Some thoughts on Twitter vs. Facebook Status Updates

The functional act of constructing a tweet or a status update is very similar. Produce text in roughly 140 characters or less inside a single line text box and click a button. Voila! Even the stream based ways in which the text gets consumed look awfully similar. Yet, the more I talk with people engaged in practices around Twitter and Facebook, the more I’m convinced these two things are not actually the same practice. Why? Audience.

There are two critical structural differences between Facebook and Twitter that are essential to understand before discussing the practices: 1) social graph directionality; 2) conversational mechanisms.

Facebook’s social graph is undirected. What this means is that if I want to be Friends with you on Facebook, you have to agree that we are indeed Friends. Reciprocity is an essential cultural practice in Facebook (although they are trying to rip out the functional requirement as it relates to status updates, arguably to compete with Twitter). Twitter, on the other hand, is fundamentally set up to support directionality. I can follow you without you following me. Sure, I can’t DM you in this case, but I’m still consuming your updates. Yes, yes, yes, privacy settings complicate both of these statements. But for the majority of users of each site, this is the way it goes. Stemming from this are a whole lot of social norms about who’s following who and who’s consuming who’s content. It’s pretty clear that the Celebrity will get followed without reciprocating on Twitter, but there’s also a tremendous opportunity for everyday individuals to develop a following. It’s not just the Celebrities who are following different people than the people who follow them; it’s nearly everyone (except for those who think that auto-follow bots relieve social tensions).

On Facebook, status updates are placed on one’s Wall. This allows anyone else (among those with permission) to comment on the update. This creates a conversational space as it is quite common for people to leave comments on updates. Conversely, on Twitter, to reply to someone’s tweet, one produces an at-reply on their own stream. Sure, the interlocutor can read it in their stream of at-replies, but it doesn’t actually get seen or produced on their own page. Thus, a person’s Twitter page is truly the product of their self-representation, not the amalgamation of them and their cohort.

So, practices.. how does this affect practices?

Those using Facebook are primarily concerned with connecting with those that they know (or knew in high school). The status updates are an invitation to conversation, a way of maintaining social peripheral awareness among friends and acquaintances. They’re about revealing life as it happens so as to be part of a “keeping up” community.

Arguably, Twitter began this way, if only because the geeks and bloggers who were among the early adopters were a socially cohesive group. Yet, as the site has matured, the practices have changed (and I’ve watched a whole lot of early adopters who weren’t part of the professional cohort leave). For the most visible, Twitter is a way of producing identity in a public setting. This is where you see personal branding as central to the identity production going on there. It’s still about living in public, but these folks are aware of being seen, of having an audience if you will. Twitter also enables a modern incarnation of parasocial relations. Sure, there are one-sided relationships on Facebook too, but they are far more the norm on Twitter. I can follow the details of a Celebrity’s life without them ever knowing I exist. At the same time, there’s the remote possibility of them responding which is what complicates traditional parasocial constructs. Angelina Jolie could never see me reading about her in the gossip mags and commenting on her latest escapades, but, if she were on Twitter, she could sense my watching her and see my discussion of her. That’s part of what is so delightfully tempting for Celebs.

In short, the difference between the two has to do with the brokering of status. With Facebook, the dominant norm is about people at a similar level of status interacting. On Twitter, there’s all sorts of complicated ways in which status is brokered. People are following others that they respect or worship and there’s a kind of fandom at all levels. This is what Terri Senft has long called “micro-celebrity.” Alice Marwick has been extending Terri’s ideas to think about how audience is brokered on Twitter (paper coming soon). But I think that they’re really critical. What makes Twitter work differently than Facebook has to do with the ways in which people can navigate status and power, follow people who don’t follow them, at-reply strangers and begin conversations that are fundamentally about two individuals owning their outreach as part of who they are. It’s not about entering another’s more private sphere (e.g., their Facebook profile). It’s about speaking in public with a targeted audience explicitly stated.

As you can see, I’m not quite there with my words on this just yet, but I feel the need to push back against the tendency to collapse both practices into one. How audience and status is brokered really matters and differentiates these two sites and the way people see and navigate this.

One way to really see this is when people on Twitter auto-update their Facebook (guilty as charged). The experiences and feedback on Twitter feel very different than the experiences and feedback on Facebook. On Twitter, I feel like I’m part of an ocean of people, catching certain waves and creating my own. Things whirl past and I add stuff to the mix. When I post the same messages to Facebook, I’m consistently shocked by the people who take the time to leave comments about them, to favorite them, to ask questions in response, to start a conversation. (Note: I’m terrible about using social media for conversation and so I’m a terrible respondent on Facebook.) Many of the people following me are the same, but the entire experience is different.

Over the last few years, I’ve watched a bunch of self-sorting. Folks who started out updating on Twitter and moved to Facebook and vice versa. The voices they take on don’t change that much, but they tend to find one medium or the other more appropriate for the kinds of messaging they’re doing. One or the other just “fits” better. When I ask them why, they can’t really tell me. Sometimes, they talk about people; sometimes they talk about privacy issues. But most of the time, one just clicks better for reasons they can’t fully articulate.

