Top 10 Reasons Twitter is On Top of the Social Media Food Chain

Amy Stark
Amy Stark Social Media Community Manager, Kuno Creative Inbound Marketing Agency

Posted on April 26th 2011

 

Top 10 reasons twitter is on top of the social media food chainIt’s been a long time since David Letterman called twitter “crap” on August 25, 2009. That night Dave also said, “Mark my words …when they write about this thousands and thousands and thousands of years from now, twitter will be the indicator that it was the beginning of the end of civilization.”  Sixteen months later there are still twitter skeptics, but at least now you can discuss it in polite society without being ridiculed.  

If you find yourself among people who do not fully appreciate Twitter’s importance in the communications paradigm shift in which we find ourselves, here are ten facts you can present to help them in their twitter appreciation.

  1. It’s free The barrier to entry is very low. All you need is a cell phone that can send and receive text messages.
  2. It’s basic Twitter uses the lowest common denominator for all languages – Internet protocol. It doesn’t get any more basic than ones and zeros.
  3. Its reach There are 6 billion people on Earth and 4 billion of them have twitter ready devices. Many remote places in the world that were never hardwired for electricity -- let alone plain old telephones -- now have cell phone coverage. You can even talk and exchange text messages with my friend Woody Collins during his philanthropic trips to the Congo.
  4. It’s open source Twitter makes its source code available to geeks all over the world who develop apps that customize your twitter experience. With well over 70,000 apps it’s safe to say there are thousands of geeks who have a vested interest in twitter’s continued success.The Incredible Shrinking Soundbite
  5. It’s brief Roger Courville of 1080 Group in Oregon shared this graph giving a visual representation of the incredible shrinking soundbite from 1968 - 1996. It's best to communicate a complete brand message in less than 8 seconds if you want that message to spread.
  6. It’s not WHAT you know… Through advanced twitter search it’s easy to find and connect with people who may help raise your brand’s awareness. Twitter is the easiest way to connect with influencers including politicians, celebrities, and captains of industry.
  7. Its diversity Several studies have shown that – when given a problem to solve -- a diverse group of non-experts arrive at better solutions than a group of experts. In his presentation A Logic of Diversity, Scott E Page concludes, “Most of the time the diverse group outperforms the group of the best by a substantial margin.”
  8. It’s an Uber social media platform Every tweeter belongs to at least one other social media platform. This is based on anecdotal evidence, but I know of NO tweeter who does not participate in at least one other social media platform and yet I know LOTS of facebookers who only do facebook.
  9. It’s real time News, ideas, brand stories and rumors spread at the speed of light on twitter. When you combine that with its Uber status, information and mis-information that spreads on twitter will trickle down to virtually all other social media platforms.
  10. It’s the world’s largest bridging social capital group in the recorded history of our species Think of twitter as a round the clock networking event where ANYONE with a device and a connection can virtually mingle with the likes of Bill Gates, Lady Gaga or Roger Ebert.

Only time will tell if David Letterman’s prediction about twitter is accurate. At least now if you run into a twitter nay-sayer you have ten facts to enlighten them on the important role it plays in social media today. Once they are convinced here’s a twitter cheat sheet to help them continue on their journey.

Photo by Mike Licht

Graph posted by Roger Courville from 1080 Group

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Amy Stark

Amy Stark

Social Media Community Manager, Kuno Creative Inbound Marketing Agency

Social media scholar, twitter ethnographer, Internet infrastructure geek, conversationalist and mom.
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Comments

Nice post John,

I loved the Letterman intro.

Business people here in New Zealand are beginning to lose some of their skepticism about social media. They know they should be using it but they really don't know why or how.

And Twitter is a hard one for most to get their heads around.

Once they are using the platform correctly though they are almost always surprised by how powerful for branding and for sales Twitter can be. 

Thanks for the post.

Mike

Thanks, Mike. I've found that once people have a hook - or a connection on twitter that makes sense to them - they soon understand its potential.  I think twitter did itself a disservice by its frivolous sounding name and the fact they initially asked, "What are you doing?"  During the course of the day most people aren't doing anything worth sharing.

None of this is unique to Twitter, sorry. None of the "reasons" touch on the true value of Twitter, nor would they be reason for any brand to spend any resources on Twitter.

