Cross-posted from K Street Cafe
Facebook and Twitter are clearly two very different social media platforms. For advocacy professionals in particular, building a community on Facebook is very different than building an engaged following on Twitter. The Twitter-Facebook divide is best explained by an analogy to two Inside the Beltway publications that represent different but equally important audiences: Politico and National Journal.
Facebook is to Politico…
Although its coverage is focused exclusively on one topic, Politico maintains a broad and diverse audience. It is read by Inside the Beltway professionals and political junkies everywhere, from D.C. to the South to the Midwest. In 2009, Politico reportedly had a circulation of 32,000, with 6.7 million unique visitors to its web site per month.
Similarly, Facebook is used by a wide variety of the American public. Your neighbor, your co-worker, even your mother is increasingly likely to be a Facebook user. According to Facebook, the site now has more than 500 million active users. Fifty percent of those users log in to Facebook on a daily basis. The sheer volume of activity on the site makes it a no-brainer for advocacy professionals looking to build a large and active following. Facebook’s mainstream appeal also makes it an easier sell to management: because executives are also likely to know friends and family members who use the website regularly, it is easier for them to recognize the value of building a presence on the site.
… As Twitter is to National Journal.
Twitter, on the other hand, has not gone quite so mainstream. Although the site continues to grow and was projected to reach 200 million users by the end of 2010, a much smaller percentage of the American public use Twitter on a daily basis. One 2010 study estimated that just 21% of Twitter users are active, with a relatively small number of “power users” responsible for the vast majority of Tweets.
It is easy to see why these statistics might discourage advocacy professionals from dedicating scarce resources and budget to maintaining a Twitter account. Yet, Twitter users should not be overlooked so quickly. The key is understanding Twitter’s main advantage. Unless you are Ashton Kutcher, using Twitter is not about reaching a broad audience like Facebook or Politico. Instead, Twitter offers a way to engage with a small but influential user base, reflecting the approach taken by National Journal.
Like Politico, National Journal is narrowly focused on political issues. However, the publication’s readership is much smaller than Politico’s, with its total circulation just under 12,000. But, those 12,000 readers are primarily made up of the most influential Inside the Beltway figures, including Members of Congress and their staffs and Executive Branch officials.
Obviously, Twitter users are not quite so uniformly prominent. In general, though, Twitter users do represent a more media-savvy, influential section of the population. In essence, Twitter is a place to influence the influencers. Advocacy professionals should not write off Twitter without understanding the opportunities it offers to influence journalists, bloggers, policy wonks, and lawmakers. For organizations looking to engage meaningfully about policy issues online, Twitter is perhaps the place to start the conversation.
What do you think? Is this a helpful analogy? I would love to hear your thoughts on how public affairs professionals understand the unique value of both Facebook and Twitter.
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