My friend Rick says I'll win this debate if I can sum up the case for Twitter over Facebook in 140 characters. Terrific! I only need 125:
Dell and Amazon sell goods via Twitter. Tweeps find homes and jobs and create companies. Businesses don't depend on Facebook.
Beyond the tweeting
Let's break this down further. Twitter is emerging as a powerful platform for business because it's expansive; it introduces you to new people, rather than merely reconnecting you with the folks you already know. I love my family, but finding them on Facebook isn't likely to get me more business, nor sell me what I need.
In Twitter, profitable connections occur all the time. For his forthcoming book Twitterville, author Shel Israel has chronicled the story of a man buying a house in New Hampshire via a conversation that began on Twitter. A Toronto-area fundraiser collected $25,000 for charity thanks to Twitter. Micropayment systems such as TwitPay and Tipjoy are taking hold in the Twitterverse, threatening to transform Twitter into the world's cheapest real-time garage sale -- and in the process supplant eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) , Overstock.com (Nasdaq: OSTK ) , and Craigslist.
These stories and more help to explain why investors increasingly see Twitter as a platform for business development. Take StockTwits, which indexes and organizes stock-related tweets to create a snapshot of investor sentiment. Last year,the firm raised $800,000 from a series of angel investors. Not bad, when the underlying platform lacks a business model.
Or does it? This really is the most specious part of the Facebook-Twitter debate. Of course Twitter has a business model. That neither you nor I know its substance is immaterial. Those who've committed tens of millions in fresh capital are impressed by what they've seen. Are they crazy? Fit yourself for a straitjacket if you answered "yes."
I'll huff and I'll puff and not quite blow your house down
Rick's other complaints about Twitter are equally specious. Sorry, pal, but if you're unhinged about how @ replies give you only "half the story," and how URL-shortening services aren't built into the website, then you aren't a credible critic -- and you aren't paying close enough attention.
Twitter has given rise to an ecosystem of mostly free services that allow users to shorten URLs and view tweets, replies, and related tweets as conversations. TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop are two of the most popular. Others include Tweetree, which collects threads and displays images, and TweetGrid and TweetChat, which transform Twitter into a functional chatroom. These and other third-party creations access Twitter via its application programming interface, or API, and account for more than twice the traffic of its website, according to Twitter.
Businesses understand this richness in communicating with customers and prospects. Commercial real estate broker Colliers International is using its twitstream to establish expertise and defend against rivals such as LoopNet (Nasdaq: LOOP ) and Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE: JLL ) . Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) and Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI ) provide varying levels of customer service via Twitter. JetBlue (Nasdaq: JBLU ) uses Twitter to announce deals and promotions. Would any of these same businesses say that they depend on Facebook? I seriously doubt it.
Remember the rebels
That's because Twitter is like eBay: a platform that began as an idea, then became a business that spawned other businesses. Facebook is like that, too. Unfortunately, Facebook suffers from management indecision so often that open revolt occurs regularly.
Twitter is avoiding these fits and starts by taking its time. Co-founders Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Jack Dorsey recognize that advertising is the very least of what they can do, and they've been very public about their desire to create something bigger.
Investors and businesses alike appear to believe that they will. So do I. And so should you.
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