“Like my grandma…she’s on Facebook…and she’s like 89.” This revealing quote about the current state of social media came out of the mouth of a Henry Clay High school student during a group interview which I conducted in June of 2013 (interview posted on YouTube in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2). I was compelled to interview a group of teens about their usage of social media, because I wanted them to help me compare Facebook and Twitter. But, what I had set out to accomplish through the interview was far less valuable than what I actually learned from these high school students about their social media tendencies. In fact, so much was revealed, I will be presenting the information in a multi-article feature. The article below will simply offer the comparison between Facebook and Twitter. I will begin by addressing an expert’s view of the fundamental difference between the two tools. Next, I will summarize the teenagers’ comparison of Facebook and Twitter. My conclusion will include the teenager’s prediction for the future of these social media giants.
The Expert’s Comparison of Facebook and Twitter
Bloomberg Businessweek featured a post by Mathew Ingram in March 2013 about the fundamental difference between Facebook and Twitter. Ingram said that the difference lies in the filtering of information, wherein which Twitter “doesn’t apply any filters to the stream of updates users get,” but Facebook applies an algorithm which causes some updates to be more “prominent than others, and in some cases updates may never appear at all.” In other words, whereas Twitter users see updates from those who they follow in an unfiltered, never-ending stream of tweets, Facebook implements a filtering tool which ranks the importance, credibility, authority, etc. of the updates. Neither approach can be seen as right or wrong, because it really comes down to a matter of preference. Some social media users prefer Facebook, because it aims to be more relevant since the content is organized. On the other hand, Twitter fans seem to enjoy the “never-ending ocean of content” (Ingram, 2013), because it reflects unobstructed information.
The Teens’ Comparison of Facebook and Twitter
Interestingly, the high school students, who I interviewed, did not bring up this point of comparison at all. In fact, when I asked them what the fundamental difference between Facebook and Twitter was, all they really seemed to want to do is talk about was why they did not like Facebook. As you can watch in the interview, these teens described Facebook as a “dinosaur,” as a social media tool that “older family members use,” and as lacking user-friendly functionality. It was only after some creative prying on my part that I was able to get the group to focus on two specific comparisons of the tools that stuck out in their minds. First, the teens explained that Facebook only houses fan pages for their favorite celebrities. On the other hand, they claimed that Twitter gives them access to authentic updates straight from the celebrity themselves. The teens described an almost obsessive need to keep track of the entertainment industry, but in a way that seemed personal and authentic. In their opinion, Twitter better enabled this authenticity.
The second point of comparison from the teens’ perspective circulated around the concept of access and control. The high school students perceived that parents control Facebook, while the teenagers still pull the reins on Twitter. More specifically, the teens described Facebook as a tool that gives their parents, aunts, uncles, etc. too much access into the world of their teenage-lives. For example, during the interview, one of the teens explained that most parents wouldn’t let their daughters have Facebook pages unless they accepted one of the parents as a “friend.” However, this forced-friending aspect made the social media tool less appealing to the high school students, because it put the control in the parents’ hands by providing access to the teen’s content. However, since these teenagers claimed to generally just “retweet” on Twitter, rather than generate their own content, and because there is an assumption among the teens that their parents have not “figured out Twitter,” the perceived control on this tool remains with the teenagers.
The Predicted Fate of Facebook and Twitter
Although the teens’ comparison of Facebook and Twitter left Facebook looking like yesterday’s news, Twitter did not come out completely unscathed. In fact, not only did the high school students predict that teens will continue to ignore Facebook, but they actually claimed that they see Twitter failing altogether. The teens acknowledged that Facebook could survive in its current format for a while, because of its massive following of members of “older generations.” However, the high school students, who I interviewed, claimed that there are two reasons that could contribute to Twitter’s impending failure. First, as mentioned above, the teenagers said that their parents have not caught onto Twitter as quickly as they did with Facebook. They added that they believed their older relatives valued the private sharing of personal content, which Facebook promotes. In other words, from the teens’ perspective, Twitter is too public for their parents, who value privacy. Second, the teens explained that they value images over words, and from their viewpoint Twitter is nothing but a never-ending stream of words.
So, if teens don’t like Facebook and are skeptical of Twitter’s future potential, what social media tool do they think will dominate in the future? Watch for my next article to post, which will reveal specific insights from the interview about their generations’ social media preferences and what they believe will dominate the future of social media.
Ingam, M. (2013). Facebook vs. Twitter: Want Your Feed Filtered or Unfiltered? Bloomberg
Businessweek. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-03-
End Note: Clearly, four teenage females cannot be considered a representative sampling of Generation Z. As such, the insights revealed from this presentation are not intended to be conclusive, but rather an indication that marketers should further study these potential social media tendencies among teenagers.