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Twitter v Facebook. Or is it?

February 11, 2011

I am on Twitter and I am on Facebook.  Recently I have tried to explain to a few people who are on Facebook why they should try Twitter and what the difference is.  It turns out that explaining Twitter to a Facebooker is not entirely straightforward.

With that in mind I thought I would have a pop at writing it down to see if it helps.  So here goes.

Facebook is primarily a means of sharing quite large quantities of information between people who know each other already or who cross paths via Facebook.  A person can, if they wish, detail almost every aspect of their lives and share that detail with their Facebook ‘friends’.  Facebookers are not encouraged to edit or limit their sharing in any way, quite the opposite in fact.  On Facebook, you don’t even have to think of anything to write in order to interact, you can just click ‘Like’.

Twitter is a means of sharing quite fleeting thoughts or bons mots with, for the most part, people you know through Twitter itself.  Each Twitter user shares, at most, a picture, a short bio and maybe a link to a webpage or blog.  All communication via Twitter is limited to a maximum of 140 characters per ‘tweet’ and if you want to say something then you have to think of something to write.

I don’t think that either Twitter or Facebook is better than the other.  I use and enjoy both, but they satisfy different parts of my personality and each has failings that may make them less useful or enjoyable to some.  Facebook is excellent for staying in touch with a circle of people.  Twitter is great for seeing what a cross-section of the internet is saying and making yourself part of it.

One feature of Twitter that I do love and which wouldn’t work on Facebook is the hashtag feature.  I must admit I am addicted to hashtags.  They are a means of tagging your tweet as being of interest about a particular subject.  Have a look at #Mubarak for example and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  The other way I use hashtags is to take the place of body language and to provide context for my tweets.  I find myself doing this on Facebook and in text messages as well, something that occasionally mystifies non-Twitterers. #hashtagaddictioncancauseconfusion

I don’t think that Facebook is really a competitor to Twitter or vice versa.  They occupy different niches and do different things, both for personal and business users.  I don’t profess to have got to the bottom of either medium, in fact I’ve barely scratched the surface.  All this is intended to be is a quick & dirty comparison.  If you know better please clue me in.  This is something I’d like to expand as time goes on.

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