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Twitter vs. Facebook & College Students

Over the past few semesters, I have been noticing a trend.  During presentations on social media, I almost always instruct the audience “Raise your hand if you are on ________” and insert a list of social networks to get a sense of where they are.  In this very informal and admittedly unscientific polling of groups regarding their use of social networks, I am seeing a sharp rise in the number of respondents who say they are on Twitter.  The number of those on Facebook hasn’t gone down, but the growth in Twitter use had me wondering: what is going on here?  Some stories I’ve heard along with current research are leading me to some interesting concluding questions.  Let’s take a look.


In the battle of Twitter vs. Facebook, who will win? For the blog entry where I located this photo, click on the image.

Twitter Use is Growing Among the College-Age Population

According to Pew Internet’s Twitter Use 2012 study, “Twitter use among 18-24 year olds increased dramatically between May 2011 and February 2012, both overall and on a ‘typical day’ basis.”  In late 2010, 16% of this age group reported using Twitter, then 18% reported similarly in May 2011, and now 26% say they use Twitter.  That’s a steep increase in the past year.  Hmmmm.

There Are Mixed Reviews Over Facebook’s Staying Power and Privacy Protections

This Associated Press-CNBC Poll reports that Americans are split over whether or not Facebook will having staying power.  What’s more, about 3 out of 5 respondents indicated that they have little or no faith the company will protect their information.  But, it’s clear that some of the next generation is on Facebook: 81% of people ages 18-35 responded that they had a Facebook account.  So what do they think about Facebook and how are they truly using it?

Reflecting on “Twitter vs. Facebook” Conversations

From conversations I’ve had with family, friends, colleagues, and students about this very subject, here are my resulting thoughts and questions:

  1. It needs to be stated that, while similar in “social” nature, Twitter and Facebook are different kinds of networks, have unique utilities, and different ways of enabling users to communicate.
  2. Facebook, it seems, is where we all-too-easily think “everyone” already is.  It’s almost become the default network.
  3. Many new users to Facebook who are in their teens have had lessons from parents about proper Facebook use.  Some have always lived in a time when they could be “Friends” with mom or dad.  This is in stark contrast to the throngs of Gen Y users who were around when Facebook access was only granted to students with a “.edu” email address.  Has this changed the amount of irresponsible posting on Facebook for some?  Has it made the space a less “free” place to express yourself?
  4. There’s no doubt about it that people are upset about Facebook’s Privacy Policy.  Will people be fed up enough to abandon ship?
  5. Twitter, on the other hand, has it’s own language for communication and does not have Albums, Groups, and full-blown profiles that may be places to get in “trouble.”  Of course, one can still behave badly, but does this simpler method of communicating in a unique language appeal to younger users who may feel concerned about Facebook?
  6. Finally, in the race to make platforms mobile-friendly and revenue-generating, who is winning?  As far as revenue goes, for now, it seems the winner is Twitter.  In terms of use, accessing the Twitter app compared to the Facebook app myself, I am much happier with my Twitter experience.  I can quickly retweet, favorite, or read on, and Twitter is designed by nature for quicker interactions.  So, is Twitter more mobile-ready?  Facebook is certainly working to compete, and I’m curious to see how the mobile battle unfolds.

So, what do you think?  What’s trending on your campus, in your community, among your friends & colleagues?  Share more about the Twitter vs. Facebook conversation and let’s hear what you have to say.

By Kevin

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