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Why Twitter will never be Facebook (and that's OK)

Matt Kapko | May 8, 2015
Facebook is the clear king of social, and it's unlikely that Twitter will ever seriously infringe on its throne. The fact is that Twitter shouldn't try to compete with mainstream rivals, such as Facebook — and social media users shouldn't view the two companies in the same light. Here's why.

Twitter lost about 27 percent of its market value, or more than $9 billion, last week. Critics are beating the drums of war, of course, but Twitter has been tested before and has proven its ability to endure. The company faced investor backlash last year, and its stock hit an all-time low. High-level executive turnover is one of the company's hallmarks. It has struggled to tell a clear story about what exactly Twitter is and why people should use it.

And yet, despite the problems, more than 302 million people use Twitter at least once a month, according to the company's latest earnings report. This user base alone is enough to secure the company's status in the uppermost echelon of social media, but that prominence comes with some significant challenges. For example, Twitter is one of the biggest platforms in social media, so it will always be compared to Facebook, a much larger competitor.

However, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Twitter will never overtake Facebook and dominate the social media landscape. Facebook brings in almost 10 times the annual advertising revenue of Twitter, and its monthly user base is nearly five times larger. In both of these cases, the difference is one of millions and billions. Facebook is in a league of its own, and the burden on Twitter could be somewhat lessened if the two weren't consistently compared.

Twitter's 'weirdness' is a social media differentiator
>Twitter and Facebook are clearly different, but they're still often seen as equals. So does Twitter have to become even more of a social media powerhouse, like Facebook, to thrive? It might be good for Twitter in the long run if it required slightly less explanation for new users, and changes in this regard could lead to greater luck with grandparents (and investors), but mainstream adoption has never been Twitter's ultimate goal and never will be.

"Twitter is always going to be a little weird," says David Berkowitz, CMO at creative tech agency MRY. "If it stops being weird, it's going to be just like everything else."

That perceived "weirdness" comes at least in part from its top executives' seeming lack of decisiveness on exactly what Twitter is or wants to be.

During the past four years, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo described the company in five notable ways: as "three geometrically eccentric circles;" a "global town square;" a public and real-time communication platform; "indispensable companion to life in the moment;" and the "world's largest information network."

Twitter's ambiguous value proposition
Twitter's leaders aren't the only people who have trouble nailing down a clear value statement; the majority of Twitter users would undoubtedly describe the platform in different terms and measures. 

 

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