Have to agree with this comment as well. Some of these points are extremely loose - such as stating that there are 4 billlion people with twitter ready devices. This doesn't indicate they will actually use the service.

Facebook is the only property who can make the claim of being the top of the SM food chain.

 

Hey Eric, You are right. Four billion people are NOT using twitter, but there are 4 billion twitter ready devices, that is not a loose statement - that is a fact.  Facebook does not provide a way to connect and use their platform via basic cell phones.  I will agree facebook is the most POPULAR social media platform, but it does not have the potential reach that twitter has. 

Amy, 

By loose statement I mean that just because there are so many devices, doesn't imply future or intended usage. 

There are approximately 200 million users already using Facebook via their mobile devices. Plus, these users are more active than PC/Laptop users. This segment of FB users alone provide greater reach than all of twitter users. 

If you want to measure reach between the two platforms, FB is the clear winner: 36% of the inks shared via Facebook are clicked while only 8% of the links shared via twitter are clicked.

If you're not concerned with actual clicks & just want total amount of content shared, then consider that FB accounts for 45% of the content shared while twitter is only 12%. 

As for those users still using feature phone, there are SIM card solutions that do provide a way for them to connect - and FB worked w/the providers on these solutions.  

Hey Eric, Thanks for introducing me to the SIM card solution, that's new to me. I read over the press release from Business Wire India and I'd be interested in learning how many units Gemalto sold so far. Do you know anything about the cost or pricing structure? I'd be interested in learning more about it. 

I will never argue the fact that Facebook has the biggest market share of all social media platforms at this moment in time, but if you define reach as a "range of effective action, power, or capacity" then twitter wins - once again - at this moment in time.  Right now there are 3-4 Billion twitter ready devices that have the capacity to interact on its platform. 

One huge difference between twitter and facebook is that facebook is a bunch of closed communities. If I post something on facebook ONLY my friends will see the post. If I post it on twitter it becomes available to anyone who happens to see it or search for it. That's why news travels faster on twitter than facebook, there are fewer roadblocks.

I'm glad you spent the time to answer. The exchange of ideas on platforms like Social Media Today enriches all of our lives.Thanks!

The impression I'm getting from the post is the relative ease of twitter and the ability to develop a network in relatively short order compared to other Social Media.

To me it's not a matter of better or worse, it's a matter of what works best for you.  For me, it's twitter.

I agree wholeheartedly that these 10 reasons do not touch on the true value of twitter- which is the democratization of information.

However, twitter is the ONLY social media platform that can be accessed via basic cell phones and has a potential reach of four billion people.  That is a fact. 

Could you share with me what other social media platforms have any of these characteristics collectively or individually?

I love Twitter -- it's by far my favorite social network. When done right, it's a gem.


However, while Twitter claims to have 200 million users, when you dig into the data, it's more along the lines of around 80 million or so active users (non-spam, non-duplicate, those who actually use it). Furthermore, the majority of the 80 million users are either brands or marketers/PR/journalists. You and I are talking to each other. We aren't talking to our customers. Finally, most of the content shared via Twitter is self-promoting and non-actionable.

The problem we have with Twitter is, us as active marketing and communications professionals, are using it on a daily basis and we assume everyone else is. We also take the few brands finding success and blanket their success across the entire platform. Very few brands can actually say they are finding true success on Twitter.

Again, I love Twitter. It's great. But I'm not sure if it'll be around 5 years from now. Facebook and more likely another "cool" tool will be. I'd put Twitter toward the bottom of the "food chain" myself.

Hey kmskala,

Thanks for spending the time to write a thought filled response.You made me think. =)

You said, "80 million or so active users"

My best guess ... 93% of tweets from those 80 million users are crap -just like David Letterman suggested. The only thing you have to do is find the tweeters producing the 7% of the NON crap -- which is still a big number!

"We aren't talking to our customers"

Every time I interact digitally I am speaking to my clients and sharing information with them. My social media presence is out there for all clients and potential clients to see.  That's the core to inbound marketing.

I never make predictions more than a month or two out - things change too quickly in the Information Age. Twitter may fade soon but a platform that is free, sms / IP friendly, and has a ubiquitous connection to the Internet is the only thing that can replace it. Brands that hone their twitter skills NOW will be way ahead of the game very soon.  

