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?

Twitter Vs Facebook

Let’s look at some facts:

–       63% of adult cell owners now use their phones to go online

–       72% of online adults use social networking sites.

–       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.

1 Comment

  1. Terry Whalen September 19th, 2013

    Andrew, good points. It’s very, very clear that Twitter is way behind Facebook in the mobile advertising space. As you point out, their mobile user base is much, much smaller, and their self-service advertising interface is way behind.

    But, the exciting thing is that things are moving in the right direction – both with Facebook (the stars have aligned!) and with Twitter (the stars are moving in the right direction, towards alignment). Digital advertising is getting much more fun (and it was already pretty fun)!

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Andrew Foxwell
Andrew Foxwell grew up on a farm in western Wisconsin, where his Macintosh Quadra 610 with its lightning fast 28.8K dial-up connection first sparked his interest in digital marketing. After graduating from St. Olaf College, Andrew went to work as a digital director for a U.S. Congressional campaign, which led him to Washington, DC to work as a press secretary/new media director for a U.S. Congressman. Recognizing an opportunity for improved digital communications between members of Congress and their constituents, Andrew founded and managed the social media marketing agency within iConstituent, the leading online communications firm working with Congress. Andrew worked with members and staffs from both sides of the aisle to deepen much needed Congressional dialogue, improve constituent services, and create a more effective 21st century democracy. Andrew then took his diverse skillset to Silicon Valley where he directed the social media division of 3Q Digital, a full-service online marketing firm. There he tripled the agency’s social media client base, managed a team of account managers and production professionals, and oversaw an average monthly revenue growth of more than 20% while working with companies like Square, Fitbit, Eventbrite, 23andMe, Citrus Lane and more. Andrew is the CEO and Co-Founder of Foxwell Digital, a digital creative agency that works with clients as diverse as small-town cafes to multi-million dollar start-ups. Find him @andrewfoxwell and