Different social media spaces have different norms. You may not be able to describe them, but you sure can feel them. Finding the space the clicks with you is often tricky, just as finding a voice in a new setting can be. This is not to say that one space is better than the other. I don’t believe that at all. But I do believe that Facebook and Twitter are actually quite culturally distinct and that trying to create features to bridge them won’t actually resolve the cultural differences. And boy is it fun to watch these spaces evolve.

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50 thoughts on “Some thoughts on Twitter vs. Facebook Status Updates

  1. June

    I know why I use Twitter, not Facebook. I’m pushing the edges of new practice re Network Weaving and self-organizing. I want to hang out with other innovators and hear what they are saying and reading, so that my thinking is enriched. I want to try out my latest thinking with other people who know enough to critique well. And, I want to meet new people so my ideas don’t develop in isolation but become better as others riff on and with them. I want to find people who want to collaborate. All of this happens on Twitter.

    So while I agree with you that their is a world of celebrity on Twitter, I think there is another world (probably overlapping) that is about innovation networks. It’s much more peer based and easily moves from Twitter to skype etc for deeper conversation and collaboration. I love it!

  2. Charles H. Green


    The medium is (partly) the message, but (mainly) the messengers are the message. Self-selection drives choice of media. Do I want to play the fame game, the fan game, or the friend game (whatever ‘friend’ means anymore)?

    The ‘answers’ come as we fine-tune the questions. As usual, there’s no one right answer, other than “it depends.” On what does it depend? There’s a good question.

  3. Bill Ferriter

    Neat post, danah….and one that resonates with me.

    One of the differences that I see in my own use of Twitter and Facebook is that I feel much more pressure to be a valuable contributor to my Twitter network than I do to be a valuable contributor and active participant in my Facebook network.

    There are times when I feel like I have to find a good share and get it out in Twitter, otherwise I won’t be seen as the intellectual equal of my peers or worthy of being a part of their information stream.

    A part of that probably does come from your points on micro-celebrity. People that I don’t even know have invested confidence in me by inviting my thoughts into their intellectual space. That’s daunting in many ways, changing the way that I feel about my own participation.

    Facebook, on the other hand, is a far more relaxed experience for me. Because I know those who I invite in to my own intellectual stream in Facebook, I also know that they won’t judge me. I have a level of personal and professional credibility before I even make a post.

    In some ways, the directionality and parasocial relationships enabled by Twitter make the experience more rigid and formal than the experience offered by Facebook….

    Bill Ferriter

  4. Adina Levin

    The conventional understanding is that Facebook is a more private, comfortable, trusted personal space, and Twitter is a more public, performed space.

    A quick check – is this true for others here?

    It’s certainly not true for me. For me, Facebook friends include groups of people I’ve known from highschool and college, and family members. The Twitter network – not all the followers, but people with whom I’ll have @reply exchanges, are people with whom I have current connections.

    The reunion effect on Facebook is cool, but not always comfortable – hi, there, haven’t talked to you in 20+ years, how’s it going 🙂

  5. Nancy

    It is timely that you’ve published this today! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between my FB status updates and my twitter stream. I started using Twitter before it became a marketing tool for celebrities, at which point I took a long hiatus from Twitter because I was getting annoyed by the spambots and feeling like everyone following me was trying to sell me something. I got over it and now, I’m back on Twitter and I’ve definitely been more conscious of what kind of content I tweet. Whereas before, my tweets were more personal, now I’m more likely to tweet links to articles, food-related stuff, and to respond to other tweets (whether or not they are directed at me) than I am to just tweet every single thought and action I had, as I did before, when it was more personal. I stopped using the tools that allow Twitter to auto-update my FB status because sometimes my tweets just didn’t make sense in the context of FB or they weren’t status updates, per se. Since my Twitter is wide open, and my FB is limited to family/friends only, audience definitely comes into play. The twist here is that NONE of my family (except for my husband) and very few of my RL friends are on Twitter, so there is some stuff that I feel more comfortable sharing on Twitter than I do on FB.
    Anyway, sorry to ramble but your post definitely touched a nerve!

  6. Kara Harkins

    Adina: about the same with me. A lot of the people I am connected to on facebook are family, old classmates, and such. Basically, not a group I would always conversationally ‘click’ with. In the case of family a lot of things are obviously pretty self-censored (conversely, pretty hard to turn down a friend request from your parents).

    Twitter, even though it can be read by people anonymously (I am assuming no privacy locks on updates) are generally read by people I would feel comfortable talking with (even if I can not stand the other person). Why? If they did not find me interesting they would unfollow me. So I do feel less inhibited about what I talk about there.

  7. Chris Dorr

    Great post, with a lot of very smart observations. You are right about how fun it is to watch to watch these spaces evolve. On Twitter I follow people who provide me with some “value”. I want to provide value to those who follow me. In a sense, I think of them as an audience who is looking for something that matters from me (even thought I do not know most of them.) Much of what I provide comes from others who I follow, so I act as kind of extender of other people’s value to those who follow me. Some of what I tweet is my own commentary, or original, but I am always thinking of my “audience”. Less so on Facebook, where I know most of my “friends” and I jump in periodically to have conversations but do status updates much less frequently. I look forward to more posts from you on this topic.