 

Kmskala, I agree that these were the general reasons as to why twitter was popular - but i'd love to hear your take on this topic or perhaps a blog post if possible?

 

http://twitter.com/#!/rdlesstkn

I'd have to say it's a tough call with Facebook having more than 500 million members in saying Twitter is on top.  What I will say about Twitter that puts it ahead of everything else is that its immediacy has shown that people can get information from it faster than from traditional news sources when stories break.  We all knew about the earthquake in Haiti before it hit the news, and we always know about plane crashes and the like before we hear it on the news as well. 

 

Still, I'm thinking top of the food chain might be a bit premature, but it's definitely proven its worth.

Hey Mitch, I contend twitter is on top of the food chain, not on top.  Mankind is at the top of the food chain, but there are lots more insects than people.

You are dead on about twitter's immediacy. It's a lightning fast neutral conduit for good and bad news to spread.  Thanks for your thought-filled comment.

2 important clarifcations:

 

1. Twitter is built using open source code, and heavily contributes to open source, but is NOT open source itself.

2. Twitter as a platform cannot be accessed by non-web enabled phones. Sure they can send and receive text messages, but they cannot create an account or follow people. This requires access to the web.

 

It's also worth pointing out that most of your points are not exclusive to Twitter, and that Twitter, unlike certain other social networks, still is not mainstream, and as such not representative of populations as a whole. Until that happens Twitter cannot be top of the food chain.

Hey Mike,

1.  I stand corrected on the open source statement and am glad you cleared that up for me, truly. I don't want to continue saying it when it's not true. Was the part about geeks having a vested interest in twitter's success true?

2.  That is a great point! You must have a way to sign up before you can access the platform. I didn't think of that. But I stand by my 4 Billion twitter ready devices statement.

I agree twitter is not main-stream but - it should be. There will never be a perfect representation of all societies -- an impossible task with 6 Billion people on the face of the earth.  

As I see it, #3 is exclusive to twitter

#6 It's not what you know... and  #7 Its diversity may be true for other platforms, but twitter has them all beat.  There is no other platform that allows such easy unfiltered flow of information between and among disparate groups of people -- regardless of their socio-economic status or geographic location.

#8 is based solely on my personal experience and anecdotal evidence but #9 goes squarely to twitter. More than any other platform - real time is REAL time on twitter. And if we're to believe Robert Putnam the author of Bowling Alone: The collapse and revival of American Community - Bridging social capital is crucial to allow movement between socio-economic groups. Tweeters form the largest bridging social capital group in the history of our species.

Thanks for the thoughtful input, Mike. You taught me a some things and helped me clarify others. I'm glad you commented. =)

I was initially apprehensive to get involved with twitter.  I've heard too many horror stories of account hacks on Facebook and didn't want to take the risk.

As for twitter, I was confused as to what it was about and wanted to know what the "hook" was.  I read a few books and realized that it is truly an open social media network.

The proof of wisdom is in the results.  I found twitter to be the easiest and fastest way to connect with others having similar and diverse interests.  It's been a great experience for me so far.

As for the platform itself, it is still evolving - perhaps faster now than ever. I enjoyed your post!

Thanks Redge for your comment.  There are a few people I know who really "get" twitter.  @drthomasho is one of them and I highly recommend following him for intelligent tweets about social media.  He's an interesting and smart tweeter.

Twitter is NOT open-source. Maybe the author doesn't have a clue what open-source means. He's confusing it with having an API that allows others communicate with the platform. Open source, as it's name implies, means publishing the source code that would allow you to create your own copy of twitter and host it on you machines. Check you facts before posting

Thanks! I stand corrected. I am the author -- a she, btw -- and I'm not a code geek. You are correct about my confusing API with open source. I should have checked with @Codatory before posting it.

Interesting post, Amy.  The relative importance of various social media is definitely a topic many people are discussing and it's great to read all the comments/opinions.

