Is Twitter Becoming the Real Facebook Alternative?

    June 1, 2011
    Chris Crum

Let me preface this by saying that in the end, this is not just about Facebook and Twitter. Both companies provide services and features that overlap with plenty of other players out there – companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and others. We tend to think about Facebook and Twitter, however, as the frontrunners when it comes to social networking.

Can Twitter give Facebook a run for its money? Tell us what you think.

It would appear that Twitter is getting more serious about competing with Facebook. Obviously there has been a lot of overlap between the two social networks (though neither actually likes to be called “social network”), but Twitter is getting a lot more aggressive in its strategy.

Facebook has certainly become a lot more Twitter-like over the years, particularly with its news feed feature, but Twitter has done little to become more Facebook-like. However, this week alone, Twitter has launched the new “follow” button which can already be seen right alongside the Facebook “like” button on many sites. It has also announced a new photo upload feature and search revamp to make results more relevant – both things Facebook offers.

There are way more people using Facebook than Twitter, but Twitter use is growing. A new report from Pew Internet finds that 13% of adult Internet users have used Twitter (up from 8% in November 2010), and that Twitter use is spreading to a wider range of ages. Those between the ages of 25 and 44 have experienced notable adoption growth since late 2010, though the younger the generation, it appears, the greater the adoption.

Who Uses Twitter?

Facebook and Twitter both serve as online IDs, providing log-in integration on numerous web properties, and ID is really what it’s all about. Google wants to be the ID too, and former CEO Eric Schmidt has been talking about the company’s shortcomings in this department this week.

Watch to see how the online ID and mobile payments elements of our lives merge in the future (an area where Google is making bold moves with Google Wallet). This is another potential area where Facebook and Twitter could clash down the line (again, putting aside the rest of the players for a minute). Facebook already has its Facebook Credits. But Twitter for payments? Well, there’s already TwitPay (which Eric Schmidt has reportedly invested in). And let’s not forget that the recently returned co-founder Jack Dorsey does also run Square (which recently unveiled a very interesting way of paying with its card case). Things are moving much quicker and more aggressively at Twitter since his return. They’ve already got the ID part. It doesn’t sound out of the realm of possibility for Twitter to get into payments does it?

Facebook wants to be considered more of a journalist tool and resource for news in general. It certainly can be both, but the mainstream news media is sure all over Twitter (and Twitter is all over the mainstream media). Twitter, and its more public nature simply seems to attract more of the breaking news – not only from actual journalists, but from citizens. This is nothing new, but it’s one area where Twitter has an edge over Facebook.

Twitter is also making more moves in the monetization area. In fact, just this week, the company acquired two thirds of the AdGrok team to add to its revenue engineering team. Ironically, the other third went to Facebook.

Twitter recently increased its email notifications to keep users coming back – a subtle, but potentially big factor in retaining users. The acquisition of TweetDeck can’t hurt either. We’ve yet to see the results of the purchase, but such an interface as part of Twitter’s own platform may help those still struggling to see the benefits of Twitter to find new use cases.

Twitter has historically let third-parties bring the best functionalities to the service, but clearly Twitter now wants to be more involved with that first-hand (while continuing to let third-parties innovate too). That can’t be a bad thing for Twitter itself. It makes things more unified. It means people don’t have to be “in the know” of certain apps to enjoy significant features. Sure, Facebook has plenty of third-party apps, but its interface is already much more feature-rich and generally constant, when compared to the ways people use Twitter. Twitter looks to be narrowing the gap in that department, and I’m guessing we’ve only just seen the beginning.

A lot of Twitter users don’t share photos on Twitter, simply because they don’t use apps that do this. Having the feature right in the Twitter interface will likely get more people posting photos. The APIs that come along with this, will also presumably get them sharing photos from other apps that they are using.

Twitter already has the benefit of heavy celebrity use, which will continue to work in its favor in terms of growth and driving consumer interest (though this is not exactly lacking on Facebook). It also has the benefit of excessive use in Google’s search results.

It will be interesting to see how Twitter’s servers hold up as it continues to grow. Excessive fail whales could cause some friction.

Do you think Twitter has the potential to take on Facebook in the social media realm? Comment here.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.