How social are these mega social networks? Well social enough for Facebook to have courted Twitter most recently...to only be rebuffed as a lustful suitor too eager to get to third base before the first pitch was thrown. Back in fall of 2008, Facebook offered Twitter $500 million in stock to wed and bed her.
However, the deal broke down when Twitter assessed that the dowry Facebook was presenting might not actually be worth the paper it was written on. While some sources at Facebook said CEO Mark Zuckerberg was becoming envious of the buzz Twitter was attracting, across the Internet–a space that heretofore was dominated by Facebook.
On the flip of things, if Facebook was so enamored with Twitter's cache how did it overlook some its obvious flaws? After all, Twitter for all its success in viral marketing is still floundering in the red. In fact, presently there are more expenses on the balance sheet than there is revenue.
For those not familiar, the premise of Twitter is based on the simple business mode of microblogging where, a registered user logs onto the Internet or a mobile phone and answers only one basic question: “What are you doing?” The only requirement for the sender is that they accomplish that "tweet" in 140 characters or less! The onus then falls on their brethren tweeps whether they respond favorably or otherwise…or just ignore it altogether!
Twitter Incoming And based on that very basic premise, investors are very enthusiastic about Twitter, and have already handed over $20 million for the start-up. Twitter now valued at $98 million includes investors such as Union Square Ventures, Charles River Ventures, Digital Garage, Spark Capital, Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and Silicon Valley guru Marc Andreessen, founder of Ning.com. Interestingly, Andreessen is also on Facebook’s board….talk about having your cake and eat it too!
On the revenue side, Twitter has been exploring options like charging business customers and adding advertising onto their consumer platform. One of the most recent examples of companies benefiting commercially from Twitter is Dell Computes who reportedly made $1 million in sales during the holidays by microblogging on Twitter, and recently started giving discounts exclusively to its Twitter followers. Seems to me, the executive board at Twitter would be anxious to get a cut of that action!
Lack of revenues was an issue for Facebook, said sources referring to what Twitter pays for delivery of its messages to cell phones. So if Twitter's 6 million users were to merge with Facebook’s 175 million active users, Facebook execs estimated that it might have to deal with huge SMS fees–up to $75 million annually.
At first blush, with the numbers so high on the Facebook side, it appears that Facebook may actually be the Goliath to Twitter’s David. However, if that be the case, the slingshot that Twitter is wielding might actually be a disguised WMD, based on the recent traffic numbers. Over the course of the last year, traffic to Twitter, used by celebrities as famous as US president Barack Obama, has increased by 1191 per cent, while visitors to Facebook paled in comparison with a 110% rise (according to industry analysts Hitwise). With stats, like these, it begs the question: Is Twitter in the passing lane, with Facebook in its rearview mirror?
Facebook in Rearview Mirror
No one knows just where Facebook is headed or whether it's serious about dominating the social media landscape, particularly after the outrage it caused when it tried to change its Terms Of Service. It's easy for bloggers to speculate that with every new app and every incremental change to its platform, that such a plan has been set in motion, but to date there is no concrete evidence. Mike Butcher at TechCrunch UK believes that Facebook has a fundamentally different relationship model than Twitter. On Facebook, you create a simple two-way friendship with someone. On Twitter, you can choose to follow someone and you can be followed, but the subsequent relationship doesn't have to be bidirectional.
In my humble opinion, Twitter has a leg up on Facebook in its control over the media. To me, I view Twitter as the 21st Century version of the town crier. Where Facebook, doesn’t break the news, Twitter is fast becoming the place to be to get your most updated news blurbs before it hits the mainstream media outlets. News stories like the recent “Google malware fiasco” or the “imposter Dalai Lama” are prime examples of how the buzz starts with Twitter and then spills over into the traditional channels. Why… some people are irreverent enough to believe that God needs to start following Twitter! Anyone Tweeting God?
For now, a marriage between Twitter and Facebook doesn’t spell out kismet. Perhaps, the courtship between the two Web 2.0 sweethearts could be rekindled sometime in the future. After all, when one party is only 5 years old and the other is just turning 3, an arranged wedding might be a wee bit premature. Maybe the match-up between the two Goliaths is in its early stages of a "Harry Met Sally" relationship, and it needs time to mature before it can become a true and lasting bond. As in Twitter, you can be "followed" and you can be a "follower", but it takes a true seasoned member of the twitterati to be both!