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The “subtle” difference between Facebook & Twitter

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11 August 2010

“Facebook is for people you know, but don’t want to know anymore. Twitter is for people you don’t know, but want to know.”

Many a true word is spoken in jest. For anyone friended on Facebook by someone in their distant past they no longer care for, this statement rings partially true. So is Twitter a place far from your maddening crowd?

Last week I visited CowAfrica, one of South Africa’s foremost digital PR agencies. What’s interesting in South Africa is that Facebook is often used there in a way similar to how Twitter is used in the UK.

When discussing this difference with Donald Swanepoel, founder of CowAfrica, I was reminded of the quote above. Twitter came comparatively late to the game in South Africa, and incredibly Facebook is even bigger in South Africa amongst active web users than in it is the UK.

The result: in South Africa Facebook is at least for some users, like musicians, not so much about personal sharing with friends as is the case in the UK. It’s often used in a more broadcast fashion as MySpace used to be.

Still, I think South Africans are getting less out of their total online experience by confusing the subtle difference between the two tools. What Julien Smith, co-author of Trust Agents, calls it Friend Hyper-Inflation. For me Facebook is a more exclusive place I reserve for friends. Twitter is based on shared interests.

Facebook has introduced the concept of Pages to try and bridge this exact gap.

So I have a better one-liner to explain the difference between the tools.

Everybody has friends & family. But not everybody is a publisher.

If you look at Forrester’s technographics ladder you will notice that Twitter users (Conversationalists) are placed much higher on the ladder than Facebook users (Joiners). But there are less of them.

Everybody has a potential home on Facebook. But Twitter is more difficult. Not everybody has it in them to Tweet. It is for micro & macro performers, curators, aggregators & journalists.

Which is also why you should not expect Twitter to grow as large as Facebook anytime soon.

So Twitter is smaller. I’m a marketeer. That means I should gun for Facebook?

Nope. Consider this new report.

Compared to non-Twitter users, daily users are:
6 times more likely to publish articles at least monthly.
5 times more likely to post blogs at least monthly.
7 times more likely to post to Wikis at least monthly.
3 times more likely to post product reviews at least monthly.
3 times more likely to participate in online forums at least monthly.
5 times more likely to share coupons on coupon sites at least monthly.

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