When will Facebook realize that it won’t ever be “Twitter”?

Watch the sequence very carefully: First, Facebook changed their status feeds into a Twitter-like live stream, then they introduced their own version of real-time search, after that they acquired FriendFeed, and now they plan to launch Facebook Lite – a simplified (twitterified?) version of Facebook itself -.

Their obsession with Twitter is far beyond my comprehension! With their huge size, and continuous growth, they can’t be threatened by the increased popularity of Twitter. It probably has something to do with their strategy of biting off chuncks of every aspect of the social networking market. But the question is, do Twitter’s features really suit Facebook’s digestion system? How far should Facebook go in changing its anatomy in order to catch up with Twitter’s *cool* appeal?

Broadcast vs. Feed

Facebook is for feeds – mostly friends’ feeds -, Twitter is for broadcast; this is a core and fundamental difference that defines the nature of both services. You log on to Facebook in order to check out your friends’ activities and connect with them, while on Twitter you log on in order to say something, broadcast it, and promote it to the world. It is not common to add people who you don’t know over Facebook, but it is very common to follow and be followed by people you have never met in your life on Twitter and start some conversations with them. Facebook friends are also limited in number; you can only add up to 5000 friends, which limits the broadcasting capabilities for those trying to reach more people, unlike Twitter, where there is no limit whatsoever. In my opinion, even though many companies and celebrities find Facebook’s fan pages useful, I don’t think it gives Facebook a business and marketing value as Twitter does.

Facebook Lite... a Twitter look-alike?

Facebook Lite... a Twitter look-alike?

Facebook doesn’t pose a threat to Twitter either

Last week, Mashable published an article that questions Twitter’s ability to survive as an independent entity with the presumed Facebook threat. The article posed a question of whether it is time for Twitter to sell or not. I, personally believe, that the answer is “NO”, they shouldn’t sell! Why sell when it is still the coolest new web platform with an incredible steady growth rate? Why sell when it has become the main source for what’s happening right now anywhere in the world?

Twitter created a new way of obtaining and distributing information that wasn’t (and still isn’t) available anywhere else on the Internet. It created a database for real-time information sharing that’s challenging even Google’s traditional way of searching for information. Just check out TwitScoop or Twitterfall to see what’s hot now around the world. In my opinion, Twitter poses more of a threat to Google’s search dominance rather than Facebook’s social networking platform. If anyone has to do some changes in the way they do business, then it should be Google not Facebook… Bing did.

Facebook may benefit from micro-blogging in a way that adds another way of connecting with your friends and staying up-to-date, but it is in no way an open micro-blogging platform where you can connect with the world and not just your friends. Facebook’s usage revolves around the ability for users to set and control their privacy settings, doesn’t this fact, by itself, make Facebook’s attempt on Twitter’s market share (if it is what they’re trying to do) pointless? I mean, by default your Twitter profile is open to anyone, unless you choose otherwise. That’s why Twitter excels in what it offers. Facebook, on the other hand, is more closed to just your friends, unless you specifically loosen your privacy settings.

It seems that Facebook is going to continue to keep trying to ride Twitter’s tide, but that would result in some drastic changes to the anatomy of its services, which might lead to leaving its users angry and dissatisfied. It happened before when they changed the status feeds into stream feeds without preparing its users. This will happen again if they continue on “twitterifing” Facebook. For instance, imagine that strangers will  start following you and reading your status updates on Facebook just as they do on Twitter! That would literally be Facebook shooting itself in the foot!

Coexistence

There is room for both Facebook and Twitter to coexist. One doesn’t have to take the market share of the other, and one doesn’t have to clone the other. It is becoming trendy for software giants to offer every other service that exists on the web, each one wants to be a one stop shop for all. Thank God entrepreneurs are innovative and creative enough to keep on coming up with new ideas that challenge such dominance.

Finally, I would like to ask you: Do you see any value for Facebook’s continuous attempts to mimic Twitter? Will it really pose a threat to Twitter?

