The recent moves by Facebook into real-time search have highlighted the increasing pressure on social media companies to beat Twitter at its own game. In the past month, Facebook has acquired FriendFeed, launched a new search function and initiated a real-time update system. You can find more about these updates over at TechCrunch.
Fundamentally though, Twitter allows for more effective communication. Here are some reasons why:
Ease of search
While an effective tool for whatever pointless meme is cruising around Twitter on that particular day, the mighty hashtag is an indispensable catalyst for those interested in finding like-minded individuals. It gives users the opportunity to quickly find those with similar interests, and more crucially, talk to them about it
The launch of Facebook's latest search function has cast a stark light on how Twitter already provides a better service in regards to sourcing information.
The nature of Facebook – of users being able to set up a little corner of the internet for themselves, complete with a host of personal information – naturally leads to secrecy. Horror stories on Facebook - reports of employees searching for potential candidates – have made users more aware of the information they share.
Users with private profiles are discarded from this latest search function. This automatically disgards a high proportion of Facebook users from any search query.
Twitter users aren't so picky about their friends. That is to say, the amount of personal data on Twitter is greatly reduced than that on offer over on Facebook. It is easier to find individuals with similar interests on Twitter purely because privacy is less of an issue.
A random friend request on Facebook is usually met with a quick trawl through the jumbled memories of a night on the pop, followed by a violent jerk towards the reject button. Users don't want strangers rummaging through their photographs or personal information. Especially if they haven't met before. Or have only met once. And have avoided each other ever since.
Twitter users seem less anxious about their 140 characters escaping into the public domain and into the consciousness of a stranger. Even the language used on the site – Twitter's followers compared to Facebook's friends – is less committal. Twitter is a tool for communication. And for the moment, users seem to have embraced that mantra.
Twitter encourages collaboration online and in the real world. Industry peers, communities and groups frequently meet over a pint to discuss the business of the day. These meet-ups allow users to socialise and get to know each other away from their 140 characters.
It's also true that Facebook can inspire these groups – indeed communities exist for pub regulars, music-lovers and even singletons. Still, finding these sites require a degree of Indiana-Jones-esque exploration of a profile. Tellingly, Facebook users can opt to keep their group memberships private.
Anyone can contribute to a trend on Twitter. There are no exclusive groups and no cliques. It feels inclusive. Facebook does not.
The recent upgrades to Facebook bear striking similarities to the final days of Friends Reunited. Desperate to retain their sagging userbase, FR bolted on any Facebook feature they could – live chat, photo tagging – in an effort to stem the flow of users.
Sadly, in Friends Reunited's case, Facebook had already done it. And it already did it better. Perhaps Facebook should try to redefine itself, rather than ape something Twitter has already done. Better.