December 8, 2016

Facebook Ads VS Twitter Ads - which one should you use?

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Published: 8 December 2016 


Advertising through social media is almost unavoidable in today’s digital environment. But for businesses who may be more budget conscious, there is a choice to be made over which social media platform to advertise on. Two of the biggest options to consider are Facebook and Twitter. But which one is the better option for your business?

The first thing to consider is how each platform’s ads actually work. While they are both fairly similar, there are subtle differences:

How Facebook Ads work: Facebook Ads is a bidding system which changes as a result of your objective, bidding strategy and targeting. You pay either by clicks or impressions, which means you have to decide if you want to pay for results or views.

How Twitter Ads works: Similarly, with Twitter you set a budget, bid and run and campaign. Unlike Facebook, with Twitter you only pay when a user takes an action aligned with your campaign objective.  

Facebook Ads Vs Twitter Ads - how do they compare?


To find out, it’s best to look at criteria that is applicable to both platforms:

  • Audience

When you’re looking to start out a campaign, the first choice for businesses is often Facebook. After all, Facebook has 1.79 billion active monthly users, while Twitter averages 317 million active monthly users. This is a significant difference, and it’s easy to see why businesses would therefore choose Facebook as their preferred platform. However, this does not consider which platform your target audience uses.


However, there is more to consider than just numbers. Recently, Facebook’s audience has been changing, with an increase in the 50-plus years old demographic, rather than millennials. When analysing Twitter’s audience, the majority are under 40 years old. So while Facebook has a far larger amount of users, your target audience may not actually be using the medium, and you may achieve better results with Twitter. It’s important to undertake research into your target market and their demographics prior to starting a campaign.   

  • Organic Reach

Facebook defines organic reach as “how many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your Page.” Facebook’s organic reach has been rapidly decreasing since 2012. In fact, Edgerank Checker undertook a study that found between February 2012 and March 2014, organic reach for Facebook Pages dropped from 16% to 6.5%.

This drop in organic reach can be attributed to the constantly increasing amount of content on timelines. It’s simply harder for businesses to be seen than it was previously. This ultimately means there are less clicks, conversions and sales for a business. This also encourages businesses to invest in ads, rather than relying solely on organic reach.   

Meanwhile, Twitter has the opposite problem. It is very easy to miss something on Twitter, especially if you follow a lot of accounts. However, a change in their algorithm in early 2016 made it easier for businesses to expand their organic reach. This was due to the introduction of the “what you may have missed” feature, which is an expansion on the “while you were away” feature, introduced in 2015.

The feature meant Twitter overhauled its old algorithm, and started to reward better content. Twitter’s algorithm takes into account what type of account and tweets a person usually interacts with, any trends they would follow and what they tweet about. This did not promote paid-for ads, but rather just organic posts.

Therefore, it would seem it is easier for an organic post on Twitter to be placed at the top of a timeline than with Facebook.    

  • Cost

With both platforms, there is no set price, but rather the price depends on your bidding price and budget.

Twitter Ads is an auction-based system. There is no minimum, and businesses will only be charged when they acquire an action (the action varying depending on your campaign objective). Twitter has two options in determining how to set bids for campaigns:

  • Automated bidding: this enables Twitter to auto-optimize bids for a campaign objective and budget on behalf of the business. Twitter will attempt to gain the lowest bid possible, and achieve the overall objectives of the campaign.
  • Maximum bidding: this allows businesses to manually select how much the lead, click or engagement is worth to them. Maximum bidding means you will pay one cent above the second place advertiser’s quality-adjusted bid, otherwise known as second price auction.

There are various campaign types, including:

  • Website clicks or conversions campaigns
  • Followers campaigns
  • Tweet engagement campaigns
  • App installs or app engagement campaigns
  • Leads campaigns   
  • Video view campaigns

While prices vary, Twitter suggests a starting point of $1.50 for tweets and $2.50 for follows.

Facebook also doesn’t have a set price, and the total cost will depend on your budget. The Salesforce Advertising Index Q3 2015 found that for every $65 you put into Facebook, you will get about 100 clicks. This means every click will cost US$0.65. However, this will vary depending on your budget, and what industry the business is in.

Source: Fit Small Business

Entertainment industries are the cheapest, with the likely reason being because they have a large audience and the ads are appealing. Professional services, such as doctors and lawyers, have a far more niche market and therefore will have higher prices for ads. While these professions may have to pay more, Facebook Ads are the more cost-effective option, as it is much cheaper than Twitter.

  • Average click-through rate

Wordstream found that Facebook is far cheaper than Twitter for cost per 1000 likes - Facebook costs $0.59, while Twitter costs $3.50. Seeing this vast difference in cost would make you assume Facebook is the most cost-effective option.

However, this is not the case. When you compare the average click-through rate, Facebook’s sits at 0.119%, while Twitter sits at 1-3%.

Source: Wordstream

A reason for this result is that Twitter appears to benefit from its ads being “in-stream” - that is the ads are displayed in the timeline, rather than on the side of it, as is the case with Facebook.

  • Mobile Ad Performances

Mobile is becoming the increasingly popular way to access both Facebook and Twitter. Facebook has 1.66 billion mobile monthly active users, with 56.5% of users only logging in on a mobile device.

Twitter has approximately 257 million mobile monthly active users, which accounts for 82% of total monthly active users. It is clear to see that mobile optimisation is an important factor for both platforms. However, because of Facebook’s far greater audience, this platform may be preferable for mobile ads.     

  • Ad Formats

Facebook has a variety of ads, depending on your objective.

