Social media’s future: less Tweeting, more Facebooking?

Social media expert Brian Solis turned soothsayer for the crowd at Ragan‘s Social Media for Communicators Conference in Atlanta and told them that the future of social media lies not with Twitter, but with Facebook.

Why? Well, Facebook has a much larger audience, for starters, so the potential for greater reach is there. But Solis also says Twitter is too ephemeral. He says the average lifespan of a popular retweet is only about an hour. “Twitter has no memory,” Solis says. “It’s always moving on to the next thing.”

[P]articipation on social media runs deeper than just responding to other people.

“Our job is to contribute something to the greater conversation,” Solis says. “Have killer content. Make people feel compelled to share.”

I agree with Solis on the killer content thing. But my experience, based on working with both personal and organizational accounts on Twitter and Facebook, is that Facebook provides the greater reach but Twitter creates a greater connection among users. The people we interact with on the @MissouriSandT Twitter account seem more connected somehow than those we interact with on the Missouri S&T Facebook site.

Of course, most of you who know me from my blog and Twitter ramblings know I’m a big fan of Twitter, and that my interest in Facebook continues to wane with every new meme and every request to join a group that wagers a dog, a rock or some other object can get more fans than Sarah Palin or Obama’s health care plan. So maybe I’m a tad biased.

Also, it wasn’t so long ago that MySpace was the king of social networks, and Facebook was a mere sprite. But the table quickly turned. Could the same fate that came upon MySpace also befall Facebook?

The crux of the matter probably has more to do with what aspects of Facebook, Twitter or any other social media platform appeal to people — not which is the better platform for everyone. This post from Twitip got it mostly right, I think:

“Facebook appeals to social animals and can be very addicting to people who have an insatiable appetite to stay connected with friends and make new acquaintances,” while “Twitter is like a communications stream you dive into for an invigorating swim.”

What do you think? Is Facebook the wave of the future? Discuss.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

10 thoughts on “Social media’s future: less Tweeting, more Facebooking?”

  1. I completely agree with you. Twitter allows you to get that personal connection that Facebook may not. I’ve had greater success professionally with Twitter messages than with Facebook. In my experience, Twitter shows you are listening, Facebook shows you are starting conversations.

  2. I also agree. To paraphrase @LeeAase from Mayo (and mirroring the Twitip quote above), Facebook is for staying connected with people you’re already friends with – Twitter offers more potential for connecting with people you’re not friends with YET.

  3. I think Facebook’s death knell came — strangely — when it opened up to everyone. While it’s great in a sense that it’s like the little phone book that could for a cacophony of real life and other kinds of connections, I think Twitter, like Jess said, does show you who is listening. Facebook requires a level of engagement that really depends on your network and even then…I just don’t think it serves as effective a purpose.

    I think that might be something Zuckerberg and Co. realize and why they’re so desperate to get people to make their Facebook profiles as public as possible. Because then it could function in a more twitter-esque real-time manner. But I don’t think it’s gonna happen.

  4. You probably know my feelings about engagement spam: the kind of stuff I get from my Facebook “friends.” On Facebook, you can spam everyone with your latest interest, whether it’s Farmville or Mafia Wars, or a new group of 1,000,000 against something. And it will only get worse as major brands and Pop’s Auto Glass store start getting in the act. It’s like the days when people discovered they could send emails about the latest Internet hoax to about 500 of the closest friends by pasting their email addresses in the “to” field.

    Twitter is different. It’s easier to ignore tweets because they have a smaller footprint and if I have to focus, I’ll scan my VIP group in TweetDeck (consisting of people who really have something to say: including @jesskry and @andrewcareaga) and blow through “All Friends” pretty quickly. Plus I find, as Jess noted, that people listen to what others are saying on Twitter and respond because it’s more conversational and easier to connect.

  5. What does RT mean on Twitter? All of the symbols and abbreviations give me vertigo. Having said that, I’m sick of worrying that my old relatives and fundamentalist friends on Facebook won’t get my jokes or smart references.

  6. Lance – RT on Twitter means retweet. One person tweets a message, if somebody likes it, they retweet it to their followers.

    I think Facebook has its place and it is similar to what Andrew and everyone else mentioned above. Twitter has also done something that Facebook has yet to do. Twitter has partnered with others or created apps for other social networks like Facebook, MySpace, etc to post to your Twitter account. Twitter has placed themselves on the top of the posting hierarchy. It always seems harder to get a tweet to be posted onto another social network. This aggregation of real-time information from numerous sources makes Twitter more relevant as well (a little redundant a times, but more relevant).

  7. Say what?..

    “Twitter has no memory,” Solis says. “It’s always moving on to the next thing.”

    Twitter might not have a memory, but the people reading the tweets do.

    Every single tweet I read helps build my relationship with the avatar sitting to its left. Personalities are formed, judgments are made, must meet-in-real-life lists are populated. I enjoy the constant flow of tweets, even the food ones. They ALL help me better understand the person typing them. Twitter is an online pulse… facebook is merely a place to say you’re still alive.

  8. I’m on both, for myself personally and for my campus. I see several differences and don’t think it should be an either/or. If you go into each with an understanding of their respective cultures and the possibilities and connect those to your goals, they can work for you.

    We primarily use Twitter to communicate a specific identity for our campus, which focuses on health sciences/professions and on design disciplines. I think it’s easier to maintain that kind of focus in Twitter than on Facebook.

    Our FB fans can take the page in any direction, which is great because that encourages engagement. But that means the page isn’t at all about our identity–it’s whatever fans want to make it.

    I will also fully admit that I’ve put more time into Twitter than into Facebook, and we’ll be doing a better job of building the content on Facebook going forward. I just know that I can put the exact same content out via Twitter and on our Facebook page and get clickthroughs on Twitter, but not on FB, which theoretically has people who feel “closer” to us than on Twitter.

    Another interesting thing I see happening is the way tweets get archived on various web sites that have defined a feed based on a search string or keyword. That makes our links turn up in some funny places at times, but it definitely gives them shelf life. They’re not gone at all, and they’re more accessible than our FB content. And for Brian Solis to say that Twitter has no memory when tweets turn up in Google results? Beg to differ–that is solid gold.

    Finally, I think the key point is just what you’ve said: that Facebook is for friends and Twitter is for strangers-who-become-friends. It’s far easier to come to the attention of others through strategic following on Twitter and to have them reciprocate than it is to get someone to become a fan on Facebook, which I still think most people treat as a far more personal and protected space.

    Different communities, different linguistic practices, different cultural norms, different goals possible in each–not a contest with a winner and a loser.

    @BarbChamberlain
    Director of Communications and Public Affairs
    Washington State University Spokane
    @WSUSpokane
    http://www.spokane.wsu.edu
    http://www.facebook.com/wsuspokane

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