A Pew Survey just came out saying that while 67% of the internet using population use Facebook only 16% use Twitter. What’s so striking about this is that I have had several conversations over the past year in which people swear to me that Facebook is already totally passé. These people uniformly are in the “Brands” segment of social media and it is true that for Brands, Twitter does work better than Facebook. Unfortunately, the public does not seem to be complying with this logic and are sticking to Facebook. So we face a conundrum- we have a tool with tremendous potential to build both brands and communities that suffers from a major lack of users.

Why?

I’ve found that many people simply don’t understand Twitter. I can say this from personal experience. I signed up for an account in December 2009 but it sat dormant until June 2012 when the UVA crisis suddenly provided a very good reason to make use of it. Once that settled down, I realized that it was a great way to follow the my beloved Nats as they blasted to the playoffs. Simultaneously I began to enjoy getting election news there as well. I found that one of my Facebook friends was a Nats fan and a total politics geek when, on the night of the Vice Presidential debate, which coincided with one of the Nats playoff games, both of our tweets simultaneously shifted gears from baseball to politics.

Facebook connections
Categories of my Facebook “Friends”- Notice that 3 of the 4 categories are personal connections. Twitter networkCategories of who I “Follow” on Twitter- notice that 3 of the 4 are impersonal- people I have most likely never met.

Facebook is clearly about friends and community. It fits well into our lives as a way to keep in touch with friends and family particularly as we become more and more far flung across the globe. The fact that Facebook began in the University community shaped it to fulfill this need.

Twitter by contrast is more utilitarian. This about the terminology- you “Follow” as opposed to “Friend”. A July Pew survey shows that once someone begins to use Twitter (I would say that once they “get” Twitter) their use quickly rises. If you follow a friend on Twitter, it is going to be someone who shares your interests, not just someone with whom you wish to keep in touch. For the majority of the population (74% according to Pew), Twitter simply does not have a natural “hook” that would make them want to learn how to use it.

Twitter, therefore, must be taught. Campaigns seeking to make use of Twitter- whether for marketing, community building, or personal connections- must plan on including a “Why should you use Twitter” component. So, for example, I’m working on a project right now to try to get UVA alums across the country to begin to “live-tweet” events at which they host notable speakers so that the greater University community can feel involved. Many, if not most, of these people do not use Twitter. Part of my campaign, then, must include explaining to them why Twitter is a great tool to reach the UVA community. I intend to show them “live-tweets” of the UVA football games and other events. Part of this will also explain that they themselves do not need to feel that they have to “tweet” constantly. Always assume that you must get past the “Roland Hedley” perception of Twitter:

As I’ve said, Twitter does have lots of potential and once an individual is hooked- they are majorly hooked. The key, however, is getting them to see how Twitter fits into their life.

See my follow-up post “Why You Should Consider Using Twitter”

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