Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Twitter vs. Facebook, Chapter 1

The age old (or three year old) debate rages on... Facebook or Twitter?  I'm going to lay out the case for both in the blog tonight.

I want to make it clear from the start of this entry - not only do I use both Twitter and Facebook, but I like both social media sites and use them for different purposes.  This blog post is not going to be me making a case for one site or the other.  Instead, I plan on educating those still in the dark about the pros and cons of both in several categories.

Twitter - the first thing you have to understand about Twitter is that you cannot use it like Facebook.  Unlike your initial impression, it's not just a website overloaded with status updates and nothing else.  Think of it more as a constant stream of 140 character information/news/gossip/knowledge/links/etc. - the SMS of the internet.  If you use it correctly, it's a highly personalized "waterfall" of all the stuff that interests you (see my previous post for some stuff that interests me).  Due to this reason, Twitter has become one of the main outlets for self-promotion, PR, news, and even customer service for online companies.

Facebook (originally "[thefacebook]" if you were cool back in 2004) - if I really have to describe how to use Facebook, you should probably just quit this whole "world wide web" thing.  Go over and turn on your black and white TV, use that rotary phone of yours, and continue on with your life never having cyber-poked anyone.  All kidding aside, Facebook is much more catered to those of us who want to keep our friends/acquaintances/ex-girlfriends/lab partners from freshman year all in one convenient location so that we can keep them constantly updated with pictures, videos, Farmville neighbor requests, and "what's on our mind."  This is Facebook's main purpose.

Facebook used to call these "status updates," but now I'm not sure if they are called "news," "posts," or "stories."  Facebook just wants to know what's on our minds.  Just recently FB implemented a more complete search function that allows you to search the web and on the site for "stories," groups, and pages - a feature that was very lacking before.  Facebook also included the "mention" feature to directly mirror Twitter's @username function.  All facebook updates are limited to 420 text characters but can be photos, videos, links to other websites, events, or just plain text.  A few things Facebook has that Twitter for sure doesn't have... comments, likes, and Doppelganger Week!!

Twitter obviously calls these "tweets."  My guess is that the whole idea of Twitter came from the phrase "a little birdy told me," which makes the whole idea a little more feminine just due to that concept.  How many guys can say "I just tweeted about that on Twitter" without sounding a slight bit homosexual?  Probably just this guy, not that he would have ever used Twitter.  Since Twitter is limited to 140 characters, URL shortening websites such as bit.ly, tinyurl.com, and tr.im have all become very popular.  Every character is valuable in your tweet.  The "comment" and "like" functions of Facebook are replaced with the "retweet" function in Twitter (read an explanation below).  A few things that Twitter has that Facebook doesn't have are hashtags (words or phrases preceded by # that tag or characterize the tweet), trends, and customizable profiles.

Facebook actually invented the word "friends" (yes, this means that Rachel, Phoebe, Monica, Ross, Chandler, and Joey were all on Facebook before anyone else).  Being able to let everyone that you know (keep that phrase in mind) aware of what you are doing or thinking about is why Facebook was invented in the first place.  Your friends can join you for events, buy things in Marketplace (who uses that, though), and be part of the same groups as you are, among lots of other things.  This has its pros and cons, though, as I'm sure all of you have experienced.  One of the main cons is that your parents, relatives, and high school teachers are all probably your "friends" now and have seen all your drunk frat party pictures.  I miss the good old days when it was just college students... oh wait, I graduated.

Twitter doesn't have "friends."  Twitter has "followers."  If your tweets are unprotected, these followers can be people you know or complete strangers (there is the option to block people).  Even scarier, your tweets can even show up on Google search!  If you follow lots of people, the chances are that more people will start following you.  Having a large number of followers is good for your exposure.  As people start reading your tweets and "retweeting" (RT) your tweets, all of their followers see what you wrote too, which hopefully starts a chain reaction (based on the quality of your tweet).  This is why news and gossip spread so quickly on Twitter compared to Facebook.  Example: Wyclef Jean tweets something about Haiti.  His 1.38 million followers all see that tweet on their homepage.  If 250,000 of them RT that info, then all of their followers see it too, most of whom aren't following Wyclef Jean.  THE COOLEST THING about Twitter, though, is that you can follow any collection of blogs, celebrities, news, websites, and friends that you want, thereby creating your "waterfall" of personalized information catered specifically to YOU.

Check back tomorrow night for a couple more comparison topics.  In the mean time, post your opinions!

PS. - two cool new Google things out today, Google Buzz and Google Image Swirl.  I swear, Google has some of the smartest, most innovative people on their staff.  My bold prediction?  Soon, the internet will be gone, and Google will be self-sufficient.