The Competition for Your Social Graph

This is the unabridged version of my current contribution to TechCrunch, “In The Fight Between Facebook And Twitter, Which One’s The Mac And Which One’s The PC?


Source

Facebook is much more than a social network. Twitter is much more than an information network or serendipity engine. Each represent a dashboard for your attention, a foundation for conversations and collaboration, and a matrix for your social graph and contextual relationships. In other words, Facebook and Twitter essentially represent the entrée to the future of the social Web as each strive to host, what Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and others, refer to as our personal social operating system (OS).

What Windows is to PCs and OS X is to Macs, Facebook and Twitter are to our social architecture and enterprise.  Certainly there’s a David and Goliath element here depending on which company you immediately view as Microsoft or Apple. However, Mac and Windows are simply operating systems, not networks per se, and that’s where the metaphor of OS’ break down. Either way, there is the perception that there is a competition between Facebook and Twitter for your attention and your network.

Why? At the very least, Twitter and Facebook combine the elements of productivity and interactivity, combining a social OS, a global network, and a platform for open development.

The fabric of our online activity stems form a sophisticated social framework that facilitates the exchange of information and the sustenance of professional, conversational, and contextual connections. Facebook and Twitter, like Windows and Mac, allow us to interact cross platform, while hosting dedicated applications that support our engagement, productivity, and communication.

As much attention as we pay to this mythical clash between Facebook and Twitter, the truth is that it’s not unprecedented to maintain networks in more than one ecosystem. For example, I use both Mac and Windows-based systems.

According to new data from Hitwise, it appears that the epic battle between the two perceived leaders in Social Media is one-sided – or perhaps better stated, dominated.

As of October 2009, Facebook accounts for 6 percent of all U.S. Internet visits while Twitter represents only .14 percent. In fact, visits to Twitter.com peaked at .20 percent between June and July 2009 and has slowly lost attention in the interim. At the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco recently, co-founder Evan Williams acknowledged the slow down in traffic to Twitter.com in the U.S., for now, but he also stated that they in the process of finalizing new features that will reverse the downward trend. Williams also reminded us Twitter continues to recognize growth in both mobile and abroad.

And, for those who take solace in the hope that traffic is migrating from Twitter.com to mobile clients, there is some truth to the theory. However, new visitors count for everything and Twitter needs to do a better job capturing new users and holding their interests after they register. The company needs to look further than its resident celebrities to attract and sustain traffic.

For the time being, regardless of numbers, Facebook and Twitter serve a purpose, and thus, remain the Mac and PC in the lives of many, including me.  And, until the day that I am forced or compelled to pledge allegiance to one or the other, I will continue to cultivate relationships and value across multiple landscapes and suggest that you do the same.

I am a Mac and I am a PC. I am Twitter and I am Facebook.

What do you think?

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  • http://twitter.com/dpolitis David Politis

    Hmmmm, I guess I'm “socially ambidextrous” too (I use Facebook, Twitter & more, depending on the need and audience).

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Love it…good one.

  • http://www.relenet.com/ Tom Rau

    Interesting topic. Using different social media tools makes sense but can be quite annoying. Although there are apps that help you to concentrate and simplify all the different network like facebook, twitter, slideshare, tumblr, etc. there always are networks that cannot be integrated yet. Organizing these is annoying. Who will provide the tool that lets you add every social media tool? Or is there one already I don't know about? If so please enlighten me I really could use it.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Good thoughts Tom…there have been many attempts to integrate syndication and aggregation into one dashboard. Not sure that one does so extremely well yet. There's also the loss of the culture through a dashboard when not directly participating in each network directly…

    • http://www.relenet.com/ Tom Rau

      Good point. I was thinking of an “email client” for social media. Using tweetdeck and such is simplifying things but as I said, I can't add all my connection to it. It would just help to monitor whats going on, so people know in which network community things are happening without having to stay online all the time.
      Makes sense?

