Trying to Explain Twitter to People Who Don’t Understand It

I often hear from people about how much they love Facebook but hate Twitter. Or perhaps the most common way I hear it is “I just don't understand Twitter.” Here I'm going to attempt to outline some of the key differences and advantages of Twitter comparing it to Facebook.

What Is the Core Difference Between Twitter and Facebook.

I think that perhaps one of the reasons that Twitter hasn't caught on as much is because the platform isn't driven by “adding friends.” When you joined Facebook you probably did so at the invitations of friends and you spent your first several hours on Facebook looking for your friends from high school, college, previous jobs, etc. Twitter isn't as popular because users of the platform don't attach the value of the social network to the number of their friends they connect with. The purpose is different. Twitter users use Twitter to stay up to date on their favorite celebrities, news publications, trends, athletes, politicians, etc.

At the heart of Twitter is simplicity. Everything is built around simplicity while Facebook is built around keeping users engaged and in the Facebook ecosystem as long as possible.

To Twitter everyone is the same. To Facebook people, groups, and businesses are different.

Due to the nature of relationships between Facebook users; Facebook has to create different rules for interaction between users and between groups and users, and brands and users. This is why you have profiles, groups, and pages on Facebook. Profiles “friend” each other, profiles “join” groups, and profiles “like” pages. This prevents brands from being able to solicit friends or send marketing messages in a way that could be considered SPAM.

On Twitter everyone is the same. All profiles work the same way and not only is there no technical difference between people, groups, and brands but Twitter doesn't even categorize or index them at all. The potential benefit here is of course the simplicity. To the user the entire platform functions the same.

Twitter Relationships are One Way. Facebook Relationships are Two Way.

On Twitter you do not send friend requests like you do on Facebook. On Twitter you can “follow” anyone you want. If I want to see everything that Stephen Colbert or President Obama tweet I can do that… and they don't choose to accept my follow request. If some weirdo I've never met follows me on Twitter its more power to him/her. While Twitter does give one the ability to Block other users or set one's profile to private, the premise is that what you tweet is out there for everyone to see and anyone can “follow” you (subscribe to your tweets).

Twitter is 140 Characters and that is it. Facebook is Farmville and Much Much More.

Twitter does have an API (application programmable interface) that allows 3rd party developers to build applications that interact with Twitter at some level but these applications live outside of the platform and generally don't add too many features or new types of experiences beyond just tweeting and reading tweets. Facebook is far more complex. Facebook opens up their API to allow developers to create new games and other applications that add a lot more to the Facebook experience. Some love those and others hate them but they are unique to Facebook in that regard. Again, on Twitter simplicity reigns.

I have to say that I love Twitter. I heard someone say once that if you can't put your thoughts into 140 characters it may not be worth sharing 🙂

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