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Twitter vs Facebook: which is more effective for mobilising people to act?

Recent events has had me pondering if Twitter is not far superior to Facebook when it comes to mobilising people to actually take action and do something in the real world.

It was fascinating to hear Suw Charman-Anderson attribute much of the success of the Ada Lovelace campaign she ran earlier this year (I wrote about it here) to Twitter during this Media140 panel back in May. In contrast, many people joined the Facebook group she set up, but few seemed to do something actively after they joined. This sentiment was echoed by her husband Kevin, who found Twitter ever so much more useful than Facebook during his US roadtrip on behalf of The Guardian (I interviewed him about it here, in Norwegian).

Now, in both these cases we are talking about a fairly tech-savy audience, but clearly Facebook's where the major mainstream audience is - surely, that's a lot more useful from a marketing point-of-view, right? The experiences using social media to promote Wandsworth Common Beer Festival, presented in this interesting slide show found via Knut Albert, had me think perhaps not:

I must admit that I personally much prefer Twitter to Facebook, and I have a much more passive relationship to the groups I join or fan pages I sign up to on Facebook than information shared on Twitter. Often, the groups I join are just for fun or a symbolic show of support more than anything I think I'll ever do much with. My Twitter network is so much more relevant to my work and professional interests than Facebook, which is more of a mixed bag. Also, Facebook is more personal - a way to keep up with people not on Twitter, or people or projects I've "known" for quite some time" (mostly in real life). But I feel myself going over well known territory saying that, we all now Facebook and Twitter are different, that's not really my point, but I'm curious to learn/ see more of how effective the two sites are for moblising people to act - surely, that is a marketeers ultimate object, right?

Am I all wrong in thinking Twittter might be superior to Facebook here, and if so: in which cases are Facebook the better site to entice people to take action?


Interesting debate, but are you asking the right question?
I’m rather thinking that it all depends on your networks, how you maintain them, and above all what kind of case it is you want to mobilize for. And of course that you know the potential and limits of a facebook group.
I've had far more success by good use of facebook groups than with my twitter use. But the ultimate way to mobilize, in my opinion, is to combine the two (and more platforms), and that way let things work together and simultaneously.

I was just struck by these three examples I mention finding me at about the same time, especially by the latter. And of course it rhymes with my own experience of the groups I'm a member of, some of which rapidly turns into something that just feels like spam (by which time I'll ditch them).

But I'm very aware that this is all anecdotal evidence, which is why I ask. Perhaps I've just not come across a Facebook group I've been struck by the success of. Certainly many with a huge amount of members, but that in itself is not a measure of success if those members only sign up and leave it at that. I know Facebook can be good for a great number of things, and certainly agree that the best strategy is one of playing to the different advantages of different platforms, but I'd like to see some examples.

I'd be curious to know: in which situations have you had more success with Facebook than with Twitter?

Here I have to show to the norwegian debates. First on "blasfemidebatten" in januar/february. Where we used a facebook group as a part of the mobilization tools to gain support and improve the debate. I made some reflections on my blogg here:
I think the benefit of the facebook group is that it gives you the ability to comunicate with your audience a lot better, if you use a few, well structured in mails before it reaches 5000. When it comes to twitter, i guess only 10% or less of my 560+ followers really does follow me.

But further, in April, I participated in the launching of #svarHSiDN ( -where Twitter played a main role. Main point is that different tools work for different purposes. And that when you know them well, you will also be able to combine the usage. Note also that the blog does play a main (but it needs help) role in most situations where one wants to mobilize via social media.

But then again, this is just my experience, and of course based on what i learned from the research i did for my master thesis.

I'm very familiar with the #svarHSiDN and think I bookmarked you post on that on Delicious for @Netthoder , but I was not familiar with the Facebook group on Blasfemidebatten. Funny in one way as it's something I'm sure several of my friends would have invited me to join, I did sign the petition, but I was rather caught up in other projects at the time so that might have been the explanation.

It's very interesting to read about your experiences running the group though. It rhymes with my own thoughts on how Facebook can be useful for building awareness, stronger identity, community, network around an issue/organisation or similar. At the same time, there were many things in your post I wouldn't initially have thought about. The observation that most of those who sign up to a Facebook group don't come back does ryhme with my own experiences of groups I've joined, so it's interesting to read your thoughts on countering that without being perceived as a spammer.

It may also be that the anecdotes I bring up are examples of things where Facebook is not the best mobilisation tool and/or the people driving these particular projects have a much more evolved network on Twitter than Facebook.

When you say only 10% or less of your followers actually follow you, do you mean actively read all your updates, respond to your updates or read your updates in the first place?

I ask because I think for my part the percentage is closer to 40 or 50. Having said that, I prefer to think in terms of "friends" rather than followers ( calls reciprocal Twitter relationshisp friends). Looking at people who follow you and you follow back is a much more useful indication of your actual network, and when I look at my "friends" there's a very high percentage of people I "know", speak to and associate with either in real or virtual life or both, who share my (professional) interests - whereas Facebook is much more of a mixed bag. Still, at this stage I don't read everything even the group I'm following most closely post on Twitter. Fr. Martinsen had some good advice over at about seeing it more as a stream you dip in and out of, which I've taken to heart.

Thanks for new reflections, and sorry my late vacation response.
This is truly an interesting topic, because, as I read this, the bottom line is about how we can make a best and most effective use of the Internet.
First ting: The line between spamming and sharing/giving new usable info is often difficult to see clearly. Guess we all have different perceptions on this. I guess some considered my group mails from the facebook group as spam, and maybe it was. The most important to me is to be aware of it and make your own guidelines. And of course this goes for more than emailing.
When it comes to the twitter-follower question I follow close to all of my followers back, as long as they have a decent bio and a webpage.
I liked the friendorfollow page. About 80% of the ones I follow are “friends”. I’m satisfied about that. Maybe I’m a bit pessimistic about my 10% estimate, but I’m quite sure it’s not as good as 40% of my “friends”. I’m guessing this because I quite often feel I make good tweets/good blog post, and few/nobody replies, even among the ones that follow me, and should be interested/are discussing the same topics at the same time. It’s not that I blame anyone, but rather guessing that most use apps an make settings so that they only watch the tweets from a selection of all the ones they follow.
I do also believe that several users reach out to a lot more of their followers than I do, but I guess also, that most users reach out to a lot less than I do. The power distribution law works here as well. And that’s why in my opinion twitter as a super-fix-it-all-tool only works well for a small fraction of its users. Further I believe that very few of the “twitter elite” view them self as an elite, and thus don’t see this difference in usability. I’ve written more about this view in Norwegian here. But I’ve been thinking about making the reflections into a more twitter specific post, rather than the general one. The main thing is that we see a self-centred elite in social media as everywhere else.
I also agree with the view that my twitter stream is something I pop in and out of every now and again, I like to see the tweets from everyone I follow, but I don’t read every tweet from anyone. I believe that this twitter use improves the strength of my weak ties (how would I otherwise have found this blog post?), more than if I had ignored a big amount of the ones I follow at all times.
This came close to a blog post, and I have to stop, but I’m sure I’ll be back on the topic later on.

Heres the link to the blog post im refering to (i lost it in the first posting here):

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