For the past two years, Twitter's pitch to advertisers and the media has been centered on one thing: live events. Twitter, says Twitter, is the place to go for one-off broadcasts, TV shows, news events, and live sports.
But now Facebook is staking a claim. Following the recent addition of hashtags to newsfeed posts, which Facebook said would bring its "Super Bowl-sized" primetime live audience "more to the forefront," the company has mounted a concerted public relations push. The message: Facebook is good at live events. All kinds, and with huge scale. People just might need some help noticing.
Today, Peter Kafka at AllThingsD flagged a report pitched by Trendrr but created "using data that isn't normally available to the public" — that is, with Facebook's cooperation — claiming that Facebook has "five times more TV-related activity on its site than Twitter and every other social network combined."
This wasn't a one-off: Last week, a PR firm representing Facebook sent entertainment journalists an email about Comic-Con making sure they were "aware about how Facebook and Instagram were integral elements in the fan-driven event."
"The two platforms were really a perfect fit given how they allow movies/talent/characters to connect directly with their fans and drive engagement," the email said.
"Facebook and Instagram were everywhere at Comic-Con 2013," it continued, pointing out the various points at which Facebook and Instagram hashtags had been successful.
These pitches bring to mind the emails and blog posts Twitter has been sending to journalists for the last couple years, asserting and reasserting its live-event cred. And that's no coincidence: Facebook wants in on the real-time internet, and it wants people to know about it.
Facebook's pitch is a bit different in that it comes from ID-PR, a powerful LA firm that typically represents entertainment clients, not tech firms. Twitter's approach to pitching these stories has traditionally been data-driven, tech-focused, and in-house. Facebook, at least in this instance, is bypassing the Twitter-happy tech press. (Meanwhile, in said tech press, the story of the day is about new super-targeted Twitter ads that sync up with TV spots.)
Facebook and Twitter are competitors in a number of obvious ways, but they rarely engage directly, and their battles tend to play out behind the scenes. This one, by nature, can't: pre-IPO Twitter will do whatever it can to solidify perceptions about what it's good at, and post-IPO Facebook will do whatever it needs to make itself appealing to advertisers.
This puts these two companies in direct competition in a way they never quite have been before. Users — or rather, viewers — should expect to be caught in the middle.