In the rush to compare advertising engagement levels between Twitter and Facebook last week, TBG Digital made a hasty and significant error. The social media marketing vendor originally reported that Facebook mobile ads outperformed Twitter by at least four times, but days later it reversed its finding, admitting that it was "not comparing like for like."
While the desire to juxtapose largely incomparable channels like Twitter and Facebook is understandable, the fact of the matter is that most brands already know that such guesswork is an effort in futility. In its report, TBG Digital compared the click-through rates of Promoted Accounts on Twitter with Newsfeed ads on Facebook. "A more comparable product for Twitter would have been Promoted Tweets," it later noted.
However, the end result still doesn't carry much weight for brands. If Promoted Accounts and Newsfeed ads are akin to comparing apples to elephants, Promoted Tweets and Newsfeed ads are like apples and oranges. Neither of those directly compare, so advertisers learn little in the process.
Based on those misleading comparisons, TBG Digital drew the wrong conclusions. Facebook isn't beating Twitter on mobile ad engagement. Indeed, it appears to be doing quite the opposite.
"With Promoted Tweets, we've seen engagement rates from 1 to 3 percent on average. On mobile, the engagement rates are even higher," said Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner. Mobile Newsfeed ads on Facebook garnered a 1.14 percent CTR on average, according to TBG Digital.
Twitter declined to provide the engagement rates it's generating on mobile, but it has a much narrower gap between CTRs on desktop and mobile than Facebook. Facebook's mobile ads outperform desktop ads in CTRs and CPMs by about 14 times, according to TBG Digital.
More than half of Twitter's and Facebook's active users access the sites via mobile. While Twitter has been entrenched in mobile from its early days, Facebook is playing catch up as it looks to improve its performance disparity between desktop and mobile.
The company seems to have taken the well-publicized concerns about its mobile strategy to heart. It has made a number of major acquisitions in mobile over the past few months, including Facebook's colossal $1 billion Instagram purchase in April. Last month, it announced plans to expand advertising on its mobile app, giving marketers the ability to buy mobile ads separately for the first time.
Meanwhile, Twitter recently gave advertisers the ability to target a Promoted Tweet to a certain subsets of users.
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Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 19, 2014