Why Do I Need Facebook When I Have Twitter?

Lately, I’ve had the “pleasure” of lying in bed (most of the time in traction) recovering from hip surgery.  Given the liberal doses of Percocet and other pain meds, I’ve refrained from doing any work-related emails.  But it’s boring as crap and I can only read so much (poor attention span due to drugs) and watch so many bad movies (Max Payne was one of the worst ever).  I relegated myself to surfing around the Internet and getting caught up on all the cool stuff that I’m behind on.

One site that I’ve neglected the past 6 months has been Facebook.  Besides playing Zynga games Poker and Mafia Wars, I had stopped updating my status, uploading pictures and maintaining my profile.  Whereas, I used to be on FB a couple of times a day, I was now spending all of my social media time on Twitter. I figured that with my copious amount of free time, I’d rediscover my interest in FB and get sucked back in.

Surprisingly to me, it hasn’t happened.  And it’s day 4 of trying.  I’m not sure that I need FB anymore.  What I perceived as the value before has clearly changed.  And when I look at the value proposition then, versus now, I can’t imagine what FB would have to do to win my social media time away from Twitter.

Here is why Twitter is better than Facebook (in scorecard fashion):

1. Meeting and / or reconnecting with friends.  I have 1,110+ friends on Facebook. I have about 1,700 on Twitter.  But there are two factors that must be considered above quantity: quality of friend and velocity of friend acquisition. 

Quality-wise, my networks are probably about equal with a mix of real friends, acquaintances and folks that are just network builders.  I find this interesting, as on FB I have to allow folks to be my friends, but on Twitter people can essentially befriend me unilaterally.  (I accept all FB friend requests, by the way).  I’m very much overweighted with high school connections on FB and over weighted with business  friends on Twitter.  (This is a good thing, nothing against my high school friends).

Velocity, however is no match.  While FB started strongly, I’ve only added about 200 friends in the past 3 months.  I’m adding about 250 a month in Twitter.  Just this week alone, I’ve added several dozen Twitter followers and only a couple new FB friends. 

Winner:  Twitter

2. Relevant Information. This one isn’t even close.  Besides knowing when a birthday occurs, the information stream inside Facebook sucks.  It’s 90% noise.  Yeah, I know that I can go and configure the info stream, but the interface stinks and it’s always changing.  Twitter?  Simple.  I follow those who provide me interesting information and can always check out [email protected].”  If someone is creating too much noise, I can unfollow them with one button.  Plus, for those in my life whose opinions I really trust, I can pay attention to who they are retweeting and pick up others to follow. For this reason, friend discovery is better on Twitter, as well. 

Winner:  Twitter

3. Activity.  So which network sees more activity from those that I care about?  This one is mixed.  It’s all over the map, so let’s punt on this analysis. 

Winner:  Tie

3. Fun.  So life isn’t all work.  Fun matters.  Which one is more fun?  I think FB still wins this one with the games, applications and photos that Twitter doesn’t have.  Plus the persistence that exists with content is nice, as well.  That being said, Twitter is catching up and some of the Facebook fun is moving off the FB platform.  One of our recent investment, StockTwits shows that a great application can be built on top of the Twitter platform and game makers like Zynga have more and more standalone offerings (like Farmville). 

Winner: Facebook (but, isn’t a guaranteed long-term advantage)

4.  Efficiency.  Putting aside all jokes about Twitter’s infrastructure aside, the cumbersome nature of FB, plus the ever-changing and poor UI make this one no contest.  Plus, I think 140 characters is a better format for folks to connect up, instead of the three page dissertation from the girl from high school telling me about her high school crush on me.  And don’t even get me started about FB email and chat – two more complete time sucks in my life that I see no benefit to.   

Winner: Twitter (In a landslide, but please scale your infrastructure)

5. Privacy.  Let’s see… On one hand we have a founder (Facebook) who believes privacy is dead and on the other hand we have a really simple platform that allows me control over what the public sees.  Even more inscrutable is knowing what Facebook’s du jour policy on privacy really is. 

