Twitter Is Aiming for Facebook's Crown

Social media sites inherently have a hard time staying on top for long because they're at the whim of very fickle users. Plus, the social landscape can change in the blink of an eye. A close competitor may overtake you like MySpace did to Friendster, or a site can be rendered obsolete by a "cooler" site -- remember how "uncool" MySpace was when Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) came around? With the ever-changing social media platforms, you never know when it's your turn to be a has-been, and Facebook may be next on the list.

In Facebook's case, people are becoming wary of useless updates, privacy concerns, and even boredom of the same old baby pictures and relationship updates every day. Facebook fatigue is starting to set in -- and teens are leading the charge.

Fear Facebook fatigue
Two new studies show that Facebook fatigue may be more reality than fantasy. A study by Pew Research found that 61% of respondents have taken an extended break from the site. The top four responses (shown below) are most telling.  

  • 21%: Way too busy / Didn't have time for it
  • 10%: Just wasn't interested / Just didn't like it
  • 10%: Waste of time / Content was not relevant
  • 9%: Too much drama/gossip/negativity/conflict

More concerning to Facebook is the site's falling importance among youth, who typically lead social media trends. A study of teens by Piper Jaffray earlier this year showed that Facebook was the most important social media network to 20% of respondents, down from 30% a year ago. As Facebook spills into older generations and friend requests from distant aunts and uncles pour in, the loss of appeal for teens is understandable.  

New products like Facebook Home only exacerbate Facebook overload, overwhelming users with all Facebook, all the time. Twitter is watching these trends closely -- the budding trend of finding social media useless -- and the site is positioning itself as an vital media platform in order to swoop in and take Facebook's crown.

Twitter's growing importance
Since Twitter was launched in March 2006, the site made its mark through its short blurbs and "tweets," allowing friends to share random thoughts and ordinary people to follow their favorite celebrities and news forums. Since then, Twitter has harvested its inspiration of real-life, 140-character thoughts and evolved this initial principal into a fundamental news hub.

During the Boston Marathon bombing and the resulting aftermath, it was Twitter that became a key source of news and updates for residents. The Boston Police Department used Twitter as the tool of choice to communicate up-to-date information after the bombing and eventually the manhunt that brought the city to a standstill. It was a tweet that simply said, "CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody." That sent the city -- and country, for that matter -- into celebration.

Countless organizations from CNN to the Boston Globe to ESPN use Twitter to disseminate information before it ever hits TV or websites. It has its flaws, but this immediate information is what separates Twitter from Facebook and makes it a must-have for social media users.

Beyond 140 characters
In addition to Twitter's value distributing the written word, the site recently expanded its 140 character updates with video-sharing service Vine, which allows users to take short videos and post them to the site from within the Vine app. Vine launched on Jan. 24 of this year, and by April 9 it was the most downloaded free app on the App Store, adding millions of more users for Twitter.

Facebook should watch out
The combination of Twitter and Vine creates a formidable opponent to Facebook. Twitter has proved to be a useful tool for media, companies, and government officials to distribute information, which is attracting new users. Active Twitter users doubled to 200 million last year, outpacing 25% growth on Facebook. It still lags the 1.06 billion people using Facebook, but its faster pace of growth and increasing importance as a "news" source makes it likely to take the social media crown in the next few years.

If you're still not convinced -- just look at the importance Twitter had over the past week.

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Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (9)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2013, at 3:50 PM, hullite wrote:

    Bunk and hokum (and I do have shares in Facebook).

    Any business concern that bases its future solely on whether teenagers use it or not is bound to fail. Social media is a fast moving arena, and kids are bound to flit from one thing to another like moths to a flame. Twitter will also have its day, and whether it survives will depend on how well it can make money. So far, the jury is decidedly out on that. Let's see how well it keeps its audience if it has to keep force-feeding ads between the "actual" tweets.

    Facebook has a huge lead on any other social media platform out there, and is trying to position itself for the broader (e.g. company enterprise) market out there, where the big money will be. Plus the database it has already built -- which will only grow -- is an asset already worth multi-billions. Twitter doesn't have that yet.

    Also, if you point to Boston as the epitome of Twitter's "news platform" worth, consider that it got things wrong far more than it did right.

    Twitter is the whiz kid of the moment, Facebook isn't. Twitter may make it or die, so may Facebook. But Facebook is building a solid base. Can you say the same for Twitter?

  • Report this Comment On April 26, 2013, at 5:34 PM, Grahdodd wrote:

    Twitter.

    And you reference events of last week.

    Like the Twitter feed about 2 explosions at the White House and Obama is injured.

    Flash Crash 140 Dow Points in 2 minutes. And widespread concensus Twitter is easy to hack.

    Oh, THAT Twitter.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2013, at 6:33 AM, Vechiger wrote:

    How can you put a future into a media that thrives on rumors? That CNN, BBC an AP sent out news based on twitter feeds that turned out to be wrong is anything but funny for the individuals named, especially as they will come up in search engines from now on.

    It is also hard to see how you want to make money if you are adjusting constantly on the whims of teenagers.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2013, at 12:29 PM, mikecart1 wrote:

    Facebook is getting more cluttered, slow, and obsolete with each passing day. However, anything is possible and would never bet against a company with so much potential. Just remember how 'bad' Apple was before the first iPod!

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2013, at 6:50 PM, dsciola wrote:

    Interesting article, and future isn't set for either...however 2 things stand out for FB to me...

    1 - pictures - from what I cant tell, this feature isn't a part of Twitter, but given the Vine app mentioned above, perhaps it could be in the future. A lot of FB's value for users is that they can post pics and look at their friends' pics

    2 - plethora of user data - this is the treasure trove that gives FB value for advertisers, and ultimately stockholders...FB users post everything about themselves on FB and allow advertisers to target best customers. THe better FB does this, the bigger their moat grows...e.g. GM recently switched back to ad'ing on FB, Hyundai credited FB ads for directly boosting sales

    Of course, the future is by no means set, Twitter could make a run in ways we cant even think of yet, e.g. Mikecart1's point on Apple inventing the iPod and every other gadget no one saw coming.

    Dom

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 8:59 AM, user5701 wrote:

    As already mentioned, in the past week, AP's twitter account was hacked, etc etc. If you want to take it further, you name the company, they've been hacked. Twitter is insecure and contains #hardtoreadpoundsignnonsense. Granted people for the most part have no clue what they are doing and posting this pound sign nonsense to facebook too. Once Twitter lets users post text as a picture instead of text, it's all downhill anyway.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 7:38 PM, georgepuzo42 wrote:

    This will definitely be an interesting war between these major social media companies. It seems like every other day a major social media company is buying out a smaller one for market control. I have accounts for both but never really use them. What about you guys?

    George Puzo | http://www.almaimports.com

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