  • http://brandonsutton.com Brandon101

    It would be interesting to see MySpace on this graph just for giggles. We tend to overlook MySpace (it's not new and shiny anymore, and a plethora of other reasons), but there is still a massive audience that visits MySpace regularly. It wasn't that long ago that the major competition was MySpace vs. Facebook. I'd argue that while Facebook has clearly dominated that battle, MySpace is by no means out of the picture (particularly when compared to Twitter, which has a fraction of the visits that MySpace has even now).

    Btw, do you think that the various APIs that are available to connect to Twitter are a factor in the traffic decrease? A lot of the power users are not going directly to the web. I just wonder if there is a metric that is available that would give us a more accurate view of the USE of Twitter vs. the VISITS to Twitter.com. Thoughts?

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Hi Brandon, here's a link to the comparison chart with Myspace included:
      http://img.skitch.com/20091102-j8qpxhxc7xjduwf8

      I didn't include it initially because it's not technically considered as a social OS. at least not yet…

      Re: Twitter vs. Twitter.com, it's not as stellar as you might think. Most users, 40-50% use twitter.com and the rest is distributed across multiple desktop and mobile apps…twitter says their greatest growth right now is on the mobile platform. but then, so again, the same could be said about Facebook.

    • http://brandonsutton.com Brandon101

      Thanks for the other chart Brian – definitely about what I expected. I really hope MySpace will reinvent itself – it has a lot of potential, particularly with respect to music. It would be a shame for that door to slowly close on emerging artists.

      Re: web vs. other access points, it's definitely tricky to get an accurate picture with all of the various platforms users are connecting with (Twitter and Facebook both). I'm certainly connecting to Facebook a lot more on my iPhone now and staying in touch that way. Tweetdeck is my preferred method for connecting to Twitter. I know Twitter makes all sorts of claims to justify the numbers. I just wonder if there is a hard metric available to know for sure what's going on.

  • http://twitter.com/MatthewRay Matthew Ray

    These social networks are becoming too busy – it doesn't seem entirely organized as everyone seems to want to be everywhere. Twitter and Facebook status can now connect (which is great), but what people don't seem to understand is that there are different audiences on different platforms. People on Facebook don't get the @ and #. The move to allow status updates from Facebook to Twitter was a much better move. I see Facebook trying to be the center hub.

    The one thing that seems to be really lacking in social media platforms is the event feature across ALL the platforms. There needs to be a way to cross-connect events from say.. your local news event site, Ning Events, LinkedIn Events, and Facebook Events. Because everyone is in a different space (or in more than one), I understand why I may get 3 event invitations to 1 event, but it doesn't need to be that way. I feel like I'm being spammed by events lately across too many platforms. Maybe it is a lazy admin, or maybe it's poor design on the sites – none the less, I would like to see an “events social network” that is the center of the network, and links back out to LinkedIn, Facebook, Ning, etc. That way, I can accept/deny the event once.. and it is congruent across ALL platforms.

    To keep that central hub status, maybe Facebook will come up with the cross-connected events…

  • http://twitter.com/dpolitis David Politis

    Brian:

    I liked today's post so much I wrote my own — “Becoming Socially Ambidextrous: Why Using Two or More Social Networks is Becoming the Norm.”

    Here's the link: http://www.thebettyfactor.com/2009/11/02/becomi….

    Hope you like it.

    David

  • http://twitter.com/JAH2488 JAH2488

    is this a repost from TC?

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      As it says at the top…

      This is the unabridged version of my current contribution to TechCrunch, “In The Fight Between Facebook And Twitter, Which One’s The Mac And Which One’s The PC?“

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephanie-Casenza/1308576368 Stephanie Casenza

    I, too, use both and also LinkedIn, depending on the audience and need. I use Tweetdeck, but want to find something that allow me to track/combine all of these and other tools to come. When you're in meetings much of the day it can be challenging to keep up.

