Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Twitter vs. Facebook Status for social awareness

Posted by shannonclark on December 2, 2007

I am an early adopter of many technologies, being based in San Francisco and being a personal friend of many of the bloggers, investors, employees and fellow founders of “web 2.0” firms, I get invitations to try many different sites – and I adopt and use a small subset of these tools.

In the past year I have adopted three primary new pieces of web technology – though I have had the chance to play with probably literally 100’s of other sites and applications. In addition to the web technologies I have adopted I have also added a couple of other tools to my personal toolkit.

Two of these tools are Twitter, which I have used actively and avidly since SWSX earlier this year and Facebook which I adopted somewhat reluctantly a few months later this past spring (just after they opened it up to applications). For reference the other piece of web technology which I have added to my primary toolkit this year is Google Reader which finally displaced Bloglines as my primary RSS reader. The non-web (well not primarily web) technology I have adopted is the iPhone which replaced my Windows Mobile based cell phone (though I have been using the mobile web and mobile email access for 7+ years now).

There are a few other sites which I use, though not as avidly – Dopplr for awareness of some of my business contact’s travel plans, Plaxo for syncing my contacts (though increasingly Facebook is valuable to me as an updated addressbook), for pricing flights, for the occasional online deal (and of course where this site is hosted).

But to get back to Twitter and Facebook.

I use Twitter a lot. I follow 93 different people (well mostly people, also via twitter and 153 people follow me (if you want to follow me, my twitter account is rycaut). Since I joined twitter I have “tweeted” over 2100 times, far, far more tweets than blog posts I have written (though since my blog posts tend to be long, I think my blog still has a higher word count…)

On Facebook I don’t know the full stats, but I have something close to 200 friends (perhaps a few more) and I use Facebook on a daily basis.

I access both Twitter and Facebook primarily via my mobile phone – though I also keep a tab open to both sites on any computer I am actively using (I have both a desktop iMac and a laptop running Vista, on both I primarily use the latest non-beta version of Firefox). However while reading tweets and checking for facebook updates is something I do frequently while using my iPhone, it is something I do less often when in front of my computer.

I do not use a specialized twitter client (snitter or twitterific, though I have twitterific installed the version I have installed is an older one and I usually don’t keep it open).

What I noticed tonight, however, is that while my friends are fairly active in keeping their facebook status messages active and updated, I get a richer and deeper picture of what they are doing via twitter – and I think they get more from my use of Twitter than from my use of Facebook.

In large part this is because twitter is, as my friends use it, a mix of conversational tool AND ongoing stream of updates. However on Facebook my friend’s status messages are usually interspersed amongst a mix of other news feed items (and yes, I know about the dedicated means of viewing just friend’s status updates) but even there it is a single, short message – not a part of an ongoing conversation. Unlike on twitter, on Facebook there is not a rich, simple way to view someone’s status messages over time – and do so for all of your friends over time in the same view.

Twitter on the other hand is an ongoing conversation between my friends – some of whom are also talking with each other, many of whom only I (among my friends) follow. I twitter questions, notes about what I am doing, observations about the world around me and my life – and as happened frequently today I get back comments, suggestions, and feedback from friends across the planet.

I also get to see in real time when friends are all gathered together (they usually end up twittering about the same stuff – this weekend it was a bunch of friends in LA for the Winnies awards for videobloggers). I get to hear about the first snowfall of the season in NY, about storms in Portland, about news in nearly realtime as it is reported (tonight it was the announcement and blog posts about LiveJournal being sold by Six Apart).

Tonight as well I reconnected with a friend back in Chicago via twitter – I had followed his posts earlier today about the weather and working in Chicago, tonight he commented on my tweets about spending the weekend alone, and our friendship was in a very real way strengthened.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy and use Facebook for many things – but twitter, for all of the apparent simplicity of the tool (I primarily use it via SMS messages) is by far the most impactful tool I have adopted this year in sheer terms of adding value and richness to my life nearly every single day.

So thanks Twitter – keep up the great work!

11 Responses to “Twitter vs. Facebook Status for social awareness”

  1. […] Twitter vs. Facebook Status for social awareness « Searching for the Moon Why Twitter has more impact on daily life than Facebook. (tags: twitter facebook ambientintimacy social networking tools) This entry was written by Anne Z and posted on December 3, 2007 at 9:30 am and filed under Delicious Links. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « links for 2007-11-30 […]

  2. Shannon, thanks for your thoughts. I have also adopted FB and Twitter this year, although my twittering is very early stage. I only became interested when Tom Steinthal ( raved about its practicality for global teams and collaborating with people worldwide (everybody can SMS whether they’re in remote areas in Asia or Manhattan). It hit me yesterday that twitter was a free personal news feed that could be used for infinitely many B2B, C2C, x2x applications. This definitely merits more noodling. Cheers- Chris

  3. Tyler said

    Hi Shannon,

    I just read this post and really liked the insight. I was wondering where you stand now on the issue?


