Have you noticed how many posts have popped up comparing Facebook and Twitter? One thing I agree with is that they are both social media platforms and that they are both tremendously successful – but that’s it. I find it odd that people would compare features, target audience and value. These aspects could be looked at but one thing that you need to take into consideration is that these two phenomena have different goals and that’s why I say they should not be compared.
For me, Facebook places more emphasis on personal aspects of life such as your relationship status and who your friends are. Twitter, on the other hand, has moved from telling people what you ate for breakfast and what you got for your birthday, to rather sharing links of interesting articles or videos you came across. As Caroline McCarthy explains, “depending on what you subscribe to, you can get ski reports, links to news headlines and blog feeds, mini-recipes, and celebrity-stalking intel.” These boundaries do overflow once and a while but let’s focus on the big picture here.
Friend vs. Follow
This is an easy way to distinguish between the two platforms. Facebook uses the word ‘Friends’ and Twitter says ‘Follow’. In his post on Why Facebook Isn’t Poised to Steal Twitter’s Thunder, Mark Hendrickson refers to Mike Butcher and his four particular ways in which he thinks Facebook “won’t kill Twitter”. He points out that Facebook has a different relationship model than Twitter: “On Facebook, you create a simple two-way friendship with someone. On Twitter, you can choose to follow someone and you can be followed, but the following relationship doesn’t have to be bidirectional.” This means that Twitter does not aim to create a personal relationship between its users. I follow Gareth Cliff and Ryan Seacrest on Twitter – that doesn’t mean I am friends with them or even know them personally. On Facebook you can join groups and fan pages on celebrities but your friends list consists mostly of people you know personally. Yes, once again, the exceptions are there.
What’s on your mind vs. What are you doing
Okay, the difference is slight and miniscule but people do answer these questions differently. Caroline agrees that they do bear quite a bit of a resemblance. On this point, Mark says that Facebook users answer the question more faithfully than Twitter users. “They actually provide information about what they’re currently doing, perhaps because they are prompted with a field that starts with something like ‘Mark is’. And the news feed lists their entries as action items (‘Mark is having a bike ride’ or at least ‘Mark likes biking outside’) under a tab called Status Updates.” Meanwhile, Twitter users in general use it, as Mark frames it, a public broadcasting system.
Mark says that Facebook fails to challenge Twitter with this new platform upgrade because the two companies in the end serve significantly different behavioural paradigms. This is the point I am trying to get across. Facebook and Twitter are so vastly different regarding their “behavioural paradigms” that it should not be compared or to a large extent affect each other.
There are other comparisons and examples of Facebook and Twitter’s difference but I think this gets the gist of it. I suggest that Facebook should stick to connecting people from a personal perspective because that for me is in the end what makes Facebook significant and that which makes it so different from Twitter.