  8. ian kennedy

    I cut the cord that ties these two several months ago, different audiences, different conversations.

    I think it was Mary Hodder who posted (on twitter) that while Facebook was like having a dinner conversation with friends, Twitter was like getting up on stage at a nightclub on open mike night.

  9. Katya Skorobogatova

    For me personally Twitter is more like a media channel that I curate by choosing those that I follow (i do not know the majority of those who i follow, i choose to follow them based on how interesting their tweets are). It is like a better google reader as you can evaluate the quality of the posts quicker due to their size. Also real time nature in important as well as an opportunity to get a quick reply and engage with a professional in the topic that interests you.
    Since I am Russian educated in US and living now in Russia twitter is also a way for me to retain and support the context and discussion in that I was involved when in US, hence more emphasis on ‘media’ part aka reading vs speaking.
    Also might be of interest the following discussion – it is in Russian but google translate is always there to help.

  10. Cesar Concepcion-Acevedo

    I totally agree with the fact that when I comment on Twitter I feel like I’m sharing things with a mass of people. For many people (strangers or not to see and the sort). But when i post things on Facebook it usually raises discussion and things are more open for debate. I’ve always wanted Facebook to have a feature that instead of “friending” people you could put them as fan or the twitter equivalent follower. I’m pretty sure something that a more sophisticated feature of friend classification is coming on Facebook soon.

  11. Andy Burkhardt

    I think the difference between the status updates in each also have to do with frequency of posting. In Facebook you’re not going to be posting 7-10 or more times a day. If you did your friends would likely be annoyed or think you are a self-serving attention seeker. Whereas in Twitter this is completely fine.

    Twitter is more of a stream. If you find a good article or have a great idea you can post it to Twitter on the spot, even if you just posted a minute ago. With Facebook a few posts spread out through the day is likely enough. Like you said they are two different cultures (I like that anthropological notion of the two social networks).

  12. Joan F

    I find that most of the people I interact with on Facebook are those I have met elsewhere, on the internet and in RL, while my Twitter contacts are people I met on Twitter. I do both along with Usenet, a private NNTP server and some web-based boards.

  13. Emil Sotirov


    I follow your blog for quite some time already. Please, do something about your text formatting – font size, contrast between font color and background, etc. Especially the font size – it’s close to unreadable. I am extremely good at consuming text from a screen (15 hours a day for the last 20 years)… but your blog is a real challenge.

    I hope other readers will join my petition… 🙂

  14. w.e.b.

    as another “twitter–>facebook status” automater, i’m likewise consistently fascinated by the differences between the two platforms in the responses to any given tweet. though i’ve been chastised by one media professional for using the same stream on both sites (he argued that the fundamentally different modes and purposes of the two sites necessitated different content and framing choices), and though i advised against tweet/status duplication during a panel presentation last month, i personally continue to cross-feed in part *specifically because* doing so gets me a wider range of responses.

    (it also saves time, and provides updates on a site [facebook] that i otherwise would rarely bother updating – but that’s not as interesting.)

  15. Dave

    I don’t have time (or maybe just the inclination) to figure out when a status update is best for Twitter or for Facebook. My self-reporting needs to go out in one interface and ideally be constructed in a way that suits both forums. If it gets any more complicated than this then things are just getting ridiculously complicated in Web 2.0 world.

  16. Steven Parker

    Thank you for solving a mystery for me. I never understood why I just never took to Facebook despite several attempts but once on Twitter, well it was like a duck taking to the water. In my personal life, I maintain a close friendship with about 12 different people (this includes 4 family members). I speak to all 12 by phone not less than once a week, but most at least twice weekly and 4 of them almost daily. None of these friendships is less than 8 years old and while the 4 family connections have been around 50+ years, some of the friendships stretch back more than 40 years. They represent both different and overlapping parts of my life and they are very fundamental to my very existence. Hence I always found Facebook both superfluous and a time waster. Why did I need to reconnect with people I went to High School with 40 years ago who while ok never meant much to me.

    I thought Twitter was going to be the same thing–but of course it is not and I have connected with so many different people from so many different walks of life, had so many interesting conversations and learn something new all the time both in my professional field and those subjects that interest me personally. Even more unique however is that younger members of my family, such as my nephew are on Twitter and he and I being 40 years apart matters little when we are both part of the same conversation (usually about new electronic gadgets). So I find Twitter not only to be a stage where you get to share things you have knowledge about but it also allows you to sit in the audience with both strangers and relatives and build a whole unique matrix of exchanges.

    I too am groping for the right words so please forgive my rambling.

  17. Heidi Cool

    I don’t cross-post my updates on Twitter and Facebook for a few reasons, though I think they relate to what you are getting at here regarding the differences between Tweets and Status Updates.

