this is for the same reason that I send an average of nine tweets a day, yet only update my Facebook page about once every nine weeks.

Facebook friends reflect your true-life social circle, the people you have actually met and count among your peer group. Twitter “friends” vary from Lady Gaga to Boris Johnson.

Facebook is far more personal. Your Likes reflect your personality, so despite the fact that you may put condoms and tampons in your weekly shopping basket, it is unlikely you will choose to Like them on Facebook – you’d get a ribbing.

Pilar Barrio, head of social at MPG Media Contacts, says corporate accounts and those brands without cool appeal sit better on Twitter.

She says: “Twitter is half way between Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s still very professional. It’s more directed to key estate holders and influencers to share news. Twitter is more a broadcast platform than Facebook, which is more personal.”

Unilever seems to follow that rule. The company has a range of social networking profiles for its portfolio of brands but only has a corporate presence on Twitter.

@Unilever_Press launched a year ago and has about 6,200 followers. The company says it specifically chose to use Twitter instead of Facebook for this PR tool because its target audience of journalists do not tend to use Facebook for journalism.

Ellie Bowden, Unilever press office digital lead, says: “Of course, when we launched the account we knew that it wouldn’t only be followed by journalists, we’re also followed by consumers, NGOs, competitors, employees, analysts and so on. But whoever they are, we want to engage and connect with them and hopefully help build Unilever’s reputation by inspiring advocacy.

“We would never rule out using Facebook for these purposes, but for now we think that Twitter better suits our objectives.”

For companies like Unilever, Twitter allows a voice that could end up muted on Facebook. The latter’s closed platform and complex personalisation algorithms mean that company updates may not appear, bumped down the list by friends a user is most engaged with. Twitter is an open forum.

Barrio says customer service also sits more comfortably on Twitter than Facebook. @replies are personal on Twitter and only found by others if they perform a search, more akin to an e-mail – but it would be odd to have a customer service message from a FTSE 100 company appearing on a personal Facebook profile.

Some companies do have the fortune of an engaged demographic on both platforms.

Marks & Spencer uses both Twitter and Facebook to advertise new products, answer customer queries, occasionally retweet its followers and promote offers and competitions.

A Marks & Spencer spokesman says: “Both Twitter and Facebook are very important to us. We have over 27,000 Twitter followers and 303,000 Facebook fans. Both are extremely important ways of engaging with and listening to our customers.”

Facebook does have the advantage over Twitter when it comes to visuals. Marks & Spencer’s Facebook landing page is adorned with its models, while the wall is the perfect place to showcase the new range. Twitter’s largely text-based format makes this type of image share a little more difficult.

But it’s the simplicity of Twitter that is at the heart of why the FTSE 100 prefers it to Facebook.

Sign up, pick a profile picture and tweet. No techy HTML, no complex algorithms that affect visibility and no worries about whether communications with customers will leave them (or the company) with red faces.

Sometimes marketing, even for the top grossing companies, really can be that simple.

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