When Facebook reported earnings last month one figure stood out to me: the social media giant had increased its number of daily active users to 968 million, with 164 million coming from the United States and Canada alone. Twitter, which reported earnings the same week, touted that it had 304 million core users in the second quarter. This led me to wonder, given Facebook’s nearly 3:1 daily user advantage over Twitter (who positions itself as the real-time information network), which platform is the better source for news?
Now, I should disclose that I am avid Twitter user and have turned my feed into a customized news source for all things private equity, politics, sports and pop culture, while I gave up my Facebook account many years ago (for some additional context I also still use a BlackBerry, but I digress).
According to a recent study conducted by Pew Research Center, 63% of Twitter and Facebook users say their platform serves as a source for news about events and issues (outside the realm of friends and family). That share has increased substantially from 2013, when about half of users (52% of Twitter users, 47% of Facebook users) said they got news from the social platforms.
Although both social networks have the same portion of users getting news on these sites, there are significant differences in their potential news distribution strengths. Social news readers are more likely to go to Twitter for breaking news than Facebook. 59% of Twitter news readers get breaking news compared to 31% of Facebook news readers.
One of the biggest differences between the two platforms is in the use of breaking news. Nearly 60% of Twitter news users use the social networking service to follow a news event in real time. That is almost double the rate of Facebook news users (31%). According to the Pew study, Twitter users also see stories about international affairs, national government and politics, business, and sports more frequently than those on Facebook.
So what does this all mean? As The Verge smartly surmised, “This study may serve as a wake up call to more traditional media organizations, emphasizing the importance of incorporating social media into their daily duties, because Pew’s study wasn’t limited to talking about millennials. The share of media consumers getting their news from social media extended across all demographics, with both male and female users increasingly using Facebook, and with Twitter getting more notice from users both under and over 35.”