I especially liked your point that all Twitter users seem to be on at least one other social media platform.  In a research paper, I recently ranked Twitter and Facebook equally on their influence in certain industries.  Twitter ranked so highly primarily due to its viral potential on and offline.  This study from Exact Target (http://nmlab.com/social-media/twitter-users-are-three-times-more-likely-to-impact-brands-on-the-web/) said that Twitter users "are clearly the most influential online. What happens on Twitter doesn’t stay on Twitter. While the number of active Twitter users is less than Facebook or email, the concentration of highly engaged and influential content creators is unrivaled–it’s become the gathering place for content creators whose influence spills over into every other corner of the internet.”

KMSkala - I disagree that it's only Marketing people and journalists are on Twitter.  The mass followings of celebrities and the Twitter popularity of shows like @GLEEonFOX clearly dispute that claim.  Within specific industries, many specialists are following on Twitter.  Twitter disseminates information - something thought leaders constantly seek.

Javier,

Thanks for giving me a source for solid data on my #8 reason (twitter is an Uber Social Media platform).  I'm not familiar with the white paper you mentioned, but I'm glad I now have some data beyond personal experience and anecdotal evidence.

You mentioned a research paper you wrote, are you a student? I'd be interested in reading it. Your statement, "Twitter disseminates information - something thought leaders constantly seek." is dead on!

 

It doesn't matter how many mobile phone owners there are if they're not following you or if they're not in your target audience. Even if they are, Twitter may be useful as a communication medium, but then again, with so much clutter, most of your messages will be missed -- unless of course they only follow about 10 people. Or if your messages are being woven into some more readable format like Print.li, and they're choosing to read that.

I think it works better as a research tool for keeping up on the latest in social media.

It doesn't matter how many mobile phone owners there are if they're not following you or if they're not in your target audience. Even if they are, Twitter may be useful as a communication medium, but then again, with so much clutter, most of your messages will be missed -- unless of course they only follow about 10 people. Or if your messages are being woven into some more readable format like Print.li, and they're choosing to read that.

And I think it works better as a research tool for keeping up on the latest in social media, rather than as a social network. It's actually a microblog.

Hi Robbin, Messages aren't missed if you do a search for a keyword or a person. For YOU twitter is a microblog, but for me it's a groovy cocktail party where I can digitally interact with like minded folks all over the world AND eavesdrop on the ideas of some very smart people. I appreciate your time in sharing your thoughts, Robbin. This has been a fun learning experience for me.

Aside from Twitter being a way to connect with my audience, my favorite reason for using it is to learn new stuff! I found this post thanks to a post on Twitter. Now how cool is that? I love that I get to uncover a new fact or see something from a new perspective each day. Twitter is cool!

I agree wholeheartedly, Stephanie.

I agree that Twitter provides better communication with the world - much better than Facebook. Like Twitter, numbers mean zilch.  Just because you have 3,000 friends on Facebook and there are 600 million Facebook users doesn't mean you have a very strong following. How many of those users are actually active and checking their account regularly? Not many actually.  It's all in the quality of those people.  Studies have shown that users connect a lot better with brands on Twitter than they do on Facebook.

Also, ask anyone that is on Facebook, they're only connected with their friends, family, classmates and colleagues. WIth that reach (although a good one), you have to know that person or have them recommended to you to be able to connect with them. Closed-wall systems don't work. Just ask the New York Times.  

As a Social Media Strategist and public speaker, I recommend to a lot of my clients to embrace Twitter rather than to shun it. It's really simple to use and offers a broader (and better) reach. They may not have the numbers that Facebook does, but that doesn't matter.  Think about it, when did you hear of a news story being broken on Facebook. Hardly. On Twitter, I can name quite a few.  Twitter offers much better reach others, people you don't necessarily know, but liked what you had to say. Social Networking is about being open and Twitter, a very open system, allows for the dissemination of that information readily.

Hey Christian,

Please forgive my delay in responding. You typed,  "numbers mean zilch"  -- I couldn't agree more.  A connection with one influential tweeter is worth thousands of gamed followers. Go for quality over quantity - every day of the week. 

 

With an open system such as twitter we will see more and more #AccidentalJournalists like @ReallyVirtual who happened to live tweet bin Laden's death.  From April 30th to May 1st @ReallyVirtual went from 750 twitter followers to over 43,000. Ironically he had moved to the mountains to get away from it all and he had no idea bin Laden lived next door. 

Thanks for your thought filled response. I've learned so much during this conversation - from interesting people like you who took the time to share their expertise.

Amy Stark