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Twitter vs. Facebook Ad Showdown: Which Offers the Best Social Media Ad Platform?

by Larry Kim  |  
December 23, 2013

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.

I recently did some research into Twitter and Facebook ads to see just how each measures up, comparing them in four categories:

  1. Network reach: Which platform reaches the largest audience?
  2. Ad performance: Do Facebook and Twitter ads drive real results?
  3. Mobile ad performance: Which social network owns the mobile space?
  4. Ad formats: Which offers the most varied and effective ad types?

What I found might surprise you. Although some are so passionately behind Facebook they'd have you believe it's the best thing since TV, the truth is actually that it's doing OK. Yes, I mean just OK; it's not going to save your business, but it doesn't seem a total waste, either, as Forrester might have you believe (its analyst's recent open letter to Mark Zuckerberg claims Facebook comes dead last on a satisfaction index of digital marketing channels).

There are areas in which Facebook is definitively beating out Twitter, such as Revenue per visitor. However, Twitter presents opportunities many aren't yet capitalizing on, simply because they haven't yet given it a chance.

Have a look at our key findings across four measurement categories.

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Larry Kim is the founder/CTO of WordStream Inc., provider of the AdWords Grader and 20 Minute PPC Work Week.

Google+: Larry Kim

Twitter: @larrykim

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  • by Janice Merk Mon Dec 23, 2013 via web

    Great analysis Larry. Thanks.

  • by Mandy Saffer Mon Dec 23, 2013 via web

    Great article! I'm curious as to where you found that the average Facebook ad's CTR is 0.119%. I was under the impression it was closer to 0.8%, and that's a huge difference!

  • by Sean Ellis Mon Dec 23, 2013 via web

    A bunch of useful information in this article. One topic that probably should have been discussed was the types of products/properties that you can effectively promote on each network. Consumer products and content tend to flourish on FB (think Upworthy), while B2B content and products tend to do well on Twitter. So an apples to apples comparison is tough.

    Also, Facebook's higher revenue per user means that there are more dollars competing for attention. The fact that Twitter ads are still relatively undeveloped, means that creative marketers can take advantage of newer emerging opportunities.

    According to the article, average CPC on a FB ad is $.50. I'm sure clever marketers can get it way below that. As I've discussed a bunch on GrowthHackers, I'm getting my Twitter ads down to pennies per click ( Again, this is probably more because of the creative ways I'm using the network. The article claims Twitter engagement rates are as high as 1-3%, my ads have been about 10-15%.

    If I had a consumer product I would probably focus the majority of my attention on FB, but for me Twitter ads have been much more effective. And unlike Search Ads, both FB and Twitter give you an opportunity to seed content that can then take off organically beyond the paid placement.

  • by Jay north Tue Dec 24, 2013 via web

    I think Facebook is better place to place ads as it has broader reach.There is so much on Facebook for activity ,people spend more time on FB.
    FB wins the game.

  • by Mybusinesscentral Sat Dec 28, 2013 via web

    I think twitter offer best Ad Platform. It is one of the best network for business promotion and Companies always want to find new ways to promote their brands and products.

  • by Robin williams Mon Dec 30, 2013 via web

    Both Twitter and Facebook offer a lists feature where you can organize your friends and the people you follow into categories. On Twitter, this is a really useful tool for when you are looking for updates on specific things. Let’s say I wanted to quickly check the news and see what was going on in the world. I would go to my “News” list and get updates from @CNNBrk, @nytimes, and other news sites without any irrelevant tweets in between. On Facebook however, lists are rarely used. It’s more of a hassle than a help. Twitter would have been the clear winner… BUT Facebook’s newest feature, Groups, is a gamechanger. It takes having your friends in a list to a whole new level. Now, you can update and post things JUST to your group of friends. It is because of this, Facebook takes the prize!

  • by Kadi Thu Jan 2, 2014 via web

    Very nice article! I would have to say you need to put the advertising dollars toward the market you are trying to reach. As far as advertising for my company Facebook advertising seems to work right now. I think trying all forms of advertising on all social media sites is the best way to see what works for you. The problem is social media is changing all the time, so what might work at one time, may not work the next time.

  • by Evan VanDerwerker Mon Jan 6, 2014 via web

    A solid post here, Larry. On the network size difference (Facebook being 4-fold the size of Twitter), have you given any consideration to the sales potential of the two? Though I have absolutely no data backing me up, I find that Twitter lends better to B2B lead generation than Facebook--despite the smaller size.


    Evan VanDerwerker

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