A debate sparked amongst friends recently on the topic of Facebook versus Twitter. Conveniently, social marketing happens to be a big part of what my ‘day’ job covers in a day, not to mention that just a few days earlier I’d read an interest blog post by a fellow WordPress blogger named Robert Scoble. The title of his piece was something along the lines of why Facebook has never listened and isn’t about to start now. It made me think, triggering interest in reading the entry mainly because it was only a few days prior that the whole graphical user interface (GUI) for Facebook users had changed for the third time.
I remember when it happened the first time and how outraged and frustrated I was. Emails off to Facebook admins, posts about it in my status and MSN name. Rebel, rebel, rebel. The second time I kind of just ‘delt with it’ and sucked it up, tried to learn it and just get a handle on where everything had moved to. By the time this third revision hit, I just accepted it and went about my business. But – it wasn’t until I read the above mentioned blog entry that what Facebook was actually doing made sense. I’m somewhat surprised and let down by myself at the same time for not really working it out sooner but not necessarily to the level of detail that Scoble did with the seven phases of development for Facebook (they’re currently attempting to get from phase four to five).
Scoble makes some very interesting points in his entry; makes some moderately daring prophetic casts and reveals a few basic numbers that just completely make sense. He asserts that Mark Zuckerberg is right and smart to not listen to the (literally) millions trying to tell him how to run his business. Scoble makes a strong case for the fact that it cannot be forgotten that Facebook is a business and goes so far as to suggest that the moves Zuckerberg has made over the last few weeks with this “phase shift” so soon after the previous one “will be remembered for decades.”
I’m not so sure about “decades” but it’s clear that Zuckerberg is serious and means business. We’re talking about a 24 year old who a year and a half ago managed to put a $240 million price tag on only 1.6% of Facebook shares. Who had the money and keen interest to shell out that much for such a small share? Who other then Microsoft, which of course propelled Google to make an offer. But, this old news aside, what should be noticed here is the valuation. Based on that transaction, it would put Facebook’s worth – back then – at $15 billion! And, that’s before it really truly invests itself into welcoming a proficient blending of business with people as Scoble suggests in phase five. Scoble’s point that Zukerberg’s sitting on a goldmine couldn’t be truer.
Then you come to the Facebook / Twitter crossroads and you can kind of toss MySpace into that intersection as well, but less so then ever before. It’s surprising actually that the clunky and difficult GUI for MySpace has remained pretty much the same. In my migration to Facebook from MySpace years ago, that was one of the things I was truly appreciative of once I’d gotten it all done. Things are easier to do and deal with in the lighter and cleaner Facebook aesthetic. Also interesting is that a 2007 article in Time magazine called MySpace vs. Facebook: Competing Addictions, indicated that Facebook and MySpace actually attract compleatly different socio-economic audiences. It noted that Facebook users had an average annual income that hovered around $60,000.00 US, compared to MySpace which had 12% more users then Facebook who earned less annually.
But back to Twitter, which seems to be the more ‘active’ competition for Facebook now a days. Even looking at these two, Twitter doesn’t really have a hope of eclipsing Facebook anytime soon. It does however have the faster rate of growth between the two , but it cannot match the fact that Facebook collects between 200,000 and 700,000 new users a day. And, it’s highly unlikely that Twitter will manage to boost its 10 million users to the 180 million user threshold that Facebook’s achieved. The logical thing to do, one would think, would be to just consume the ‘competition’ which is exactaly what Zukerberg tried to do as I learned through Scoble’s follow up blog entry that did a good job of proving why Facebook was lucky as hell it missed out on buying Twitter.
Furthering the fact that Facebook is blending people and business for phase five of its developmental stages, Scoble makes a comparison that Facebook will become like the Yellow Pages for people and Twitter is the white pages. It makes sense, Twitter’s no where near having Facebook’s ability to not only directly market to people – but to market what they specifically want to them based on their likes and dislikes. In the future, instead of making consumer choices based on Joe Blow’s ‘professional’ opinion, Facebook will potentially revolutionize business because the immediate search results on everyone’s mobile device will include multiple reviews of trusted Facebook friends. It’s like the promise land of interactivity for the Yellow Pages.
Compared to Facebook, Twitter seems mono-chromatic, in terms of its abilities and its usefulness. Many have already previously pointed out that Twitter is essentially a stream of status updates. But, it’s amazing how so many people use it differently then how they use the same tool on Facebook. For some reason, when people “tweet” they’re all the more active about it and that, for the most part, is really the only difference. The mental correlation when you hear “Facebook” is networking, rediscovering old contacts, interaction – between everything and everyone. But, the mental correlation when you hear “Twitter” is almost like a free thought association writing exercise where you end up with a list of the most random, unassociated thoughts or comments.
It certainly seems making Twitter profitable in the long term is less clear. Twitter has its uses and you can even update your Facebook status via Twitter, so there’s some interactivity going on. But, the ultimate ‘purpose’ of Twitter and determining how the information it provides is useful as a product is yet to really be seen. For now, Facebook and this blog are more then satisfying my social media and marketing needs and Twitter won’t be something to really consider for a while – if ever. Though, I confess that I’ve recently added LinkedIn to my collection of online social marketing tools, but that’s another entry!