    1)I was an active Pownce user before I took to Twitter and there were a lot of people who used services like to crosspost to both. Seeing the same message in multiple places was redundant, and the Tweets often seemed out-of-context on Pownce. Additionally it seemed that those who cross-posted were less likely to reply to comments in both places, so the conversation wasn’t able to evolve on Pownce. I’m seeing more and more of this happen between Facebook and Twitter now. The annoyance level mostly depends on how a user is cross-posting. In particular it seems that those who share the posts from the Facebook side are the most confusing. I’ve clicked links in Tweets expecting to go to a blog article only to find that I’m being sent through to the same message, just on a Facebook page.

    2) I see my FB and Twitter audiences as being somewhat different. My Twitter audience, while larger, is more of a niche, with a focus on Web development, marketing, social media, design and related topics with some crossover into philosophy, science, photography and every nerds fave, bacon. My Facebook audience is more of a cross-section of real world friends and academics, some of whom may care about mktg, etc. but most of whom don’t want to hear about these things as often as I tweet about them.

    3) While the groups are mostly different, there still is some overlap between my FB and Twitter friends and I don’t want to bore them by putting the same message in front of them in multiple spaces. I also don’t want to risk splitting up the conversation. If I say X on both, and get replies on both, my readers will only see the conversation from one or the other, they won’t get the reactions from all sides.

    After reading this post, I think I use my Facebook status (when I bother to update it – which is rare) to share what I’m doing, while I use Twitter to share more of what I’m thinking about or reading. And like Bill, I feel a certain obligation to share things of value on Twitter. That doesn’t mean I share junk on FB, they get my Delicious saves and Google Reader shares, just that my FB people can take less frequent posts with more topical variety, while my Twitter people expect a higher proportion of topical relevancy. But that’s just how it works for me. For others it could be quite different.

  18. Kevin Makice

    My Facebook page continues to be active, but my consumption and interaction on that site has long been limited to prompts the system sends, triggered by others responding to my content.

    I used to reserve Facebook status for a once-a-week update only, pushing it to Twitter but not the other way. When the third-party app support arrived to sync the two channels properly, I stopped updating Facebook status altogether and relied on what was coming from Twitter. Not paying close attention to FB, it didn’t bother me that links and @mention content was cryptic and ill-placed when it got to Facebook. changed that, however. This is a very intelligent third-party Twitter application that parses tweets into appropriate places in Facebook. I have it set to ignore any @replies (so limited Twitter conversation stays in Twitter) and try to resolve the @username with whatever is in that person’s Twitter profile as a real name. Anything with links also go to the wall instead of status.

    The way this tool understands and translates between the two cultures noticeably increased the amount of conversation this content prompts. It is still rare that I go to Facebook specifically to find out what people are doing or initiate comments-partly because many of my active friends are also on Twitter-but the appropriateness of’s sync has clearly resonated with the Facebook crowd.

  19. Tasha

    Nice post Danah!

    I am really interested in this because it to a certain extent it plays a part in my thesis about participation online and the different methods, and looking at the uses of Twitter and Facebook respectively (amongst others) is part of that.

    For me, I prefer Facebook because of the conversational potential (although my statuses often go un-‘liked’ or uncommented on) 🙁 but I found Twitter good for broadcasting but not getting any response, I felt like I was yelling out into a dark field. 🙁 And then I got bombarded with ten gazillion tweets from politicians, newspapers, causes etc who use it as a spam board. And my only friends were spam bots 🙁 WAH! It seems so terrible when I write it out! But that’s just my 2c. 🙂

  20. Alan Stange

    I connected my tweets to Facebook as an efficiency measure earlier this year. Just recently I broke the connection. I certainly did not articulate my rationale as well as above but the differences in my use of the two applications became apparent. Facebook has always been a social network revolving around family. My Twitter use has coalesced around a growing professional community of purpose. Case in point, Twitter brought me to this blog.

  21. Nancy

    WRT Kevin’s comment: If had been around when I stopped using twitter to auto-update my FB status, I would’ve used it! That was my biggest annoyance with the cross-posting– my @ posts on Twitter totally didn’t make sense as FB updates and made me look stupid, quite frankly! I guess it was only a matter of time before someone came up with a tool for smarter cross-posting.

  22. Matthew Chamberlin

    Loved this post. I have been thinking about this topic for a long time. It is becoming common practice for people to tie their facebook and twitter accounts together so that one update will hit both services simultaneously. I think this is a bad strategy for a few reasons.

    1- Not everyone on facebook uses, or understands, twitter. The constant flow of updates makes facebook feel very spammy and creates confusion for those who do not use twitter. They are two VERY different ecosystems that even use their own language. facebook updates and posts have no limit to their length or what media you can use, whereas twitter updates are confined to 140 characters and use a language for communicating that employs all kinds of abbreviations, codes and shorthand. facebook updates tend to be much less frequent, and can be richer in nature with the ability to add multiple photos, video, links, etc.

    2- In my case, and I am quite sure I am not alone in this, the people in my twitterverse are not the same as those in facebookland. For that reason alone, it is disrespectful to treat them both the same. Additionally, there are probably things you might tweet about that you might not want, or your friends might not want, on facebook.

