Why LinkedIn is better than Twitter
When things start to feel stale you need to rethink your strategy. And Twitter is no different. This new kid on the block has given its user interface a makeover and while introducing a host of new features (http://fly.twitter.com/). The idea is to make it more persuasive as a social networking platform while also making it more intuitive for the un-initiated to navigate. However, the response has not all been positive. I for one think Twitter will likely fail to hit the mark on both counts.
Consider the context. While there has been much hype about its hundreds of millions of users, a realistic assessment of its actual usage could be interpreted far less favorably. For example, a recent post quoted Twitter’s CEO in June 2011 saying that “100 million people use Twitter each day, even though 40% of Twitter account owners have not logged into their accounts in the past 30 days.” In April 2011, Business Insider, Nicholas Carlson, revealed that there are ‘only’ 56 million Twitter users following 8 or more accounts, and just 21 million users following 30 or more accounts.
So, what about the other Twitter users, what are they doing?
They may not be that active, either. A 2010 Nielsen study found that 67% of UK Twitter users spent less than 5 minutes on Twitter per month, accounting for just 4% of total traffic. On the other hand, 7% of heavy users (over 60 minutes per month) accounted for 79% of Twitter traffic. In a similar vein, a December 2010 report from Sysomos found that 80.6% of Twitter users have made fewer than 500 tweets, and 22.5% of users are responsible for 90% of all tweets.
While all of this is not the picture Twitter would like to paint, I still believe that what it has accomplished should not be sneered at. Twitter is a powerful network used by millions of people and thousands of brands. It has an influential following among the early adopter/connector types who are extremely effective in sharing information, creating trends, and selling products. However, where Twitter seems to be struggling, is in encouraging a more ‘mass market’ of social networkers.
What’s going wrong?
Twitter’s challenge is that it offers a revolutionary way to communicate, requiring a radical change in user behavior. In the past, people did not trumpet 140 character messages to the Ether, not knowing where the messages would fall. In fact, many heavy users of Twitter still haven’t figured out how this is supposed to work – blasting out way too many ‘another-morning-with-cold-coffee’ messages to interest even the most ardent of followers.
In contrast, Facebook in the consumer world or LinkedIn in the B2B world both use a connection-oriented approach that creates a ‘relationship’ between the two participants, and I think this makes all the difference. Following someone who may not care you exist does not create a meaningful bond; case in point, @SpongeBob has almost 310,000 followers. Twitter is more like subscribing to a news feed than actually connecting people, which is unnatural for a social connection. Social connections are mutual, so offering mutual relationships online is a smoother transition than creating a new pattern for communicating. In the Twitter world, direct messages seem to be the most social part of Twitter, and I suspect they represent only a tiny fraction of all tweets.
There’s also a revolutionary vs. evolutionary battle for social networking being played out in the enterprise world, inside organizations. Companies are looking to take advantage of what social networking can bring to business, however workers are reticent to join the conversation. We’re seeing some companies take the Twitter approach, asking workers to change how they work, eschewing email and documents for wikis, microblogging, ideation engines and similar new social tools. Then there are others adopting a more evolutionary approach, using existing communication patterns to ease people into the adoption of social tools.
If the past is any indication, the evolutionary approach will win hands down – but only time will tell.
What is unarguable is that the number of company projects being undertaken today to become a social business through digital transformation are growing by epic proportions. Social business may very well become the biggest trend since Y2K.