Awhile back, I pointed out what Mashable wasn’t telling you about Facebook. Now Compete is getting in on the action with a comprehensive data analysis of the qualitative differences between Twitter and Facebook.
Which would be great… except it makes broad statements without explaining why it came to those conclusions.
Here are the study’s four public claims, and why they’re less useful than they may seem.
1: Twitter users are more likely to engage with the service through a mobile device than are users of other social media platforms.
Great. But why?
Is it because Twitter was initially designed for a mobile interface to begin with? Or because Twitter app makers do a better job of UI than Facebook or LinkedIn app makers do? Or because Facebook and LinkedIn are more nuanced platforms that require a different hands-on approach than Twitter does?
According to the graphic for that finding, you could have just as easily said “Twitter is the least popular desktop social media platform,” and you’d be just as factually correct. And then the same people who are even now overinflating their mobile marketing budget would have slashed their desktop offerings instead because… well, because Compete said so.
2. 17% of Twitter users tweet about a TV show while watching the show.
According to their chart, this is true. It is also the last item on the list, behind such other ghettoized activities (all sub-20% responses) as “‘Tweet Photos,” “Find Brands to Follow” and “Visit Brand Pages.”
If I were a skeptic, I could say this finding proves Twitter is less valuable as a marketing tool than it is as virtually anything else. But Compete are optimists — and their target audience is primarily marketers — so they accentuated the upside.
3. Twitter is more effective at driving purchase activity than Facebook.
That’s because, according to the numbers, “56% of those who follow a brand on Twitter indicated they are “more likely” to make a purchase of that brand’s products compared to a 47% lift for those who “Like” a brand on Facebook.”
But this headline confuses “intent to purchase” with “actually purchasing.” Can we see the numbers on how many direct sales result from Twitter vs. Facebook? Because then I’ll believe that Twitter is the more powerful sales tool.
4. Twitter is the preferred platform for learning about new product updates.
According to Compete’s survey data, 84% of Twitter users cite “Updates on Future Products” as a reason to follow a brand; only 60% of Facebook users agreed. That much makes sense.
But, again… why?
Is it because Facebook users are more passive than Twitter users? Is it because Twitter users are actively seeking information, while Facebook users are seeking experiences? Is it because Facebook is more graphic-driven, while Twitter is more info-driven?
We have no idea.
We also don’t know why 87% of Twitter users cited “Fun / Entertainment” as a reason to follow a brand, while only 63% of Facebook users did. Look at those numbers. They’re each exactly 3% higher than the previous comparison, which could be interpreted as “Twitter Users Are More Carefree,” or “Facebook Is No Place for Fun.” But that’s not the headline. That’s not the takeaway. That’s not how the data was framed, even though it’s equally valid.
Conclusion About Conclusions
I think Compete’s survey was more interesting for what it didn’t ask, and the conclusions it failed to highlight, than for the ones it did.
And, as always, people are going to skim the numbers and jump to the conclusion they want to reach — which, in most cases, will be, “Hi, I’m a guru, and here’s why your company should invest in social media. And we have data.”
(“Not that we understand the data, or what it means, or what else it could mean. But by god, do we have charts.”)
So yes, please, do conduct qualitative studies of social media usage. Scour the data. Form conclusions.
But, as a reader and utilizer of such data, make sure you know how the results are being framed, and then ask yourself… why?