I just wrote about how Twitter is becoming much less necessary for me. In this post, I’d like to show you how, with just a few steps, you can get exactly what you’re getting on Twitter and more with just a Facebook account and a Page you administer. It’s actually really simple now. Here are the steps:
- Set up your Facebook Account. You’ve probably already done this, but if not, just go to Facebook.com, enter your details, and click “Register”. Log in, and you’re set!
- Create your Facebook Page. You can do this at Facebook.com/pages. I also cover this in detail in Facebook Application Development for Dummies soon to be released. Create one that mimics your Twitter Profile.
- Go to your Facebook Page, and click “Use Facebook as (your Page name)”. You’ll see the options on the right change to “Use Facebook as (your Profile name)” when this has worked. Also, note that if you already have a Facebook Page, just go to the new Page, upgrade it to the new profile, and you should also have these options.
- Click the big “Facebook” logo in the upper-left. You’ll now be presented with a news feed, just like the one you would normally see on your profile. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? It probably doesn’t have much information in it right now though. Now you need to make that News Feed valuable. You’ll do that with step 5.
- Find interesting Facebook Pages, and click “like”! On the right you should already be presented with some suggestions for Facebook Pages. Click “like” on those if you like them. Or, find friends and brands that you like via the search box and click “like” on those as well. The more you click “like” on, the more you’ll have appear in your feed. Looks a lot like Twitter, huh? In fact, you could create multiple Pages, and use those as “lists”, each one following accounts that are relevant to just that Page. Click “use Facebook as (Page Name)” for each Page, and you’ll get a new view of different types of users to follow on each. Scoble ought to like this one 😉
Replacing Twitter Search
At the moment I’ll admit, Facebook Search isn’t quite as granular as Twitter search. However, you can get search results from status updates, as your personal account, or as your Page. Just type in “facebook” into the Facebook search box as an example and click on “See more results for Facebook” in the drop down. Then, click on “Posts by everyone”. You’ll immediately see a real-time stream of updates from people, that updates in real-time, of people and Pages posting in public about “facebook”. Try it with other terms, like “Scoble”, for instance.
There’s also another, more advanced, way you can search. It’s sort of a hack, but definitely possible, and something I also show you in Facebook Application Development for Dummies. By calling https://graph.facebook.com/search?q=scoble&type=post in your browser you should get a parseable result set back from Facebook with all public Profile and Page results mentioning “scoble”. You could technically call https://graph.facebook.com/(id) (replacing id with the id of the user or Page) on each post and look to see if the object type is a user or a Page. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. I imagine Facebook will get more granular with these results in the future though. You can also, with some advanced magic, get back all the posts from Pages your Page subscribes to that match “facebook” or “scoble”.
What’s Missing Still
- Search. Of course, Facebook still needs more search options compared to Twitter for them to be an exact parallel. Twitter’s search was built to index and retrieve granular data at the user level, and you can subscribe to each resultset as simple RSS. Facebook just doesn’t have this yet, although I wouldn’t doubt they see the power in this. After all, Facebook’s CTO, Bret Taylor, founded FriendFeed, and they have perhaps an even more granular (when it’s working) search than Twitter has. I have no doubt Facebook recognizes the value in this.
- Lists. With Facebook, even before Twitter, you could organize your friends into lists of users you can follow and organize by list. This is yet to be released for Pages. While, as a user, you can organize a list of Pages, a Page cannot yet create its own lists. Where a Page is more comparable to a Twitter account, adding list support, and public list support (which others can subscribe to) would significantly increase the value Facebook has compared to Twitter. Public lists are one of Twitter’s crown jewels right now.
- Firehose. Twitter charges for this as a whole and actually makes it very accessible compared to Facebook. Right now I’m pretty sure you can get access to Facebook’s firehose if you have money and the right contacts and reasons to do it. However, Facebook doesn’t make this very easy. Maybe it’s rightfully so in that only a few developers and companies can be capable of even handling such data, but Twitter does make this pretty easy to access via services such as Gnip. I argue this is an advantage Twitter has over Facebook right now.
What else am I missing?
Some Things Facebook Has That Twitter Doesn’t
While Facebook still misses some elements that Twitter provides, there are still features Facebook has, that, IMO, make it an even more valuable solution than Twitter, namelyI:
- Insights. Facebook provides very granular data on how well each post is doing, demographics that are visiting the Page, growth of the Page over time, and much, much more. Twitter has been rumored to be making a similar analytics suite, but has yet to release anything comparable to what Facebook provides. (I wouldn’t count Twitter out of providing one in the future, though)
- Richer, inline content. Facebook shows photos, videos, links, and more that a Page has posted. You can also view the same, all inline, with the News Feed view of those accounts you’ve liked. With Twitter, you have to click on each post, and only occasionally that content appears on the right column of Twitter.com.
- Viewing Wall Posts of Other Users. On Facebook, as a Page admin, I can enable the default view of my Page’s Wall to be posts to the Wall by other people that have “liked” the Page. This is an interesting strategy if your brand has a devoted audience, as it’s a great way to show people that are interested in your brand and show that you have a loyal following. It’s also a great way to maintain a positive perception of your brand. With Twitter there is nothing even close to this.
- Events. Each Page can create its own events, that other users on Facebook can RSVP and have their friends see they RSVP’d. This is built into Facebook, making it an integrated part of the experience, and a very viral tool for getting information out about a particular event occurring surrounding yourself or your brand.
- Customization and Branding. With Twitter I get a background and a profile picture. While Facebook doesn’t allow background images, it does allow a default, full HTML view, for every Facebook Page that chooses to do so. Therefore, I can set it so the first time you visit my Facebook Page you are presented immediately with a welcome message from me and any other relevant information. This is very powerful! (I show you how to do this in Facebook Application Development for Dummies) You can’t do this with Twitter.
- Advertising. As I mentioned earlier, frequent requests to firstname.lastname@example.org return no response (others are tweeting me saying they’ve seen the same, despite spending millions on Facebook). There is no interface to create ads for the common user. It’s almost impossible to advertise on Twitter. On Facebook, it’s as simple as visiting http://facebook.com/ads and following the instructions. In fact, I can see close to exactly how many impressions I’m going to get through my ad on Facebook. Facebook has been pretty transparent in this.
What else am I missing?
There’s no doubt Facebook is making it harder and harder to justify Twitter any more. For many, this article may actually convince you. My hope is that a) Twitter realizes this and adapts to compete, or b) Facebook realizes this and closes the final missing pieces to remove all needed functionality that a Twitter account can provide. There are actually very few of those missing pieces any more!
If you haven’t yet considered a Facebook Page or the possibilities it can provide, now may be the time to start considering if you’re on Twitter. Assuming Twitter does get acquired, or Facebook does continue competing the way it has, you’re going to want an audience on Facebook just the same as you have on Twitter. More importantly, build your own presence and blog so it doesn’t matter any which way what network you’re on! 2011 will be an interesting year, that’s for sure.