Twitter and Facebook – the importance of new and happy eyes

In a week where Twitter lost large chunks of its stock value and Facebook celebrated its tenth birthday Scott Heron looks at what we can expect in the future from the social networks.

The large social platforms of Twitter and Facebook were in the news this week for very different reasons. Twitter was in the doldrums losing a fifth of its stock price because it hadn’t grown its user base as much as expected. Facebook toasted its 10th anniversary, saw it’s stock rise 15 per cent in a day, and launched a product in the US called Paper. So, are we seeing a decline in Twitter and the rise of Facebook?



No. despite their volatile stock prices, both are rising in usage and revenues, and will be around for years to come. Both will also continue to be attractive to advertisers – but we may look back at this week as the moment Facebook accelerated even further.

The user base of Twitter and Facebook is increasing globally – both by 4 per cent in the past quarter. The difference is that Twitter growth was off of 240m subscribers whereas Facebook was off of 700m.

Both companies also offered significantly higher revenues. Twitter offered 110 per cent increase in revenues year over year. Facebook revenue was up 63 per cent. But while both have big user bases and revenues, Facebook has become a platform that everyone knows and uses, whereas Twitter has become a platform that everyone knows, but only some of us use. This is Twitter’s major challenge to overcome.

In some respects, Twitter is making great headway. We are seeing #hashtags as a way of getting viewers to participate in reality TV shows, and we see large billboards with nothing but a #hashtag. These mediums are actively promoting Twitter as a communications platform. However, if these mediums get people to Twitter, the current experience people receive is less than friendly. This is a primary problem that Twitter’s CEO has sworn to address.

So we can expect a major facelift of Twitter’s ‘@’s and ‘#’s to appeal to a wider audience.

This brings me to Facebook, and the introduction of Paper. While Facebook is used by many, often more than once a day, the majority of us access Facebook through our mobiles, and the experience to-date has been a squeezed in version of the website. Paper offers a mobile friendly (for iOS) version of Facebook with a tiling experience similar to Flipboard.

While Paper hasn’t been positioned as the ‘new Facebook’, it offers a nice user interface and similar functionality – suggesting people may use Paper instead of the usual app. And while the tiles don’t currently look like they are promoted posts, with the majority of Facebook’s revenue coming from mobile, it is safe to assume there will be advertising here. So, Paper could be a big step forward for Facebook. A nice and intuitive design for the user, and larger images and more swipe-scrolling benefiting the advertiser as it means that you pay more attention to each post, and the post can be more interesting and impactful.

So, while Twitter and Facebook are strong advertising mediums in terms of user base and ad revenues – already offering compelling solutions to advertisers in terms of targeting and data opportunities through promoted posts – the release of Paper goes to show how important innovation around the experience can be in providing another level of benefit – to the user and the marketer. It will be interesting to see what Twitter’s next iteration will bring.

Scott Heron is chief digital officer at CumminsRoss.


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