    3- Social media/social networking adoption is growing at a breakneck pace. Yet one of the core values that define them are transparency and authenticity. The minute you start automating processes, you are a robot who is sending out spam and not honestly participating in a conversation. Scalability and time management are all valid rationalizations for automation. But they are also the fast lane to irrelevance for you and your message. Ari Adler had a terrific post about this very topic recently. This quote stuck out for me: “The idea of automating to save time and update all your status boxes at once may seem appealing, but it’s really akin to just walking into every meeting and social gathering with a bullhorn, shouting out whatever is on your mind and not caring if the people in the room will get it or even care.”

    Take this example offline for a second into the “real” world. You and I are talking about the chances for success of a lasting peace agreement in the Middle East, and out of left field you start telling me about this awesome blog post you just read about the new Star Trek movie. It’s supposed to be a conversation- are you even LISTENING to me?

    Online communications, done right, serve to facilitate offline ones. You are putting yourself out there with EVERY POST YOU MAKE NO MATTER WHERE YOU MAKE IT. People make all kinds of decisions, assumptions and judgements about you, consciously or unconsciously. Make sure that they’re thinking that:

    A- This person/company/entity adds value to the conversation.

    B- This person/company/entity respects what I think and does not treat me like a number.

    C- This person/company/entity cares about my needs and can help solve my problems, whether that problem is finding a good place to eat, choosing a PR firm or getting a good deal on a flight to the Middle East.

  23. amoeda

    The distinctions you’re making here really resonate with me, as an early-ish Twitter adopter who started using Facebook status updates a while later. As you suggest, for a long time I had no words for the difference in my usage of the two networks. But after my son was born, it crystallized: I now have a new level of obligation to keep in touch with extended family, old friends and people from the past, and Facebook (even more than Flickr) is where that plays out. There was never any question of meeting those expectations via Twitter, which has become the slipstream, the river of memes. In an odd (and pretty superficial) way I’m reminded of Jenna Burrell’s fieldwork from Ghana on the cel phone and the internet as technologies of “embeddedness and escape”, respectively. Facebook, like the cel phone for those Ghanaians, feels like the means to fulfill kinship ties and established alliances, while interacting on Twitter is about plunging into the fray of large-group discourse and calling out for attention and status. Thanks for this post.

  24. elisabeth a.

    I enjoyed this piece and the comments because I have also been thinking about the two updates. In general, I loosely try to keep facebook for my real friends and twitter for my colleagues or PLN. I find it strange to read some people’s posts in both places. Some of my librarian friends in facebook simultaneously update both status feeds, making me just read it twice. It is a little annoying actually! I don’t know why – it is easy to skim over, but for some reason it sticks with me. Get creative – write two posts!

  25. Adrian Chan


    i put one up on this, from a slightly different angle, recently:

    the differences between twitter and fbook status updates are pretty substantial. I think they play out in interesting ways in both the “attention economy” and notions of social capital. There’s not only the intended audience, but also the perception of self that comes with interacting in front of an audience. My sense is that the twitter space is more publicly reflective than facebook.


  26. Thomas

    Interesting ideas in your post. On a personal note I currently auto-update from Twitter to Facebook and have been thinking about splitting them. I think that your post helped make up my mind to do it.

    I think that the difference in posting style/ content/ purpose between Facebook and Twitter does have a connection to the difference in network. But I wonder how much of that is due to structures of the applications influencing the communities and therefore the status updates that take place within the community. As you point out Facebook connections are mutual, the system is a walled garden and default privacy is more restrictive. This structure leads toward closed networks, closer ties more intimate sharing. On the other hand Twitter connections are one way (though mutual connection occurs frequently) this leads to a looser network and more broadcasting of updates and open communications.

    However, because the structure of the application is not determined by the users changes to the structure can be impact the community and then the status updates that take place within the community. For example Facebook has discussed allowing a user to set the privacy of each shared item allowing an update about health concerns to be shared with one small group and news about a popular band to be shared with everyone. This change to the application’s functionality could significantly change the content of status updates on the application. Users may also adjust the privacy defaults to make a network more closed, impacting the content of the status updates. How do the status updates of a teen’s private, closed Twitter network compare to those of a celebrity’s open network?

    Finally I’m thinking about how attitudes toward the application change over time. A couple years ago a colleague’s attitude toward LinkedIn was to only connect with people he had met in person. Now his attitude has changed to a more anything goes approach and he is more selective of Facebook friends. The rules that my friends use for whether to friend work colleagues on Facebook varies wildly. These variances, adaptations and rapid evolutions lead me to feel that functionality/ structure, community and sharing influence each other and no single one of them leads the others. I don’t pretend to know for sure, but am interested to see how this plays out over the years to come.

  27. Barb Chamberlain

    Fascinating discussion with great comments. Linguistically I see them as spaces with different norms, and after becoming “Queen of the Status Updates” (a friend’s comment) for a while with Twitter linked to FB, I disconnected. I now use a selective app that sends tweets I specify to FB, and I only do it when those are appropriate to both audiences.

    Like most here, I view FB as my “real friends” space and Twitter as the creative space in which I have the great opportunity to connect with strangers I would never otherwise have met who enrich my life with their knowledge, recommended content, sense of humor, or pithy observations. FB doesn’t offer me a way to find those people and thus can’t replace Twitter.