Source: The Next Web

For sales and leads for your product or service, it’s best to use:

  • Carousel: the multi-product ad has been around since June 2014. This shows 3-5 images or videos, headlines or links all in the one space, with users able to scroll through all images.  
  • Dynamic Product: these ads target users based on their past actions on a businesses website. Businesses simply have to upload a product catalogue, ensure Facebook Pixel is installed correctly, and Facebook will do the automation and re-targeting.
  • Canvas: Facebook described canvas ads as an “immersive and expressive experience on Facebook for businesses to tell their stories and showcase their products.” It gives Facebook’s mobile users a more interactive experience, as they can scroll through photos, tilt the images in different direction or zoom in and out.  
  • Leads: as the name suggests, these ads are created for lead generation campaigns. The great thing is users don’t have to leave the website - they simply fill out a form within the ad and allow the business to follow up with them. This allows for businesses to easily collect leads.
Source: Qwaya

For traffic and leads for your website, consider:

  • Domain: this ad can only be displayed on the right, and therefore not on a mobile device. You select a title, description and URL which is displayed alongside an image. This is a relatively cheap option compared to the others, but generally, has a lower click-through rate.
  • Page Post Link: this is ideal for promoting your external website. These ads will display within a user's newsfeed with a big image aimed at grabbing their attention. This will generate leads for your website, as well as likes for your Facebook page.


For likes and engagement on your Facebook page, use:

  • Page Like: this ad includes a visual call to action to get the user to like your page and engage with your posts in the future. Carefully consider which image you use for this type of ad.
  • Page Post Photo: this option has the most space for photos, which is a great way to engage the audience and gain comments and likes.
  • Page Post Video: this lets you have a large space dedicated to a video. You can also re-target subsets of visitors going by how much of the video they watched. This aids in creating custom audiences and knowing who to target for other video ads.
Source: Marketing Pilgrim

Twitter ads are referred to as “Twitter Cards.” Twitter has nine types of ads, with enough variety to suit every business:

  • AppCard: the name says it all - this type of ad is designed to drive customers to download a business's app. It’s a great way to raise awareness of an app and drive sales.
  • Summary Card: this is Twitter’s “go-to” card. This gives a sneak peak to the linked content, before clicking through. It includes a title, description, thumbnail image and direct link. It is ideal for content such as blogs or articles.
  • Photo Card: a single full-width image is the focus of the ad, with a title, description and link also included in the ad. This is great for visual campaigns.
  • Gallery Card: similar to a photo card, but with numerous photos being displayed.
  • Lead Generation Card: this is used to capture email addresses to grow a database.
  • Player Card: this is for videos, music or GIFs that are a part of the marketing campaign. This is effective as it encourages people to watch or listen to content.
  • Website Card: this card features a horizontal image, text, link and call-to-action button.
  • Product Card: this is one for retailers and those who have an online store. Display your product with an image, and there’s still enough space for a description of up to 200 characters, product details, price and stock availability.
  • Conversational Card: this is the newest of Twitter’s ads, having only been introduced on the 5 January 2016. This card shows a call-to-action button with a customisable hashtag. Clicking on the button brings up a pre-populated message written by the business that can be customised and tweeted.     

Twitter created Objective Based Campaigns to help you select the correct card to achieve your business goals.

Both platforms have similar ad formats and have a large range to chose from, so it’s hard to declare one better than the other with this criteria.

  • Targeting options

Using either platform won’t be effective if you don’t target correctly. So what options are there?

Source: SEMwisdom

Facebook has six targeting options, which are:

  • Custom Audiences: businesses upload their custom database of emails, phone numbers or Facebook user IDs, and Facebook matches this list to current users. This option also includes Lookalike Audiences, which are people who are similar to the custom audience you have uploaded, have previously visited your website or hit a conversion pixel. Facebook then creates an audience based off data points on a profile that is similar.
  • Locations: this is the vital one if you’re running a local business. This will allow you to exclude or add people within a certain geographical area.
  • Age: this allows you to set a minimum and maximum age for people who will find your ad relevant. However, if you don’t want to exclude an audience, it’s best to leave the age option open.
  • Gender: the options are all/male/women. As with age, if you don’t want to exclude a gender, leave this option open.
  • Language: selecting what language your target audience speaks.
  • Detailed targeting: within this option, there are four different types:
    • Demographics
    • Interests
    • Behaviours
    • More Categories

This is the option to select when you are entering a new market or targeting people who have not heard of your brand before.  

Twitter has nine targeting options, with a few different options than Facebook:

  • Language
  • Gender
  • Geography
  • Interest: users whose interests are broadly similar to your business
  • Follower: targets the followers of relevant accounts
  • Device: target users based on specific mobile devices used to access Twitter
  • Behaviour: analyses an audience's’ shopping and spending patterns
  • Tailored Audiences: similar to Facebook’s custom audiences, this option allows you to use your own list to reach a group of people on Twitter.
  • Keyword: delivers timely messages to users based on their recent tweets, or tweets they have recently engaged with.

So which platform is better?

Going by the criteria we have discussed here, it’s easy to lean towards Facebook as the preferred platform.

In the end, we can’t tell you which option is better for your business. Facebook has a far greater number of users, so your ad will be seen by a larger audience, on both desktop and mobile. Twitter has a better organic reach, but is also the more expensive platform to have a paid advertisement on. However, this cost could pay off, as Twitter has a higher click-through rate. Both platforms have fairly similar ad formats and targeting options. However, going by the criteria we have discussed here, it’s easy to lean towards Facebook as the preferred platform, as it is more economical and offers a far larger audience.

Disagree? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Ben Maden

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