With Twitter quickly approaching a public offering, analysts are already comparing the IPO possibilities to that of rival social networking titan, Facebook. Although I'm not a financial advisor, I am an expert in social media trends. Like Pepsi and Coke, Twitter and Facebook have very different consumer bases. Here's the difference between the home of micro-blogging and the social network that inspired The Social Network.
Facebook Is a Chore; Twitter Is a Hobby
Everybody is on Facebook these days -- they currently receive over 1.15 billion users according to analyst reports. Users are encouraged to enter their real personal information and connect to family and friends. Because of this, many users feel they can't post certain content for risk of offending someone like Grandma. By contrast, Twitter allows a level of anonymity; you can be yourself, but you're free to create an avatar as well. No matter how well behaved we are, there's always a difference between you in public and you in front of your mother.
This difference leads to Twitter providing access to certain levels of honest feedback from consumers that they won't get from Facebook. If a consumer complains about a company on Facebook, for example, they're likely to keep it confined to a single post on either their personal timeline or the company's. With Twitter, a single tweet directly to the company provides the same impact in a more concise manner, especially when #hashtags are used.
Facebook Is Reactive; Twitter Is Proactive
Facebook's most common use is to keep people informed of what's happening. It's become a scrapbooking site, where people archive important moments in their lives. Twitter focuses on speeding things up, often becoming a source in and of itself.
The Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street are two notable movements that had their start on Twitter. Gossip columnists have direct and unfiltered access to thoughts of celebrities and other notable people. Journalists from every vertical of every major media outlet have flocked to the site hoping to catch a hot news story happening in real time. Both corporations and governments also monitor Twitter trends, with many utilizing it as an avenue to connect with the public.
Facebook Is Cluttered; Twitter Is Sleek
Back in the day when MySpace was popular, users were given options to design their own page layout. It was a great idea in theory, but the site soon became overcrowded with glitchy pages that took forever load because of animated "bling" banners. The initial draw of Facebook is that it removed all the garbage and provided a clean layout. Twitter has become the social networking site of choice for people wanting to remove the glitz and glamour to focus on the information.
Although Twitter does provide picture and video solutions to compete for social media traffic, they're collapsed within the timeline. The site functions like a popup book, giving you efficient access to the information you want, the way you want. Rather than bombarding you with pictures and videos of meals and babies, you have the option to click only on links that look interesting to you. Scrolling is much faster, and user satisfaction is maximized.
Facebook Is a PC; Twitter Is a Mac
If you're familiar with the Mac/PC commercials, this is the best way to describe the difference between Facebook and Twitter; Mark Zuckerberg created the functional Zune of social networking, whereas Jack Dorsey created the intuitive iPod. Twitter hasn't been cluttered by multimedia and ads -- the Vine video service is stored on a separate server, and promoted tweets are clearly labeled. The End-User Agreement is easy to read, and privacy settings are simple to control. While Facebook is a great app for keeping up with your uncool uncle, Twitter is where you can keep up-to-date on specialized information personalized by you.
Twitter may not have found as many ways to monetize their site as Facebook, so the initial offering is bound to be low. Their stock shouldn't be as volatile as Facebook's however, as they have a much more dedicated user base stemming from the company's stated commitment to dedicate funding and resources to eliminating server downtime. Time will tell how well Twitter stands against Facebook once they're held accountable to investors. Whatever happens, I bet we'll hear about it first on Twitter.