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Twitter Is Giving Facebook an Inferiority Complex

[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.

53 Responses to “Twitter Is Giving Facebook an Inferiority Complex”

  1. I am not at all surprised by the rapid growth of Twitter. Each day I find myself using it for longer periods and increasingly speaking about my finds in conversations with friends. However I am amazed to find myself continuously discovering new ways of using Twitter. My learning primarily stems from others I have started following whether it is for professional reasons or simply because of a personal interest to follow the tweets of a person or company. I also find great value in being able to track the opinions of others in real time on a given topic and can see a strong resemblance to the early days of the web prior to the automated search engines where people would just enjoy ‘surfing’ the sporadic and random interaction of an online community which does not exactly mirror the people and brands in the offline world.

  2. shekharonline

    may be social networking also has an EOL (End of Life) test right now, something new constantly keeps on changing the plane of the internet.

    The road to change is always under construction.

  3. I think that Facebook and Twitter are sufficiently different for there to be a place in the market for both of them. As others have noted though, I fully expect Twitter’s growth to slow down as its growth up to now has been phenomenal and surely cannot be sustained.

  4. softmelon

    I don’t think twitter can sustain this growth. It offers relatively nothing compared to Facebook.

    Who knows…neither of them may be around in 5 years. I remember when was the big thing.

  5. There is more than enough room for Facebook and Twiiter to coexist.

    No need to fret facebook…

    They should just take a stand on what distinguishes them from other social media.


  6. I recently joined Facebook and I also recently started using Twitter more than I had in the past.

    If Facebook has the business model that Twitter doesn’t, it’s sure not a good thing from a user’s perspective. I find Facebook an offense to the eyes. Twitter is much more civil in terms of look and ease of use, while Facebook is always in your face in annoying ways, trying to get you to click on some nonsensical advertiser’s link.

    There is no comparison. I’ll be using Twitter for some time. Facebook I’ve only been in for a month and I’m already regretting it.

  7. I wouldn’t be surprised with the recent appearance of Google’s Profile pages, if Google didn’t try to buy Twitter and then bolt on Profiles with Picassa and YouTube to make their own Facebook. Of course they have Orkut, but I think they would rather try something new than try to make something work that isn’t working (in America at least). The risk with that of course, is you end up looking like Yahoo.

    I do think there is a divide between what Facebook and Twitter is, and I do think they can coexist nicely. Twitter is more casual, disposable, in the moment and in some ways more real because you have to drop your ego to some extent to use it to its fullest. With Facebook, because you’re being watched by a crowd of friends, family and professional acquaintances, ego is always in play. You’re always being judged with Facebook.

  8. Chris

    True, but as a user I just find Facebook to be better all around. I have far more friends on Facebook than I ever did on Twitter, and I get to interact with them in such a way that I get to be part of their lives like I’ve never been before.

    Twitter was an interesting diversion (which both my wife and I have given up on), but Facebook has staying power precisely because of its heaviness.

    Facebook marketroids may be worried, but I really don’t think it’s necessary.

  9. This is just more digital penis envy from the old boys club. While the big boys tell you how big theirs is and how many people they can stick it in, all those in the know are talking about how little bang their is for the buck and how inefficiently they use it.

  10. What has been one reason which has led to its rise and rise? I tried scratching my head over it. I feel that it’s the simplicity and much less of clutter all around which has led to the rise in twitter traffic. While Facebook has many features which sometimes look quite jarring. While with twitter its quite simple to get on and starts moving.

  11. R. A. Montalvo Jr.

    Cannot the same be said of Microsoft which continues to yell “windows is better and cheaper than Apple” even while Apple at best has single-digit market share?

  12. @davemcclure summaries my thoughts that came into my head as I read this article.

    Facebook is rightly paranoid as twitter is getting lot of growth and media attention. But Facebook is not to Twitter what Myspace was to Facebook because:

    1. Facebook has this amazing ability to focus all their execution energy on their latest project which is rare for any company past a size of couple hundreds. See their product launch or partner announcement, the entire company galvanizes around it with laser beam focus one item at a time, be it platform, each change to platform, connect, or showing adaption of Connect, CNN Live, Demo Live, sxsw etc to become the center of the identity world.

    2. Call is paranoid, but twitter changed the social media world to making livestreaming acceptable, so Facebook is adapting itl instead of fighting it saying their way of social media is what is better, which is what friendster and myspace did before adapting platform play once Facebook went ahead of them.

    I think this competition just opens up social media for users and companies with more options and it is not a zero sum game here.

  13. “just because i’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not trying to kill me…” – Andy Grove

    i’ve also noticed them looking over their shoulder, but as Andy Grove has pointed out: Only the Paranoid Survive.

    Facebook is right to be wary & responsive, but i do agree they’re focusing a little too much on Twitter and not on their own strengths. My guess is after they came close to buying them, they probably got a VERY CLOSE LOOK at what was going on with Twitter (growth, usage, etc) and it scared them a little bit. it may take awhile to see if they made a mistake or not by not closing on that deal, but in any case they seem to have been spurred to a new level of activity… which might not actually be such a bad thing.

    i’m always impressed by large companies that move swiftly. at 10-20K people depending on how you count it, Google has slowed down quite a bit over the past few years. but at only ~1,000 Facebook still seems nimble.

    will be interesting to watch how this one plays out.

    • Dave

      As some smart man once said, if you look over your shoulder too much you increase the chance of running smack into a lamp post.

      The point of my post was just that — sure be nimble, be paranoid but don’t forget your core value proposition and they is precisely what they are doing in my opinion. I know you are a big FB users and I would love to know what you really feel about the recent changes/focus on Twitter.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

    • @Shyam


      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.

  16. 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.

    • jeanettepage

      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.

  17. lilywhite

    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.

    • vaporware

      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).

  18. 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.

  19. chaatiecakes

    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.

    • 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.

  20. 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.

    • 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.