Twitter is overrated, you should switch to Facebook

It turns out that, when you dig through the stats, Twitter is grossly overrated as a platform. It is useful, for sure, but the numbers Silicon Alley Insider published about a month ago reveal a very different picture to the one we perhaps have at the moment. These numbers also suggest that you should be looking seriously at Facebook as your preferred platform instead.

Twitter pushes its registered users figures but the key figures are not how many people are registered to use the service but rather how many people are engaging with each other on Twitter. While there are roughly 175 million registered users, the data used to create this chart suggests that the number of users who are likely to be engaged on Twitter is closer to about 15 million users or so. This is based on the assumption that more engaged people probably follow at least 50 people.

Here are some interesting figures from the Silicon Alley Insider post:

Using data that is now just one month old, he found out that…

  • There were 119 million Twitter accounts following one or more other accounts.
  • There were 85 million accounts with one or more followers.

With these figures, and Twitter’s claim of 175 million accounts, a little subtraction shows us that there are 56 million Twitter accounts following zero other accounts, and 90 million Twitter accounts with zero followers.

The estimates used to determine active users are a bit of a thumbsuck based on information from Facebook that users tend not to stick around unless they have at least 10 friends. Assuming the same principle applies, SAI looked at how many Twitter users follow at least 8 users and found that number to be 56 million people. Roughly 12 million Twitter users follow 64 users.

Compare that to Facebook and you begin to see that my blog post title isn’t that much of an exaggeration. Facebook has 600+ million active monthly users. About half of those users return every day. Add to this the estimated 250 million Facebook users who use Facebook Connect each month.

Its almost common knowledge that there are a lot of people on Facebook and yet Twitter seems to be the platform of choice for the digerati. That has a lot to do with the tools available to use Twitter. It is simple, constrained and pretty easy to share stuff using @-reply conventions and hashtags. It is definitely a useful service and services like Hashable will probably spread quite nicely using Twitter as their underlying platform.

On the other hand, Facebook has implemented a number of features which bring Facebook into parity with Twitter on many of these fronts and without the code-like jargon we see in tweets. Using the @-reply convention, you can now invoke other Facebook users in status updates and comments and, subject to the other party’s settings (probably more so in individual users’ cases), your posts will appear in their stream and link back to your post. Here is an example:

FB post to DA 1

I published this post to my Facebook Page and this is what appeared on the DA’s Group Wall:

FB post to DA 2

Facebook updates are varied. You can publish longer status updates, questions, links, photos and videos (not to mention longer form notes) and this additional complexity may dissuade some users. On the other hand, the posts are cleaner and are not packed with hashtags and @-replies (one of the reasons I have held off syncing my Facebook Page with my Twitter stream is that I don’t want hashtags and other Twitter conventions to pollute Facebook updates).

Facebook’s variable privacy levels allow users to publish public and restricted updates to their Walls or user could create public Facebook Pages as their public profile pages on Facebook and keep their personal profiles private and restricted to friends and family. This is pretty much what I have done and I think there are some real benefits there are more and more engage with me on the Page. The challenge is getting the word out, attracting new fans to the Page and establishing the Page as a hub.

Going beyond the merits of each platform from a usability and accessibility perspective, the sheer numbers involved can’t be ignored. There are far more engaged people using Facebook every day than Twitter has total registered users. When you start whittling the registered users numbers down to something more accurately approximating active users or even engaged users, Twitter becomes a drop in the ocean compared to Facebook.

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