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Summary:

[qi:006] I’m not sure why, but Facebook seems to be completely thrown off its game by Twitter and all the attention being lavished on San Francisco-based start-up. First Facebook added Twitter-styled status updates, much to the chagrin of its users. And now we’re noticing a marked […]

[qi:006] I’m not sure why, but Facebook seems to be completely thrown off its game by Twitter and all the attention being lavished on San Francisco-based start-up. First Facebook added Twitter-styled status updates, much to the chagrin of its users. And now we’re noticing a marked increase in the number of communiques from the Palo Alto, Calif.-based social network’s press department that roughly translate into, “Look at me, I’m bigger than Twitter. Seriously, pay attention to me — I am bigger than Twitter. Take this email from earlier today:

You may have seen that the White House has created an official page on Facebook. This was done in parallel with official presences on MySpace and Twitter, which makes for an interesting case study in distribution. Check the scoreboard at ~1:40pm PDT – Facebook (31,281 fans), Twitter (8,507 followers) and MySpace (4,052 followers.)

Today’s email reminded me of the ones I used to get from MySpace’s PR department when Facebook was taking its place as the media darling, in which they would go to extreme lengths to point out how much bigger they were. Why is it that the biggest, most powerful companies always have the thinnest skin? Being in a Friday kind of mood, I’m just going to chalk it up to insecurity.

  1. Nice analogy between Facebook and MySpace.

    Facebook used to play UP that they had a limited status update–showed you just a few things each day that they thought you would be more interested in. Now they just dump alot of irrelevant information.

    The comparison between fans and followers doesn’t even make any sense! Being a fan is like saying you like the color blue. A follower is actively (more or less) trying to follow a stream someone else is producing and editing.

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  2. I think you hit the nail on this one. I think companies like Facebook are afraid of being thrown off, and believe that they are always at the risk of falling.

    Indeed, they’re one of the largest social media sites, but they can’t afford to lose any market share (aka users). Remember the problems they were facing due to advertising revenues? Can’t forget about that now. I blogged about these sites being in serious trouble, and it got some interesting comments.

    I dunno, I guess this is just the big boy playing it safe.

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  3. Facebook’s strength is that there’s value in their archived data. Twitter’s weakness is that value is only gained through frequent usage, and there’s little to no value in archived data.

    Instead of chasing Twitter’s short term success, Facebook should recognize their true strengths and continue to compliment them. They don’t need to think of Twitter as a competitor because it’s a completely different service with a singular, unique value proposition. Twitter can never accomplish what Facebook has. Facebook should continue to innovate and blaze trails on that basis.

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    1. Chris,

      I would stand to correct a few points: value FOR ITS USERS is only gained / maintained from frequent usage by ITS USERS. And whether that will continue depends on how the product and interface evolve. My recommendation would be not to change much.

      As for archived data, there is little to no value in archived data for its account holders, yes. However, twitter’s stakeholders will be able to find just as much value in historical data as it is the realtime heartbeat.

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  4. chaatiecakes Friday, May 1, 2009

    Facebook should define itself on its own terms, not relative to anything else…especially Twitter. I think there’s room enough for both of them and they fill different, albeit complementary, niches (I agree with chris). One could make the argument that MySpace and Facebook are complementary (one connects strangers, the other connects friends/acquaintances), but those two seem much more similar than either are to Twitter. Facebook is accustomed to being the media darling, and Twitter’s recent high profile media coups (e.g. Oprah, Maureen Dowd) have it questioning itself. And THAT has many users questioning it, too.

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    1. I could not agree more. I have made that point in the past and I think it is fairly sad to see them clutter up their experience and lose focus from things that make them great.

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  5. It’s cute and a fantastic distraction for these troubled times. May Facebook get all the coverage in the universe and save mankind; Facebook and Twitter are on the same team.

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  6. The folks in the valley are so blue skied by Facebook that it’s hard to comprehend. Facebook has incredible traffic numbers but a terrible business model. Because their model is sooooo bad they continuously have to raise money at levels never seen before. Buzz helps them sustain their lofty valuations. Companies like Twitter that threaten to steal their thunder are in fact quite dangerous and they know it which is why they tried to acquire them last month.

    Facebook has issues and they are not small.

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    1. Does anyone know why Facebook burns through so much cash ? Where is it going ? Is it server farms and database programmers because of all the new users ? I thought that stuff was really cheap these days. Or is it just cash wastage ?

      There is nothing more definite than Facebook becoming like Myspace and being replaced by something cool. I think they could hold onto the older demographic (say 30-45) but it’s definitely not a cool place for the younger demographic to go (16-22).

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    2. Agreed and well-said

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  7. I think Twitter is close to hitting a Digg-like plateau.

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    1. I could not agree more.

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    2. you’ll eat your words, my friend. guaranteed. The company has only begun to explore how it is useful in a practical business sense. And there is mammoth potential there. Let’s not forget that SMS is currently part of twitter’s core functionality, and Americans are still amidst a sea-change in terms of mobile texting adoption.

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    3. There are applications that make Twitter more valuable. For instance, you can post slides, e-cards, opinion polls to Twitter and do your own press releases for free.

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  8. Lets not forget, Twitter has “live search” nailed. When swine flu started, nobody had that news except Twitter. It took, 12 hours to 3 days for others to catch up. Facebook is not in the live business. They have my social history, not my live thoughts.

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    1. jeanettepage Monday, May 4, 2009

      Your comment gets the award…if there were one. I agree with you 100%. The only way I see FB updates are by logging in. Twitter sends me SMS texts of everybody I choose to receive from. I have the Jersey City Police Department, Jersey City Fire Department, my daughter’s school, etc. One can receive useful, up to date information from our followers and the ones we follow.

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  9. Facebook does not need Twitter to give itself a hard time, they have plenty of their own to deal with in the first place. In fact, as commented before on this thread, they need not even compete with each other, because they are two different kinds of services. One derives its value from being public-facing, the other from being private, which makes a joke of the whole ‘_____ killer’ headlines.

    If Facebook has to survive, they need to make it easier to interact and use the service. Currently, a huge part of the effort goes into network and newsfeed maintenance on it. This, coming from a service that saw its first wave of massive uptake because of its ease of use and simplicity is one of the things that will really bog it down.

    Lastly, companies that have reached the scale of FB won’t just die and disappear day after tomorrow morning even if they were to blow it badly. They will keep going for a long time to come, even restructure a lot and become somewhat close to being profitable and plod on like many other businesses out there that do reasonably well. So you are not (almost certainly) going to see whole implode and die story.

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    1. @Shyam

      Agreed.

      I agree large companies like FB don’t keel over but they lose their value proposition and which is worse than keeling over. We are seeing that happen with MySpace. :-)

      The problem is that they are starting to panic and the changes they are making aren’t quite adding to the experience. The status updates feature has become nothing but a migraine. I have been spending considerably less time on FB just because of that.

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  10. Facebook has a user base of 250 million adding more at a rate of 10 million each week. Twitter has a user base of 10 million, with a very rapid growth.

    By a quick calculation, for twitter to catch up with facebook in a year, it will require to grow at 50 times the rate of growth of facebook (5%); its like adding 25 million users a week. Not going to happen!

    But really, what with so many users? Isn’t twitter going the digg way?So many users, so much spam and little revenue. Fb is where I went to connect to my good friends and see their latest uploaded pics.

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