Can't Facebook Kill Twitter?

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Twitter does one thing right that Facebook isn’t doing.

No, it’s not the 140 characters (or 280 characters now). No, it’s definitely not how Twitter handle trolls and harassment. It’s the real-time and live events. It’s the “now.” Or, more specifically, search and the “now” and in real-time. It’s everything from, “hey did anybody else see or hear those low-flying planes over the park just now,” to trying to figure out what the hive mind thinks about that conference in Phoenix we’re all attending, to right now being able to search within these live and real-time events for a specific topic (like, “what did everyone think of the keynote speaker?”). Facebook has hashtags. Facebook has a timeline. Facebook allows you to search for things like this, but the interface and feed doesn’t pull it all together well, and the algorithm messes with how information appears. Because content gets throttled and filtered on Facebook, it’s next to impossible to organically see anything and everything on a specific moment in time.

Still, let’s think about how easy it would be for Facebook to kill Twitter (you know, just for fun!)… 

First, Facebook could simply pull in Twitter’s entire feed. Much better distribution for Twitter’s dwindling numbers (and makes perfect sense as Twitter expands to 280 characters per post). Facebook already has status updates, which are the same as Twitter (without the 140/280 character limitation). Hashtags are there on Facebook. It’s simply a question of fixing the feed and adjusting the feed. If you really look at it, what Twitter does right now as a platform is really nothing more than a feature for Facebook. Yes, Facebook tweaks would be needed for the algorithm to take a back seat to sequential posts, and the search on Facebook would have to be adjusted. But… that’s about it.

It wouldn’t take much.

Of course, Twitter has a charm in its speed and simplicity. Still… Facebook. There is nothing in terms of hashtags, search and chronological sorting that Facebook could not do. The friction seems to be in the search. Searching by moments in time and having to find the right hashtag and the right people seems to be where Facebook loses ground to Twitter in the real-time.

A real-time example…

For over a decade, I have been attending (and presenting) at conferences and tradeshows around the world. Either while they are happening or on my way to the airport, I’m curious about several things: how did my presentation go? Who liked it? Any pictures? What did the organizers share? Which individuals have tweeted the most? Are they worth following? What did the other speakers say? What did the attendees think about the other speakers? Which other events do these attendees talk about? Where are the meetups at? Does anyone attending need anything that I can help with? The list goes on. Live events makes Twitter an excellent and centralized concierge. Facebook seems to be the place where you post something either right before… or right after an event takes place. Facebook is the “I can’t wait for…” and “I just got back from” instead of the centralized, “we’re here, let’s meet and connect and make this event something special… something more!” That seems easy enough for Facebook to do… right?

Facebook is more about people and not events.

And that’s fine. That’s their jam. It just feels like their two billion-plus users (and close to one billion users on Instagram) would all like and benefit from this real-time feature-set. It does seem like Twitter is leaving it out there, fluttering in the wind, for Facebook to take. Think about how agreesively Facebook has adopted this – exact – strategy with Snapchat. They’re basically stealing and adopting anything and everything that works with Snapchat, to the point where most senior marketing professionals are having trouble seeing a real difference between Facebook, Snapchat and even Instagram (which Facebook owns). Why not adopt the same startegy with Twitter? Snapchat is feeling the pain.

Isn’t Facebook acting more real-time (like Twitter) something that we all want?

It’s not about Twitter dying. It’s about Facebook grabbing a piece of land that is critical to users. Facebook would be able to do this in fairly quick fashion, and it would make it that much more valuable. It feels like a perfect case of 1 + 1 = 5. And, at this point, simply acquiring Twitter can’t be off the table.