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Let's Get Physical: Facebook's Got Traffic, but Twitter's Got Foot Traffic


First Twitter outgrew its nest, the one made popular by a flock of tech savants who, themselves, had outgrown their blogs. Only now, though, have the social media site's founders finally figured out how to shake the money from their branches. But will the businesses and people who chirp from Twitter's limbs also cash in?

The funny thing about social media networks is that, each time a new one starts off, no one quite gets it—in some cases, not even the folks who started the damn things up. Of all the supersized networks—Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn—Twitter is the last to answer the question, "What's it for?" Well, it's for communicating 140-character messages. "And?"

Social media stats

And drive physical people to physical places. Business. And at the end of the day, that might prove far more valuable than virtual clicks.

Consider the latest figures from StatCounter. They show that, when it comes to generating traffic to other Web sites via social media, Biz Stone and Evan Williams' little bird comes a distant third behind both Facebook and StumbleUpon. (At Fast Company, StumbleUpon just beats Facebook to fifth place, with Twitter coming in seventh.)

But take a look at this case study on using Twitter for your business, however. The Kogi Korean BBQ mobile restaurant uses it to tell potential customers where in L.A. each of its four barbecue trucks are parked. Sign up to its Twitter feed and you can find out the times and locations, where the (BB)queues are and aren't, and so and and so forth. Result: 61,000 followers—and, probably, a couple more trucks on order. And it's not just small businesses that can capitalize on their Tweets: both Comcast and Zappos use Twitter to great effect as a marketing and information tool.

Unlike, say, Facebook, a company that communicates its core messages via Twitter will find that its tweets are not hidden away amongst other, more distracting, messages—YouTube videos, or links to other sites. Facebook shut down its Facebook Lite site earlier this week, for precisely the opposite reason. Facebook users want the ephemera, and the distracting personal stuff. For many Twitter followers, that's not so important.

This ties in with what Sean Parker believes. At Fast Company's Innovation Uncensored event yesterday, the Napster co-founder, now the man behind Causes, the Facebook app that is taking altruism viral, said, "The future of social media is physical." What he means by that is converting a presence on the web into making money—be that for good causes or for his own pocket. If used in the right way by businesses, Twitter can transfer web interest into physical interest—just as Koji's squad of trucks are discovering.