Winner:  Twitter

6. Spam. I’ve had to defriend folks on Facebook due to spam (mostly politicians) and I’m sure we’ve all made a mistake or two where we’ve invited our entire address book to something that we weren’t aware that we were doing.  With Twitter, I only follow those whom I enjoy, it’s easy to audition folks by following / unfollowing, where the “Remove Friend” button seems to change location often. 

Winner:  Twitter

7. Ability to Network.  connections / help:  At one point, I thought that FB would replace Linked In.  I was wrong, Twitter did.  I sent out a tweet and almost instantaneously whatever I need is addressed.  Instead of spamming folks on FB, I just send out a 140 character missive and folks decide whether or not they want to help or not.  With FB, I’d have to create an email and send to everyone and annoy them as they would at least have to go delete the message or forever show new messages in their inbox (especially annoying on the iPhone client). 

Winner:  Twitter

8.  Sharing.  I think FB still wins.  Granted, if you want to share each and every part of your life, there is no substitute for posting pictures and letting everyone know which Sex in the City character you are most like. I think the novelty of this wore off on me a while ago and I prefer sharing information and content that I find find interesting and I find Twitter to be the perfect platform to do this.  That being said, I may not be norm.  And perhaps those that rank sharing as their top attribute for participating in a social network will always flock to FB, but I’m not sure how many people feel this way. 

Final Score:  Twitter: 5  Facebook: 2 Ties: 1

Now that Twitter has effectively taken over friend discovery, connection, networking and information for me, the only real use that FB has if for fun.  And I’m finding more fun in the Twitter platform everyday.  Given that I only have so many hours a day for social media, I’m allocating my hours to Twitter (and blogging, of course).  I wonder if others are finding the same thing? Or is sharing the killer app?

  • Joni Klippert

    Well put. I've been thinking about this a lot as well and trending almost exclusively toward Twitter. Zynga (a little Vampire & Mafia Wars action) is all that keeps me regularly going back these days! And it is nice to have a venue to post pics from Food & Wine Club outings and other events.

    Mostly – those on Twitter are far more relevant to my life. I read more than I ever have based on article/blog posts and connect more directly with those in our community.

  • I thought I was the only one out here that thought FB was irrelevant. Twitter does it all for me, add TweetDeck and I am there. Only go on FaceBook to keep current with the app.

    • Then you found at least one more like you.  I do love my tweetdeck

  • I find the Twitter feed to be infinitely more interesting than Facebook. My problem is that I still have a large contingent of friends who are scared/don't get/don't want to get Twitter. Therefore, I need Facebook to stay connected with that crew. But once the adoption curve goes vertical, I think I'm right there with you.

  • Hmm, groups? Pages? Events? I can see most of your points, but Facebook still has organizational value that goes beyond just exchanging messages.

  • Good point, but the groups and events applications are really weak and at best useable b/c of the size of the user base.  They really don’t stand on their own to work very well.

  • I have different groups of friends on each service and use them differently, probably similar to @emily. I find myself thinking "is that more of a Facebook post or a tweet?"

    Unlike @emily I have 3 groups of friends: Twitterers (the plugged-in crowd), FBers (people trying to understand this online/social stuff), and law partners (who fortunately will never see this comment). I email memos to them.

    • At least you aren’t using couriers for those memos…  J

  • 100% of the content I put on FB is from Twitter, Flickr and my blog – it's just a repository and way to connect that content to people who I'm not in touch with elsewhere. Even though I manage my privacy controls tightly on FB, I just assume that everything there is public. Z'berg, you won't fool me again! IThere a lot of people I get updates on from FB that I wouldn't have found otherwise.

    I love Twitter now that I've tuned it on my Droid, but it took that to win me over. Like you, I'm finding I spend most of my spare time using it as my hub.

    For private communications this Luddite still uses email – it's the platform everyone has in common.

  • Jason, I agree with your sentiments 100% except for one. Unlike you, I have never been addicted to Facebook. (I've just never really seen the point!)
    -Mike

    • I’m clearly into the flavor of the week.  J  Yeah, in hindsight, I feel silly about that, but it was what it was.