    Some of these Twitter connections may become acquaintances or colleagues in real life, depending on where they live. I’m looking forward to meeting people at the SNCR conference in Cambridge next week whom I’ve “met” via Twitter.

    I’d be interested in whether anyone uses the LinkedIn status updates and how you see those relating to FB/Twitter. I rarely update LI and don’t really see my profile there as a communication space–the status update is more a label since it’s completely one-way unless someone creates a message. Comments in the Q&A section and groups may fulfill some of that function in a way that isn’t met either in FB or in Twitter since it provides for topics and discussion among groups of strangers, but I don’t spend much time there. LI is more an online resume than anything else for me (might be different if I were job-hunting or had my own consulting firm).


  28. Stephen Viller

    Came here after your tweet about the comments on this post 🙂

    I remember missing the ‘with friends’ tab that used to be there on twitter’s web interface so you could not just look at a person’s stream of updates, but also at these in the context of conversations happening amongst their social network (esp. as the @reply convention took hold).

    Agree that FB status update feels much more like an invitation to a conversation rather than just an update, to the extent that I’d feel at least mildly upset if an update drew no response (but this may be as much due to the relative infrequency of my updates). OTOH with twitter, where I regularly have conversations, the expectations are different so it feels good when your tweets into the ether generate a response (either @reply or RT).

    I tried linking twitter and FB updates when it was first possible, but soon stopped after realising that often the effect of this was that the FB status would be left as my final response in a conversation happening over on twitter. I am now more selective, using either the #fb tag (but this uses a precious 3 characters on twitter for something directed elsewhere), or checking the box in Tweetdeck. The audience is key to my decision to do this.

  29. Shih-Chieh Ilya Li

    Really great experience for danah’s article and everyone’s comments. In Taiwan people are always including Plurk to be compared with Twitter & Facebook updates, though I think partially originated from the *still* highly prevalent BBS “conversation” culture.

    And I tried to translate danah’s important arguments in this article into Chinese, which I found it very exciting that the points you made could be connected with ancient Chinese idioms. Those describing people’s networking social situations are based on “sounds & smells” (聲息 in Chinese), which may unfold deeper thoughts toward the medium and messages social media site delivered.

  30. Lloyd A Chumbley

    Let me take this a different direction. For me, Facebook is largely personal. It is about me, my family, my thoughts, my feelings. Consequently, I keep the network pretty personal. I often turn down Friend requests for this reason. Yes, there are some old friends I reconnect with and that is great but for the most part it is friends.

    However, Twitter is about my world. Often my posts on Twitter are about the things around me which focus a lot on my career. New things like conferences I attend and cool things I encounter. I use Twitter to point people to other things. See the difference?

    I think this distinction has lead to a personal (facebook) vs career (twitter) but it is more than this. It is about revealing myself vs redirecting.

    Just thinking…

  31. Andrew

    The post and subsequent comments are plenty interesting. For my two cents, I have conversations with different people, in each space, about the same thing. I use Twitter to populate my Facebook status, which is good and efficient (and occasionally problematic in a contextual way), in which people who resist either Facebook or Twitter can still converse with me.

    I treat Facebook and Twitter the same way – both public and open. This might show a lack of discrimination on my part but for me, I enjoy having different channels for different folk, open and ready for action. And if they switch spaces, then bring it on!

    As for reciprocity, I have lessening respect for this notion, thanks in large part to Twitter.

    Finally, I find Facebook a slightly more uptight experience than Twitter. This may reflect the inherent reciprocity, interface design, activity support, etc. but when compared to Twitter, it feels a little like walls_closing_in (closed systems vs. open).

  32. Chase Garbarino

    Great conversation about this stuff and very interesting to read people’s different unique perspectives. I wrote a response on my company’s blog focusing a bit more on the difference in social graph designs and what relationship types are more trustworthy and which are more valuable that you can check out here:

    (Links embedded to Granovetter’s article and others below not included)

    I have pasted below as well:

    The other day as I was searching to find the end of the Internet (no luck yet but I am still convinced it is flat), I came across a post on Danah Boyd’s (@zephoria for you Twitter-heads) blog titled Some Thoughts on Twitter vs. Facebook Status Updates. Clearly many other people saw this article as it has over 5,000 clicks tracked by and from reading the comments it was apparent that the post resonated with many duel Twitter/Facebook users, as there was a litany of interesting comments about people’s personal use cases. Most of the conversation was focused around the types of crowds people interact with on the different networks, with my favorite description coming from Ian Kennedy who quoted Marry Hodder, “While Facebook is like having a dinner conversation with friends, Twitter was like getting up on stage at a nightclub on open mike night.” This is a great analogy and I think most people who use both networks would agree with the comparison.

    What I find to be interesting about this Facebook vs. Twitter issue has less to do with who people are interacting with on the networks and what information they are sharing, but rather which types of relationship people find to be more valuable and more trustworthy. Now I know this is a bit like comparing apples and oranges since the two networks are used for sharing different information types (for the most part) with different networks of users, but let’s forget about these two issues and simply analyze this based on the two different graph designs of the networks.

