In a recent study, Duncan Watts, Dan Goldstein, and I examined the adoption patterns of several different types of products diffusing over various online platforms — including Twitter, Facebook, and the Yahoo! IM network — comprising millions of individual adopters. The figure below shows the structure and frequency of the five most commonly seen diffusion trees in each case. In all six domains the dominant diffusion event, accounting for between 70% to 95% of cascades, is the trivial one: an individual adopts the product in question and doesn’t convert any of their contacts. The next most common event, again in all six domains, is an independent adopter who attracts a single additional adopter. In fact, across domains only 1%-4% of diffusion trees extend beyond one degree.
Which do you care about more simply getting a stream of conciusicous thoughts from people or a stream of tons of different aspects on that person and lots of information to put it into context. That’s the dilemma facing people signing up for social networks. Each specializes in an area that makes it useful to the end users.
Facebook excels at providing you with tons of information on your friends and letting you keep in touch with them very easily. It lets you have a social dialogue with someone who you may never see, but you can find out their favorite movies, music, where they live, challenge them to a game of Scrabble and so much more.
Facebook's News Feed
That’s a close and personal friendship taken to the online world, Twitter is much the opposite. You don’t really have a lot of information on the person, instead you get a stream of thoughts (140 characters at a time) that let you see what the person is thinking at a bunch of different times.
Facebook is uniquely useful to me at providing connections to my real life friends and family. Letting me tell them how I am doing, and find out what they are out to, passively putting information onto Facebook. I can follow people and get to know them closer and keep friendships that in the past would have just died due to the difficulty of communication.
I use Twitter for a vastly different purpose, to follow a large group of people, who most may not even know me but whose thoughts I am interested in hearing. People who express some ideas or information that I want to hear more of, or even those who just create great art. I can follow along not just them creating new ideas and art, but see when they go out to eat or what they think of a new movie. It’s a very weird world where I find out before the papers are even allowed to publish the reviews what the first people watching a movie think.
That’s what communication will look like tomorrow and I intend to be on the cutting edge and learning as much as I can.