Back in December, in “A look back at 2007“, I wrote that I believed early adopters’ interest in Facebook had peaked and had even started to decline. Recently, the blogosphere echoed that sentiment with news of “Facebook fatigue”.
- In January, The Register started by saying “Whisper it, but numbers from web analytics outfit comScore have confirmed what the chatter in bars and cafes has been saying for months – people are, just, well, bored of social networks.” About Facebook, they added that “behaviour seems much the same; join, accumulate dozens of semi-friends, spy on a few exes for a bit, play some Scrabulous, get bored, then get on with your life, occasionally dropping in to respond to a message or see some photos that have been posted.”
- A few weeks later, Techcrunch also looking at ComScore data said “The number of people who visit Facebook has been leveling off over the past few months in the U.S., and even dipped by about 800,000 individuals in January. (…) Maybe all that friend spam has something to do with the decline. Will the Facebook fatigue get worse, or is this just a temporary dip?”
- Adding his grain of salt, Rory Cellan-Jones from the BBC added: “The general feeling is that the kids, with their minute attention spans, have already tired of the social networking site and moved on to something more hip and happening. I think the opposite is true – that Facebook’s new wave of older users have decided it is just not worth the bother and are now leaving it to the kids.”
I agree. My personal experience with Facebook is that its relative utility for me has decreased drastically in the last few months. There used to be a lot of “friend” activities in my newsfeed and in my status updates. Even though I have more than 550 “friends”, I suspect that only 20% at most are using it regularly. As I wrote two months ago, Facebook is just a game. Industry pundits are looking for utility and, for a while, it certainly felt like Facebook was IT. But not anymore. Has something replaced it? Yes. Today, I’d like to say it’s Twitter. It’s all anecdotal, mind you, based on my brain filtering a massive quantity of articles and blog posts I read every day. You’ll have to trust me on this. 🙂 Should you still care about Facebook? A resounding YES! As Jeremy Liew from Lightspeed Ventures Partners says “The digerati, with their Outlook address books and social network friends lists in the 1000s, bloated by people they met at conferences several years ago, are edge use cases. Their experience is atypical. Normal users of social networks use Facebook apps in the same way that middle America forwards emails to one another.” Those millions of users are not going away and Facebook is still a formidable platform to broadcast your brand and content.
But back to Twitter, what is it? Twitter is a micro-blogging application that allows you to send text messages of up to 140 characters. It really exploded on the Web scene last year at the SXSW Interactive Festival. People started using it in drove but I wasn’t sure what to do with it (and I’m sure I was not alone), until Facebook taught us how to “Twitter” through its “Status Update” feature. Along with the newsfeed, it is one of Facebook’s killer apps but I think most people found it too limited in functionality. It was really just about broadcasting information.
Twitter is much more. It can be a:
- Broadcast tool. Send information to your network of “followers”, your latest blog post, a breaking news, a summary of a conference you’re attending, the boring stuff of your daily life, etc. Best of all, you can share clickable URLs.
- Conversation tool. Using the @ symbol followed by the Twitter alias, you can ask questions, join an existing conversation and contribute to the community.
- Early warning system. Breaking news seem to pop-up on Twitter much more quickly than in other media. I’ve learned about different breaking news more quickly in the last few weeks using it. Some people have already created specific channels for breaking news, which you can start following. See BreakingNewsOn or the Techmeme firehose.
- Proxy conferences. Recently, I was able to follow updates from the TED, a very coveted invite-only conference. You could obviously follow it in real time, but through structured data standards called hashtags, you can also see what people have been reporting about TED here.
- Subscribe to people. Where else can you follow updates and insights from industry luminaries like Pierre Omidyar (eBay’s founder) or Paul Kedrosky (famed Canadian VC)? There are hundreds of interesting people to follow in Twitter.
Howard Rheingold of SmartMobs fame offers even more reasons to like Twitter.
Twitter obviously has flaws:
- It hasn’t announced a business model yet and people are afraid its introduction will break the utility.
- It suffers from many well-documented technical interruptions.
- You can’t segment your “tribes”, allowing you to improve the signal-to-noise ratio, as you start following more people.
- Most of my (and possibly your) contacts are not on Twitter yet, which reduces its intrinsic value.
- It’s a huge time-waster, looking at the conversation feed and making sense of it all.
But even with these flaws, I expect Twitter to really catch fire in the next few months, with more people joining, trying it out, finding utility and transforming it into a vibrant worlwide conversation-based community. Even my Praized Media partner, Sylvain, is organizing the first TwittYul, an informal event for Montreal Twitter users and fans You could read about it first … on Twitter. BTW, if you join and want to follow my “tweets”, I can be found here: http://twitter.com/Praized