The real Facebook-Twitter turf war: Marketers

Facebook has finally launched a feature to syndicate profile updates through Twitter, but it's only for its brand-based "fan pages." What gives?

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

On Thursday night, Facebook announced that it's launched its first official Twitter app--sort of. In a post on the company blog, Facebook announced that updates to "fan pages," public profiles for celebrities, brands, organizations, and what-have-you, can now be sent out through Twitter.

"Public figures, musicians, businesses and organizations of all types who've created Facebook Pages often want to share a status update, a photo or an event with as many of their supporters as possible," the post by Facebook employee Michael Gummelt read. "Celebrities may want to share personal news or charities may want to put out calls for help to both their Facebook fans and their Twitter followers, all at the same time."

This is basically something that many blogging and publishing services already do: offer a way to automatically syndicate a short blurb and a link onto Twitter. It's a no-brainer. But Facebook and Twitter have a complicated history. Facebook attempted to acquire Twitter last year, and Twitter turned the offer down. Then, earlier this summer, Facebook did acquire FriendFeed, a social-network aggregator that failed to gain mainstream traction but pioneered many of the real-time, streaming features that are now central to both Facebook and Twitter.

Relations between the two companies still seem to be a bit shaky. Facebook continues to roll out Twitter-inspired features like a souped-up search engine, a revamped "publisher" tool that can make status updates selectively public, and soon a stripped down "Facebook Lite" site that looks quite a bit like the ultra-basic Twitter.

Much has been said about Facebook and Twitter as the two forces vying for control of the real-time social Web, but little light has been shed on just how central a role the marketing industry has. The fact that Facebook's first Twitter app is exclusively for its brand-marketing "fan pages" highlights this. In the digital marketing world, the buzzworthy place for brands to be right now is Twitter--especially since this week Twitter started to elaborate plans for the paid accounts it's going to offer to businesses by the end of the year. If Facebook is going to continue to court brands effectively, it has to offer a quick and easy way to plug into that all-important "Twitter strategy."

What's less clear is whether Facebook will let ordinary users syndicate their profile updates to Twitter. Currently, they can bring in plenty of data from elsewhere thanks to Facebook's third-party developer API. You can import a Twitter feed into Facebook status updates or use third-party clients like TweetDeck to update Twitter status and Facebook status simultaneously, but you still can't opt to publish your Facebook profile updates elsewhere.