  • who cares about facebook?

    well for starters, people who care more about pictures and videos of their niece's, nephew's, grandchildren's soccer game, piano recital, school play than about digital media news…

    …you know, the roughly 290MM people with active facebook profiles who don't have active twitter profiles

    • You think this is legacy, however, or what the future will be?  Seems like Facebook could be viewed as nothing but free storage, but I don’t know.  Totally agree the numbers at this point make FB “the man” but I’m wondering if it will change (per how I am), or If I’m not market (which is quite possible).

  • Tyson

    Why do I need either when I have a life?

    • That is a question of which I do not know the answer. Awesome.   J

    • Warren

      I'm looking at hip surgery down the track..maybe FB and such distractions have sucked what little time I have for my body to move. There is an old saying, "If you want to know what the weather is like, take a look out the window"

      • Hope that you avoid surgery.   It hasn’t been a lot of fun

  • You're a Fanboy

    No body who truly matters in my life uses Twitter. My wife, parents, inlaws, and siblings all use Facebook and don't have Twitter accounts — and never will. Does your family use either service?

    • My family is about 75% FB but activity is low.

      ———————-
      Jason Mendelson

      Sent from my iPhone
      – please forgive iTypos.

    • "Nobody" and "Never" is a rather high bar. I'd willingly bet that you'll be proven wrong within a few years. Your extended family may not see value today but you can't know what may emerge to cause them to see value in Twitter in the future.

      Digital photography and sites liked Flickr caused many a grandma to go from a "Can't see no use in dem 'puters" to "Must. Have. Now!"

      • And to back up your point, I reserved “jasonmendelson” as my FB name just in case, but right now I’m just not seeing it.  But I did hedge my bets.  If it changes, I’m happy to eat my words.  Like your grandma quote.  J

  • Pete

    Good post, Jason. I have been trending toward twitter more as well, using tools like tweetdeck make it so simple to monitor business contacts, vertical searches and more in an instant (and turn them off easily). Facebook is still a fun way to catch up on things with family and friends, but checking in less frequently for sure.

    • Thanks.  You bring up an interesting thought…  Do I want my family on Twitter?….  hmmm.

  • I keep friends on Facebook and tech contacts on Twitter. That is, every one of my 600 people on Facebook is someone I have some kind of relationship with — even if I might only see them once a year, it's a nice way to keep up on births, deaths, and vacation photos. I reject not only random strangers but also people that I meet through casual networking, redirecting them to Twitter. How many of your Facebook friends are people you really know, Jason?

    Meanwhile, I have about 600 people following me on Twitter. I follow about 45 things back; in other words, I consider Twitter to be something of a write-only medium. You might say that makes me arrogant, but I prefer audacious: I don't really care that I'm "supposed" to follow people back. Twitter is supposed to be whatever you follow, and I happily follow very few things.

    The point I'm making in more than 140 characters is that people who see either medium as a numbers game might as well harvest gold on WoW, because real influence isn't about social networks at all. It's great that you find so much value in Twitter, but I find the value of each person following me is quite low because there is no barrier to entry.

    When I post on Facebook, I often get a dozen comments back… and from people I've met in person. Can you say that about Twitter?

    • When I post a question on Twitter I often get a dozen useful comments back… and mostly from people I've met in person. Because that's how I use Twitter.

      When I post anything on Facebook, I get a dozen comments or more, almost all useless and irrelevant, AND I have to go back to Facebook to see what those comments were. Facebook generates a far too much noise and far little of value. In a nutshell, Facebook is primarily for mindless socializing. And I guess for most people, that's okay but not for me.

      • You underscore a point that I didn’t hit hard enough in my blog post.  With FB, most (all) activity forces me to go back into FB and that is annoying, as with Twitter I have a variety of apps to interact with.  FB is starting to allow response via email, so that is cool, but I agree with you and should have made this more clear in the article.

