App developers prefer Facebook but Twitter users more active

Facebook recently announced its Open Graph Beta and added Timeline and Ticker to its Newsfeed, while Apple integrated Twitter into iOS 5 with hooks for third-party developers. To help app publishers consider their social media integration strategy, research from Localytics shows that 20% of mobile apps already have Facebook and/or Twitter integrations. Although most publishers choose Facebook as their preferred social media integrations, Twitter users are more active.

Localytics studied the thousands of Android, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 apps using its real-time app analytics service. In addition to standard analytics Localytics provides, app publishers can record custom events that capture articles read, videos played, or Facebook likes and Twitter tweets. Localytics searched all of the apps with over 500 monthly active users from January through July 2011. Both the number of apps recording any Facebook or Twitter events and the aggregate number of events were calculated.

Fortunately for app publishers, the decision to use Facebook or Twitter is not mutually exclusive. Still, of the 20% of socially-connected apps, half chose only Facebook while the most of the other half made both services available. Just 1% of the apps studied integrated with only Twitter.



But Twitter Users are More Active

While Facebook is the most popular tool for social sharing, the average Twitter user drives three times more traffic. Facebook drives twice as many events by mobile users, however, Facebook users outnumber Twitter users by 6 to 1. Adjusting for the difference in the active user bases of the two networks, Twitter generated 50 events per 1,000 users versus 11 per 1,000 Facebook users.


With Apple’s decision to implement Twitter deeply into iOS 5, this higher rate of sharing for Twitter users becomes very interesting. If this combination manages to bring Apple’s massive iPhone user base into Twitter in large numbers, iOS app developers may see Twitter swiftly overtake Facebook as the most valuable social integration.


How Developers Can Use Social

App developers have good reason to be actively interested in their users’ social media habits. The 20% of apps with some combination of Facebook and/or Twitter functionality provide their developers with important channels for growing their user base.

Social sharing can be the most powerful word-of-mouth marketing for a smartphone app, since it carries not only your message but also the approval of your users to their friends. Whether an app marketer prompts sharing and following or liking as in-app actions, they can encourage more engagement with users as well as access to their social graph.

Additionally, app publishers can use social cues to make promotional and marketing decisions. For example, news editors must continually decide which stories to promote based at least partly on readers’ interests. By creating a “Share” event with different social media outlets as attributes (Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.), publishers can see in real-time which stories are trending higher in social networks and more aggressively promote them within their apps. Promoting stories based on the level of social engagement may be more valuable than relying on traditional page views to gauge popularity.