It appears that everyone at Facebook and Twitter is claiming that their platform is better on mobile. Before their IPO, Twitter has been pumping numbers claiming that more than half of their revenue is from mobile ads. Facebook claims it’s going to be the same very soon, with 50% of their revenues coming from mobile.
So, who’s better positioned to win the mobile revenue game?
Let’s look at some facts:
- About six months ago, a report said that U.S. smartphone owners spend about 18% of their time on Facebook. I’d bet this is now in the 25%+ area.
- Last year, Pew Internet said that 15% of online adults use Twitter. This is probably in the 18% area now.
So, the percentage of online adults in the U.S. that use Twitter and Facebook on their mobile devices is getting closer. Facebook still holds a fairly large edge on the size of their user base, but Twitter is actively growing as a place to interact in real-time with the world about breaking news and television series finales.
A very important thing to consider when comparing is the mobile user experience, which both companies have heavily invested in over the past six months. Facebook released new advertising units last week that change the way ads look in a user’s Facebook Newsfeed. And Twitter also announced a dramatic redesign that’s coming to change the game and supposedly “court the mainstream.” With increasing rates of mobile usage, both platforms are creating a better mobile experience.
But the biggest piece of this puzzle overall is the scalability of the advertising platform itself. Facebook has no doubt done a better job at understanding how to get small- and medium-sized business owners to advertise with them, even on mobile, and made their ad product accessible for more people. They’ve invested money to get people to try ads, and they’re aiming straight at the people on whom Google built the AdWords business.
Conversely, Twitter has been built on a foundation of mobile users from the beginning, but has not done a good job at scaling their ad product for small businesses – or anyone, really – to understand. It’s a little-known fact that in order to really gain success on Twitter, you need a substantial investment of $15,000 over three months and an insertion order to make big things happen. You can start out with a credit card and promote a Tweet for your business, but the beginning walk-through of Twitter ads for new users is almost non-existent. Even the biggest businesses have a hard time seeing huge results from Twitter. In fact, Twitter has even copied the things that Facebook has seen huge success with, like custom audiences email list targeting. Yet even here there’s a difference; where Facebook allows advertisers to see view-through and click-through conversions using the Facebook pixel, Twitter doesn’t have a conversion pixel.
So, when it comes to the mobile ads game, I believe Facebook is currently winning. People are seeing results from Facebook mobile that are real and tangible that they aren’t yet seeing from Twitter. I believe that in order for Twitter to take an edge on mobile advertising, they need to innovate faster. This means making ads more appealing, redesigning their ad product to be more user-friendly, and allowing people to see success from advertising on their platform. Until this happens, I think it’ll be a challenge to truly understand why the typical small business owner should advertise on Twitter over Facebook.