Twitter for Facebook users

facebook, socialnetworking, twitter, web2.0, Old Blog Import

There is no doubt about it, Facebook is a more popular site than
Twitter. And not just by a little bit either. Comparing the two is
like comparing a stadium rock concert with seeing a band at your local

 “HubSpot estimates that Twitter has 4 to 5 million users, 30% of which
are brand new or unengaged.” They estimate that Twitter sees between
five and ten thousand new accounts opened each day. That’s a nice
number, but it’s far below, for example, Facebook’s astonishing 600k
daily registrations and 140 million active users. Twitter is a
fascinating little phenomenon — Facebook is mainstream.

 Why is this important for users? Because most of the people you might
really enjoy connecting with on Twitter are unlikely to ever use it.
They are busy using Facebook instead.”

 So why should Facebook users care about Twitter? Or even bother using
it? We can start by asking why Facebook tried to buy Twitter to the
tune of $500 million in stock, and why Twitter turned down that
seemingly generous offer.

 1. Twitter users are Facebook users already. In some ways Twitter is
just a better way of updating and reading your status updates on

 “there is already a closer integration between the two websites than
people are possibly aware of. Facebook’s status updates, one of the
most-loved parts of the site, can be tied to Twitter updates, so that
whenever a Twitter member sends a tweet, it automatically becomes
their status update on Facebook.”

 2. Sure, there are economic reasons why the Twitter folks might have
rejected Facebook. Their service is one of the fastest growing social
networks out there, and at over six million users they are no longer
small fry.

 But I think something more fundamental is at work here. Twitter has a
different philosophy than Facebook. What people like about Facebook is
that it creates a private internet where you share things with your
friends — and only with your friends. But that means you spend a lot
of time updating your list of friends, perhaps even marking how they
are related to you. This information about your friendship network is
often referred to as your social graph” and Facebook guards it

 “Social networks like Facebook and Linkedin (and Friendster and before them) jealously guard their social graph, the
connections between users. So I have to friend” someone (offering and
accepting) separately for each network I belong to, and I can’t take
advantage of those connections except in software that run on a
particular service. Twitter is different.”

 Although new services from Facebook will allow you to use your social
graph with other sites, what makes Twitter different is that (unless
you choose to make your updates private, which you can do) Twitter
allows one-way following. Anyone can follow you, and it is up to you
whether or not you follow them back. I personally follow a little over
half of the people that follow me.

 This small difference between how social networks are formed makes a
huge difference in the usefulness of the social network. If I follow
someone on Twitter it isn’t because they are my friend” it is because
they are good twitterers.

 Of course, if I’m close to someone, I’ll be more interested in knowing
what they ate for breakfast this morning.

 3. The openness of Twitter offers a number of advantages. Namely, it
is easy for other people to build services on top of twitter. Sure,
there are Facebook Apps. I was excited about the Facebook platform
when it first came out but most of the apps seem designed to annoy
your friends by making them take movie polls or the like. Twitter on
the other hand allows me to do things like search all posts (“tweets”)
by all users in real time. Not exciting normally, but suddenly useful
during major events, whether it is the presidential debates, the
Mumbai attacks, the war in Gaza, or an earthquake, etc.

 Just take a look at Twitter Vision which shows the main twitter stream
on a map. This is a great example of something you can’t do on
Facebook because of its closed nature:

 Many of these tools also make it easier to update and follow twitter
wherever you are. My favorite apps right now are tweetie” on the
iPhone and EventBox on the Mac. The cross-platform client, twhirl” is
also good.

 And if you live in the US or India you can tweet via SMS, which I
think is one of the main reasons for Twitter’s success.

 4. Finally, I think a word needs to be said about one of the key
features of Twitter — one that Shashwati mentioned when I asked her
why she likes Twitter better than Facebook: its simplicity.

 Web guru Tim O’Reilly agrees:

 “Twitter does one small thing, and does it well.”

 This in turn leads to some interesting innovations, fads, and user behaviors:

 “Perhaps because its features are so minimal, new user behaviors seem
to propagate across Twitter really quickly. It’s a bit like the reason
that fruit flies are used for genetic research: the short lifespan
compresses the time for mutations to take hold. Perhaps a better
analogy would be the speed of cultural evolution among humans compared
to biological evolution. The most fascinating evolution happening on
Twitter isn’t an evolution of the software, but an evolution in user
behavior and in the types of data that are being shared.”

 In the end, I don’t think Twitter will replace Facebook. There is a
place for catching up with old high school buddies and acquaintances
and sharing baby photos, etc. And if you Twitter you can easily share
your Twitter updates with those people on Facebook. But Twitter is a
conversation; a conversation where you can choose who you want to
listen to, and you can jump in (or drop out) at any time. I like that.