  4. other than the numbers being higher now (I now follow nearly 350 people on twitter) my thoughts remain much the same. Twitter adds value to my life every single day – in lots and lots of ways. Just yesterday I had a great lunch and afternoon catching up with a friend entirely because due to twitter we realized our schedules could overlap.

    In contrast though I use Facebook most days, it adds much less value (and most definitely FB status messages are much less useful).

  5. Smumdax said

    I seriously don’t understand how you can like Twitter more than Facebook.
    On FB you can of course change your status, but you can also: create photo albums, create groups, start discussion threads on various subjects, create events, change your status, use (mostly time-consuming) applications, post notes, post items, upload videos, tag people on photos, and probably more… and you can comment on almost everything I’ve just listed.

    On Twitter, you can change your status and…

    Hum… what else?

    I have 2 friends on Twitter. They changed their status yesterday, and that’s it. I actually changed mine today, after 1 year… imagine that.
    Why would I go on my whole day writing what I’m doing?? That would be very time-consuming and what’s the use, really?

    However, I’m not a black or white guy. I see something usefull in Twitter. To give on-the-spot updates on events, to follow up-to-the-minute developpements on events, on news.. that sort of thing. I think Twitter’s niche is right there, a communications tool to follow not individuals, but projets, events, news. I see Twitter as one part of this whole changing the way medias offer information… But on a personnal standpoint, sorry, I probably won’t stick around.

  6. Smumdax,

    A few responses.

    First – some updates – I now follow over 700 people on Twitter and over 1000 people follow me (almost all of whom are real individuals not automated bots)

    Second – Twitter is vastly different as you follow more and more people (and in different ways as more and more people follow you). Like any social tool, it gains value in a non-linear fashion.

    Facebook’s vast array of places and things which can (and do) change, the dozens of threads of comments etc is EXACTLY what I don’t like about it. I can’t just dip into it and keep up in the same manner as I can and do on Twitter. I use Facebook often, but it hold far less of my attention than Twitter. Twitter offers a nearly endless stream of value to me every single hour of the day. Facebook is good for (some) event organizing, and less well as a way to broadly speaking keep up with my friends (if they are single or not, where they currently live & work) but that’s pretty passive.

    Twitter, in contrast, helps generate lots of in person meetings (some weeks multiple times every day). I now get more new links of stuff to read, view or do via Twitter than I do via any other means (email or RSS feeds – and I get 100’s of emails and subscribe to 100’s of feeds). Twitter search extends the value of twitter considerably as well.


  7. Smumdax said

    Let me paraphrase you: the many possibilities of Facebook are EXACTLY what I like about it… If we could compare Facebook and Twitter to, for exemple, cars… then Facebook would be a winnebago, with a DVD player, a kitchen, bathroom, bed, sunroof, and maybe a little BBQ hanging on the back… While Twitter looks like a box with 4 wheels… My point is: it doesn’t offer much, why would I pay for this??

    But don’t get me wrong. If it serves you right, I don’t see any problems for you to use Twitter. But as for myself, I have around 130 friends on Facebook… I cannot imagine having 700 “friends”, or even simplescontacts/acquaintances each telling me what they are doing each minutes of the day… what do I care, really? Why would I need that?

    However, I can see the usefullness for a journalist, project manager, blogger, or anyone that is involved in some form of public job.

    I like to post blogs, I like to post photos, I like to participate in discussions on many topics, and I like to wander around and see what my friends are doing now and then… Twitter does not do these things. It only gives a status… I find it boring, and while it might serve you in whatever you are doing, FB serves me in whatever I’m doing.

    So… may we agree to disagree ? 😀

  8. aphile said

    I’ve never used twitter before. but I like new things so I would love to. Problem is in South Africa, where I live, it would be a mission to get people from facebook (which is close to being a cult here) so I won’t even bother. I’m a final year student so I’m hoping twitter is more prevalent in the workplace.

  9. […] Blogger, Shannon Clark, wrote in her December 2007 post Twitter vs. Facebook Status for social awareness that she did notice a difference between the two. While I may not get it because I don’t have […]

  10. […] open-participatory church meeting. Facebook isn’t nearly as relationship or participatory. Click here to see one blogger make some compelling observations about […]

  11. […] open-participatory church meeting. Facebook isn’t nearly as relationship or participatory. Click here to see one blogger make some compelling observations about […]

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