Comments and Reactions

  • http://blog.thoughtpick.com/ Beiruta

    Facebook is definitely trying hard to become Twitter! Great points you've got there :) The question is though, is it healthy? Do we really need everything to be a one-stop-shop? I think not!

    Now, as for your concluding question: “Is Facebook a threat to Twitter?” I definitely say no! Twitter, as you so well pointed out, is a different usage platform with different purposes and communication purposes! I'd never replace Twitter with Facebook. Actually, some to think of it, I've been using Facebook way less since I started using Twitter!

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  • http://twitter.com/mejimmyes Jim Crabb

    I have to agree…I don't have any formal background in marketing or social media…and have been reluctant to use it…but I really enjoy twitter for its here and now space…fiddling with facebook…just a lot of stuff to deal with and has its' place but like you said it could very well be self destructing…practical example is the friends n familly aspect of facebook…you might want to share information that you just don't want flying around the world in bits n' bites, and now you have the choice as to who you share with and you can go beyond 140 characters…twitter can be private but understanding that you are broadcasting to the world is inherit and you should understand this and limit what you share or not with this understanding when you twit publically…seems folks (facebook?) just have to be everything to everyone sometimes…and in real life this does not work.
    Enjoy thoughtpick even though I don't always understand everything…but am learning it seems.
    Jim

  • http://blog.thoughtpick.com/ FadiPick

    Hey Jim, it is good to see you around. We are learning as well :). Facebook is good as it is, I don't know why they have to dominate everything!

  • http://wwww.communityorganizer20.com/ Debra Askanase

    What I find interesting is that Facebook users are trying to use it similarly to the way that they use Twitter already. I've noticed the tremendous increase in the amount of business/news related updates over the past four months as users try to “broadcast” more using Facebook-as-twitter. Facebook has noticed this too, I suspect, and is responding to a change in use dictated by people discovering personal and professional benefits from Facebook and other social networking sites. I don't think there is anything wrong with Facebook trying to meet users' needs, but I fear it will lose its uniqueness in the meanwhile and thus its value. Facebook, for me, is both business and personal. However, the personal updates and information are so much richer due to Facebook's applications than they can ever be on Twitter. Twitter can never be as personal due to its 140 character limit.

  • http://blog.thoughtpick.com/ FadiPick

    Debra, some people are also re-thinking the way they are using Facebook and are tying to limit down their friend's contacts just because of the latest changes (http://michaelhyatt.com/2009/08/re-thinking-my-...), others have also been pissed off because of Facebook's missing in the privacy settings in order to make the feeds more searchable and more public. I don't think that Facebook is trying to meet its users' needs, in the contrary, they are trying to get new users, but by doing that, they are pissing off current ones.

    Also, the simplicity of Twitter is considered to be an advantage not a disadvantage. It allows for a fast and easy sharing. It is different from Facebook and caters for differents needs. Both services can exist togather, one doesn't have to clone the other.

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  • http://www.pisyek.com/ pISyEk

    Sincerely, i NEVER experience the FACEBOOK. Twitter is just enough for me… ^_^

  • http://www.unmundollenodemundos.blogspot.com/ Leila

    Very nice post, Fadi. I´m working as a Community Manager at a business school and have been witnessing Facebook´s twitterization, like you said. Keep informing us.

    Leila

  • http://blog.thoughtpick.com Amer Kawar

    Great post, Fadi. I started writing about how strongly I disagree with you that Facebook is not as good as Twitter for businesses, but I couldn't prove anything.

    Threadless (the t-shirt company) was my example about how good Facebook pages are. I check their Facebook fan page (http://www.facebook.com/threadless) and they have 77k “friends”. Then I checked their Twitter followers count (http://twitter.com/ThreadLess) and it's about 1.1 million! So, it seems that now I have to agree with you. Twitter does indeed seem to be much better when it comes to “broadcasting” your business and products. Point Twitter :)

  • http://twitter.com/udallyss Alyssa Udall

    I totally agree. Whenever I post an interesting link on Twitter, I get immediate feedback and discussion ensues. Not so on Facebook. People care more about YOU on Facebook, not what news articles you think are cool.

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