    • Facebook – I really know about 300-400.  I probably can recall interactions with up to 800-900 or so.  I don’t think you are arrogant at all about on how you use Twitter.  I think most people would say the same thing.  In fact, I love the fact that if someone [email protected] me, that I don’t even feel obligated to respond all the time.

      And as for numbers – your point is correct.  I think the main point is that I’m surprised by my own actions and was wondering if others were were like me out there. 

      Comments – totally opposite – FB posts get me little activity – a good Tweet nets me a ton of mentions, but still nothing like a good old fashion blog.

      Great comments

  • Phil

    This is stupid.

    Twitter has 1/10th of the features FB has. Get a grip and stop being different for arguments sake. It's boring now.

    • Features do not always a valuable service make. If so, the iPod would have failed.

    • 1/10th by what math?

      Twitter accepts the reality of the Internet (which isn't going anywhere, despite Zuckerberg's denial) at its core, in the API, whereas Facebook is crippleware, a Disneyland where you can't get off the rides.

      Twitter is underwater currents in an Internet sea, but Facebook is a whale about to be poached.

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  • Cookie Monster

    Does anyone else wonder if Facebook is a bit of a fad?

    Around 1981-1983 I got heavily into modem BBSs (really the precursor to Facebook, essentially online forums) for talking with and meeting other people but after a few years I got bored and moved on.

    I think Facebook has more value as a way to keep connected with people over time. But I wonder if the addiction level of interest where people are checking in several (or more) times a day will wane.

  • I think the distinction is really one of use and the savviness of the different pools of users. Facebook is still, at its heart, a *web* destination. Twitter is predominantly a *digital* destination. Sure, twitter has a website, but I'd argue that a high percentage of the interaction via twitter doesn't take place through the website (except for novice users) but through specialized apps and other potentially other devices. I'd even further bet that most of your twitter colleagues are more technologically advanced than the general population and are comfortable existing in a bunch of different mediums — their sense of self is stronger in different environments and they seem themselves as a constant. I think this is an evolved attitude and reflects a comfort level. The *vast* majority of the world isn't there and the web is still a thing you get to in a browser, on a computer. Facebook's model of engagement is heavily invested in that approach even though they have mobile apps. But, because facebook is a destination, it also ends up being a touch point for heavier interactions — see zynga, et all, for use as a platform. It tries to do *many* things pretty well. Twitter's a data channel. It doesn't try to do much more than that and any add-on is a small incremental bit (hash tags or lists) rather than being a big slab of meat on the experience.

    I don't think it's an OR proposition. While you have a fairly divided population in tech savviness and comfort, both will exist. You'll use them for different things and that makes sense. If I'm hauling lumber from Home Depot, taking the Aston doesn't make a lot of sense. 😉

    • Great comments and agree.  Can I borrow the Aston, though?

  • Loved this post, it nicely summed up my thoughts on the two platforms only more eloquently!

    Twitter has become my main source of information. For example I’ve found this article because of it! I am still astounded by the ease of which I can get advice / questions answered just from 140 characters and not just from my followers.

    Facebook for me now is for keeping in touch with friends not on Twitter and playing Kingdoms of Camelot!

    – Jonny (@DevJonny)

    • Thanks for the support.  Nice comments, too. 

      @jasonmendelson

  • I'm with Pete Forde. I use Facebook for people I have personal relationships with. I go against the grain here a bit and try to keep business away from it.

    Twitter and LinkedIn serve more of a business need, i.e. brand recognition and networking. Also on Twitter, you can have more than one profile quite easily. So you can have multiple brand presences as well as personas.

    Larry Port
    @rocketmatter
    @larryport

  • I do like Twitter. It's cute besides being useful. And that's what keeps me there.

    But, having said that, Twitter makes it really hard to track responses. It's like hosting a crowd in a room (even with a follower/follow list). There's chatter coming from every direction. With vocal audiences it can soon turn into commotion.

    I like Buzz, because you can track replies and maintain a conversation. Twitter is great for one-way traffic – aka broadcast.

    FB, it's just for fun. I haven't had anything serious done there.

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