    It is commonly known amongst SNA geeks and many people who study social sciences that the most famous SNA paper published to date is The Strength of Weak Ties written by Mark Granovetter in 1973. Granovetter found that weak ties, basically more distant friends in his study, were positioned to be sources of new information more so than close friends. This idea comes down to the fact that you generally know about the same things as the people you spend a lot of time interacting with, and that new information typically disseminates through your weak ties (technically bridges), people who interact mainly with people outside of your network, who would be sharing different information.

    Now considering the two social networking site’s (SNS) graph designs from a high level without getting into the different ways different people use the sites, let’s agree for arguments sake that one typically uses Twitter to connect with weak ties and one uses Facebook to connect more with strong ties (even though we all have “friends” on Facebook that we aren’t really friends with, but I will save the argument that a perfect SNS would have an infinite amount of relationship types for another day). So Twitter = weak ties, Facebook = strong ties. Immediately, the discovery of new and valuable information is more likely on Twitter, making it more valuable right? Well not so fast Ghostrider, some not so recent data (2008) for the real-time world that we live in found that far and away the most trusted source of information was “an email from someone you know”, with 77% of people validating this referral type. On the other hand, only 43% of people actually trust the social network profiles of people they know, making me wonder how much they would say they trust the information they receive from people they don’t technically know on a social networking sites (SNS) – i.e. a weak tie.

    When Granovetter explored the topic in 1973, he considered only symmetric relationships as to not complicate his formal math experiments for his thesis (if you want to get into that go read the paper). Considering the expanded opportunity of developing new relationships on the Internet, it doesn’t really make sense to define a weak tie on a SNS the way Granovetter defined them in ’73 based on 1) amount of time 2) emotional intensity 3) intimacy (which he defined as mutual confiding) and 4) the reciprocal services which characterize the tie. Anyone who uses Twitter follows people with whom they are not intimate (based on Granovetter’s mutually confiding restriction) and by nature and purpose the services aren’t reciprocal, but the amount of time and emotional intensity for the follower could still be high, so how weak or strong really are the ties on these networks – sigh, the grey area expands.

    This can all be boiled down to this: do you typically value a referral of some sort of information more from a symmetric “strong tie” on Facebook or from an asymmetric “weak tie” on Twitter? (Hold the information type constant in each situation). And secondly, do you trust a referral more from one tie more than the other? And without getting into semantics, yes the two are different (I did just kind of get into semantics huh?). Obviously there is no right answer considering it is somewhat of a subjective measure and a more complete argument would have to take into consideration different information types being shared, but I invite you all to share your own sentiments on the matter.

    It is without a doubt in my mind that as we move forward and SNS’s evolve we will begin to make sense of some pretty amazing structural, “macro-level” patterns that happen in our society because of the data we will be able to extract from the microscopic relationships within social networks. I have said it before and I will say it again, we are only at the tip of the iceberg on this stuff.

  33. Lis

    for some reason i feel like i can be myself more on twitter. i feel less bad about cluttering the stream with a useless thought than i do on facebook. not sure why exactly. maybe because i feel like facebook is more of a place for things to get done- conversations to get going, (since so many people can respond to one status update in one place) where twitter is more just thoughts whizzing by… maybe something to do with the casual nature of following or unfollowing someone means less pressure…?

  34. Riley Eggers

    Hey Dana!

    I really liked this article. I am a marketing student and I think that both of these sources of social media are extremely important to the future of marketing. It is hard sometimes to decide where you should place certain information. For my own personal reasons on Twitter I have a hard time sometimes, I love to follow people, but I feel like I don’t have enough to say for myself.

    I would like to be more integrated into the Twitter community and you actually inspired me, and now I feel like I understand it so much more now. I liked what you said when comparing it to an ocean, and catching waves. I think that that is a great way of looking at it. I am going to try not to think so much about my tweets but just flow with it, share what I want and create my own Twitter image.


  35. Riley Eggers

    Hey Dana!

    I really liked this article. I am a marketing student and I think that both of these sources of social media are extremely important to the future of marketing. It is hard sometimes to decide where you should place certain information. For my own personal reasons on Twitter I have a hard time sometimes, I love to follow people, but I feel like I don’t have enough to say for myself.

    I would like to be more integrated into the Twitter community and you actually inspired me, and now I feel like I understand it so much more now. I liked what you said when comparing it to an ocean, and catching waves. I think that that is a great way of looking at it. I am going to try not to think so much about my tweets but just flow with it, share what I want and create my own Twitter image.


  36. Melanie Wong


    This article is extremely interesting. It is very strange to think that different social media networking tools that are seen by the public as competing factors to get the most users/high web traffic are actually immensely different in terms of cognitive intentions. One thing that I do wonder is the outliers of what you write generally in your post: The people on Twitter who are only interested in getting real-time updates from people they know, the people who have protected their tweets from the world, the facebook-ers that are extremely friendly that friend people they don’t event know.