  • http://twitter.com/JB1t James Bisset

    “…there's also the loss of the culture through a dashboard when not directly participating in each network directly…”

    Failing to get through to someone at the end of a phone or even across a table as they become matrixed into the exponential rise of myriad tool shuffling may make the culture and participation in the cultured art of conversation elitist. There must be a book or short story by Ray Bradbury lamenting the decline of the oral/aural tradition of maintaining contacts in the 21st century, if not a tweet from beyond the grave.

  • http://twitter.com/marioOlckers marioOlckers

    I find using Twitter more appropriate for myself (on PDA, shorter form, more interesting link discovery) and feeding that into Facebook. Any reactions on Facebook comes through e-mail notification anyways, so one can see what reaction, if any, there are. Facebook has more personal friends/family from real life and serious business network type connections whereas Twitter is a dipping-into-at-random for finding interesting links and seeing what the “world” out there is thinking/doing. I must say I have turned off Twitter trending topics, it really makes Twitter feel like some sort of MySpace ghetto :(

    Point is, I also am a PC/Linux/Mac multi-faceted and use/have access to all three systems , they complement/feed into/ augment each other beautifully, unless one of these “platforms” develops serious issues I am very agnostic about that sort of thing and move between them easily, they each have their time/place/function

  • http://twitter.com/Sue_Anne Sue_Anne

    On a personal level, I use Twitter and Facebook completely differently and for completely different reasons. And, I have very little crossover between the people I'm friends with on Facebook and those that I follow / or that I'm followed by on Twitter. The number of people on Facebook that follow me on both Twitter and Facebook is less than 5%.

    For our non-profit, we've had problems with engagement on both Facebook and Twitter. We have people willing to fan/follow on both but few willing to engage so far.

  • http://twitter.com/mundoclick MundoClick Web

    The Competition for Your Social Graph

  • http://linkedin.com/octaviocardenas Octavio Cardenas

    Indeed! And I believe this is just the begining! Hopefully, we'll not over use it!
    Octavio Cardenas.

  • octaviocardenas

    Indeed! And I believe this is just the begining! Hopefully, we'll not over use it!
    Octavio Cardenas.

  • annieogdon

    I use Twitter and Facebook as well but have far more of a fan base with with Twitter. I feel if I try to promote our Facebook fan page so much we will lose traffic to our site.

    What would you say are the best practices in maintaing site traffic but building up a larger fan base of Facebook?

  • shoshanakleiman

    Your analogy is interesting, and I wonder how far we can take it. Is there an equivalent of low level support (outside os aps)? Will this spawn more “social operating systems”? The way we saw operating systems promulgate in the early days? Are Twitter and Facebook the DOS of the future?

  • brow2152

    I think that this is a very interesting idea. It seems like these days people are defined as one thing or another, but this post seems to give insight to the fact that this is not necessarily true. I also use many mediums and different operating systems depending on what I need to do or where I am. I think that it is very important that companies and messages understand the fact that people are becoming very multi-dimensional with their internet and technology use. Messages need to be more inclusive and accepting of a wide array of forms.

  • http://www.notcable.com/att-uverse/at&tuverse_reviews.php Katie, ATT Uverse Reviews

    Facebook is a social network that is really addictive though twitter is also is a great tool. Both has its own purpose, I guess you have to know your target market first. When Tweeter, Facebook and other Social Media tools works for the other, it doesn't follow that it will also work for you. Learn your market first then learn how to attack it.

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  • http://ideas.garfieldgroup.com/ Adam Peck

    Interesting article. I really had the perception that Twitter had a much greater share of the social media market. But it does make sense. Twitter pretty much just provides status updates, while Facebook delivers a much broader social media experience. Thanks for the new perspective.

  • http://ideas.garfieldgroup.com/ Adam Peck

    Interesting article. I really had the perception that Twitter had a much greater share of the social media market. But it does make sense. Twitter pretty much just provides status updates, while Facebook delivers a much broader social media experience. Thanks for the new perspective.

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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