My friend Michael recently asked me this question and I thought it might be worthy of a blog post especially as my of my friends start finding value in Twitter.
Both keep a list of your status updates (ex: http://twitter.com/robdolin and http://www.facebook.com/people/Rob-Dolin/10704705) and a stream of status updates from your social network (http://twitter.com/home and http://www.facebook.com/.) IMHO, this functionality of a profile page with the actions of an individual user and a home (or network/colleagues/friends) page with the aggregated news from the people a user is interested in are key engagement aspects of a people-centric social networking service (of which Facebook and Twitter (and Windows Live) are examples.
There are a number of smaller differences between the two services, but below are what I see as the key differences:
- Content types – Twitter is focused on a single content type: status updates of 140 characters or fewer. Facebook supports a multitude of content types including photos, notes (blog entries), video, shared links, and status.
- Relationship model – Twitter’s relationship model is based on one-way connections between people. I may follow Dare Obasanjo, but Dare does not necessarily need to follow me. When I follow Dare, he gets a notification that I’m following him, but there is no pending action required of Dare to either accept or decline/ignore the relationship. Facebook’s model (as of this writing) is based on two-way connections. Thus, when I ask someone to be my “friend” on Facebook, (s)he gets a pending request to become friends and can either accept or ignore.
- Commenting – Facebook allows commenting on individual updates on a user’s “wall” (formerly mini-feed.) Twitter support @replies when a user references another user, but these are not specific to an update. Facebook also supports commenting on an individual’s profile via a “wall post” and provides a convenient “wall-to-wall” view where you can see profile comments between two users. In general, how the services commenting compares seems to follow the pattern that twitter focuses on nailing the simple while Facebook is both more robust and also more complex.
- Target media – While both services have web, mobile web, SMS, and API interfaces, I believe that Twitter has the far superior SMS interface and Facebook has the far superior web interface. Facebook’s functionality to inline comment and (recently added) like individual updates is great for the web. Twitter’s ability to TXT “follow robdolin” to 40404 and instantly get started is a big boon for mobile use. Twitter also allows follow without getting SMS updates which is great for keeping in touch with people you’re interested in who seem to have twitterrhea.
Personally, I added the Twitter application to Facebook and thus when I update Twitter (which is is easy as sending a TXT to 40404), it also updates my Facebook status. Facebook mobile has similar functionality (under the short SMS code FBOOK), but I find Twitter’s SMS interface language more intuitive.
I hope that you’ll try using Facebook and Twitter (and of course Windows Live 🙂 ) and if you have suggestions for areas I’ve missed or feedback how you think Windows Live could learn from both of these services, please leave a comment.
P.S. As you may know, you can add twitter to Windows Live via http://profile.live.com/webactivities/