Twitter vs. Facebook?

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Brendan Gahan over at GigaOm writes today about Facebook's upcoming interface changes, suggesting that Facebook is launching an effort to subvert the growing popularity of Twitter by giving Facebook users more opportunity for real-time interaction.

It has been interesting to watch the evolution of these two services. I don't recall who said this, but one person suggested that "Facebook is for people you know, Twitter is for people you want to know." However it's clear that both services are heading into the same direction. Twitter recently added a "suggested users" feature, taking the first steps toward mining user connections to gather data that could be used to offer additional custom-tailored information. Meanwhile, Facebook is moving toward trying to make status updates more twitter-like, with the hope that status updates could replace those who use twitter to keep up with friends.

But many Twitter users (including myself) primarily use Twitter to keep up with news and information from sources including media, companies, and prominent writers. In this case, Twitter becomes a replacement for my RSS reader, I follow Tweets instead of web-logs, and the information flow is primarily one-way. Twitter merely provides a simple and quick way to keep on top of the information that I want to follow.

I also use Twitter for outbound information, but much more for professional purposes than for keeping in contact with friends and colleagues as I do with Facebook.

Those that are still responsible for figuring out how they can leverage social networks for business or personal value need to continue to keep their eye on the rapid evolution of popular services, and understand the opportunities to leverage different kinds of services for different goals.

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John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author