Tuesday February 12 2013

Is Twitter gunning for Facebook’s title?

By Mustafa Ziraba

There is simply no being on the fence on this one, you either love or hate Facebook. I really do not know how to place the people who just don’t care. Facebook is good and full of drama. But there’s a new free social service that’s proving to be a whole lot more useful than Facebook, well at least according to me. It’s called Twitter. I resisted using Twitter for while because it seemed like just another distraction, just another way to waste and burn my Internet time. But I decided to see what the fuss was all about, and to my surprise, Twitter is actually fun, interesting, and useful if used correctly. I’ve also found that Twitter isn’t something you can explain, and it’s not something you can understand until you’ve used it for at least a few days. You have to use it to get it.

I think that is because Twitter can be so many things to so many people. One person might use it as a marketing tool, another to stay in touch with friends, another to collaborate with co-workers, and still others to stay informed about their favourite Hollywood gossip, news and much more.

Simplicity has played an important role in Twitter’s success. People are eager to connect with other people and Twitter makes that simple. As yourself that one question, “What are you doing?” And whatever answer you have is what you tweet.

Strengths of Facebook
Granted, Facebook is the king of all social networking sites but Twitter’s success is firmly lingering in Facebook’s hair. Why do people love Facebook?

Well, Facebook appeals to social animals and can be very addicting to people who have an unquenchable thirst to stay connected with friends and make new acquaintances. In fact, some people rarely use email or IM tools anymore in their online social communications anymore, relying almost entirely on Facebook for email, chat and picture sharing. Facebook gives them a single alternative with one login and interface to manage their online social interaction needs.

Most people can very quickly grasp how to use Facebook to connect to friends and family, using it to share thoughts and pictures.

On the other hand, the appeal of Twitter is not readily as obvious to some people as Facebook, although it may be more addictive once you get the hang of it. It seems to live somewhere between the worlds of email and instant messaging. When you sign up with Twitter, you can use the service to post and receive messages to a network of contacts. Instead of sending a dozen e-mails or text messages, you send one message to your Twitter account, and the service distributes it to all your friends.

What makes Twitter tick
Now you must be wondering what Twitter does what Facebook cannot. I mean if Facebook already has what Twitter proposes to do, why would anyone use Twitter?

Fact is there’s really nothing Twitter can do that Facebook cannot do. Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter, however, my uses aren’t to update friends. My sole purpose for using Twitter is to find others within my niche, tech that is. I use it as a listening tool. I get a real-time thump of the tech world and any news via Twitter.

Although Facebook recently added subscribe or follow buttons to give users access to content from those they may not be friends with, the site is mostly used to connect with friends and family members. This means an interesting thought posted to Facebook by a friend of a friend or someone on the other side of the world has little chance of ever appearing in your news feed.

Tweets, on the other hand, by default, are published to the world. Twitter users are encouraged to follow and connect with those that share their interests, while meeting in real life is not a prerequisite. Facebook’s mostly closed garden approach, while useful to create an intimate social setting, is a massive real-time barrier.

Bottom Line, Facebook’s main purpose focuses on furthering and cultivating relationships with already established friends whereas Twitter’s main purpose concentrates on social networking (meeting people across the world with similar interests).

Twitter could possibly be Facebook’s biggest real-time roadblock. Users and brands recognise Twitter’s platform as the current go-to second-screen.

Even with a user gap of over 800 million between Facebook and Twitter, the latter is clearly the more convenient medium on a companion device. Although subtle, the different uses of these two platforms may stem from the distinct terms each adopts, friends vs. followers. With Facebook your goal is to find your “friends.” With Twitter, you find people to “follow”.

Enter Google’s social networking platform called Google Plus of simply Google+ aka G+.

This platform has a concept called Circles that enable users to organise people into groups for sharing across various Google products and services including YouTube and Gmail. While this has not caught on and isn’t as massive as Facebook and Twitter, it’s a social platform to closely watch.