    I myself use both Twitter and Facebook, but as of a couple months ago I have been using Twitter increasingly more than my Facebook. I’ve realize this is because of more and more of my friends are on Twitter. Also, I am able to create lists on third party applications like TweetDeck to filter and see only my friends, only the people that I’m inspired by, and any current trending topics.

    What I am interested in seeing is how the new introduction of Twitter Lists that are now slowly emerging will change the way Facebook is viewed. I would love to hear your opinion on this topic.


  37. Tyler Sanborn

    Hi Dana –

    I completely agree with you on the audience factor. Anecdotally, my Twitter updates are geared miles from my Facebook updates. Both are rather infrequent, perhaps one to three a day for Twitter, and once a week for Facebook I gear both of my posts completely different – as part of an attempt at personal branding, I use Twitter as a point to share my views on industries and things that interest me. Facebook is veiled behind a “wall” where I believe only those I’m friends with can see my posts. This may not completely be true, but I certainly do my best to keep my professional and personal life somewhat separated.

    It’s also an interesting note that Twitter, when in rare instances I do use it to update personal things, I’m as careful as possible to only link and speak to what is very light. For instance, I may only update with a picture on where I am eating if of note but nothing to do with my cat, where I’m sitting, etc.

    These principals surrounding audiences are no different than traditional marketing or even physical social interaction. In public, you would do you best not to shout via a megaphone to a crowd about your deepest secrets but rather whisper them to a friend across a table.

  38. Addy

    Thanks Danah for this awesome article – it felt as if you’ve reached inside my head and practically dug out my thoughts on this matter! Good on you. Like some of you, I’ve never quite bothered to think about the impact of linking Twitter updates to FB – which has resulted in many cryptic messages that friends tease me with “Wtf are u writing in your FB profile? I don’t understand you!” which I’d just reply “Someday you would” (at that time the uptake of Twitter was more prominent in Western countries than Asia).

    Fast forward 6 months later, nearly everyone’s (in my FB network of friends) heard of Twitter. It kinda feels good to be one of the first few individuals to have some proof that I was there ‘first’ among my friends – LOL. But after reading @Mathew’s comment here – I must say, I feel a wee bit shameful now for not according the respect my social network of friends deserve on FB. But then again, come to think of it – I honestly don’t think my friends would be sitting infront of the computer brooding about my supposed lack of disrespect for them via my seemingly thoughtless Twitter updates on FB! 🙂 In fact, if they were truly my ‘friends’ on FB, I’m pretty sure they’d understand my nature to some extent (that I’m a social media nerd) to know why I manage my status updates that way.

    To me, if it strikes a chord with them (even if it’s one of those cryptic @msgs) – they will be bothered enough to leave a status comment on FB asking for more info. To which, of course, I’d happily comply…

  39. Addy

    Having said that, I agree with @Emil Sotirov. Something needs to be done to make reading your blog posts easier, Danah. I had to practically ctrl-x (cut) and v (paste) the whole page onto a Word document for easy reading! 🙂

  40. Eden

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. On a personal note, my Facebook “audience” and my Twitter “audience” are completely different. I use Facebook to connect with friends and family. I use Twitter to connect with strangers interested in the same stuff that I am–where I can share articles and comments that they’d appreciate–many of which my friends/family don’t really give two hoots about. Makes me think about and question just how the social norms for these tools develop and evolve.

  41. Nancy Schwartzman

    Do you think the new Facebook organization feed-thing is going to turn people off? It is definitely turning me off and boring me, that I have to sift through and actively decide from who I want to hear from more, etc. I’m starting to inch my way over to Twitter, where whoever tweets most shows up most, feels more democratic and easier in some ways…

  42. Tawna

    I agree with the article’s main premise. Communicating through Facebook is fairly casual, whereas communicating through Twitter is more professional. This is because there is more control of privacy on Facebook. On Twitter, everything is public.

  43. stefany

    Interestingly enough, I find that a very, very small percentage of my real-life friends and acquaintances prefer Twitter over Facebook. (I’m beginning to wonder if/how it’s related to age. We’re mostly mid-20s.) I think it’s precisely because Twitter is less personal. We want all the bells and whistles that come along with Facebook–the photos, the instant messaging, even the time-sucking applications. And we want, just like when we were younger, to compare notes with all of our friends. The comfort (of discomfort?) of Facebook is the knowledge that someone is always paying attention. On Twitter, it seems you have to strong-arm your way into any kind of recognition, especially if you don’t have anything all that compelling to put out there. Perhaps once we have more specialized niches that we want to participate in, then Twitter will be more useful.

  44. Michelle Na

    I use both Twitter and Facebook. After hearing about the popularity of Twitter, I created an account.

    On Facebook, my friends would comment on nearly every post and I would recieve friend requests and such daily. On Twitter, I would post regularly but I found the constant spam and gossiping frustrating and annoying. Thirty year adults were “venting” and putting their juvenile drama and love struggles for ANYONE to see.

    I use Facebook far more powerfully for fun, networking, and friendship. It is a better “fit” for me than the tabloid title driven Twitter. It is my own selective sphere of people who are generally posting interesting information instead stupid thoughtless tweets.

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