Twitter vs. Facebook: Reflections, Comparisons, and Ministry Perspective

Twitter and Facebook. I’ve been using these two social media tools for a few years now. And here’s the take-home.

I liken Facebook to a class reunion.

I liken Twitter to a huge roundtable discussion.

Like a class reunion, Facebook is great for reconnecting with old friends. Getting updates on their lives. Updating them on your life. And making new friends. Like a class reunion, there are multiple private conversations going on in different parts of the room at the same time.

Twitter is like a large roundtable discussion on various and sundry topics that’s televised for all to see (if they tune into the channel). Experts are part of the discussion. And so are neophytes. Each person has the floor for a few seconds, and others respond to them instantly. Then someone else has the floor, and others respond instantly. And on and on it goes.

Facebook is better for connecting, reconnecting, and keeping up with friends as well as making new ones. Twitter is better for sharing and gaining information, knowledge, and resources.

Facebook encourages you to stay within the network for your communication. Twitter is a jumping-off point that hands you multitudes of resources to go somewhere else and learn.

Twitter Confessions

About two years ago, my friend Leonard Sweet encouraged me to begin using Twitter. He said it changed his life.

So I did.

At first, I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t exactly “get it” (anyone feel better now?). Plus, a lot of the stuff I saw people Tweeting about were beyond boring (for me at least). So I didn’t use it whole-heartedly.

But in time, that changed.

I now believe that Twitter is one of the most intelligent/resourceful community on the planet.

Think about it. 500 million users (at the time of this writing). Experts from every field from around the globe. Interacting. Asking and answering questions. Sharing useful knowledge and resources. And for Christians, sharing the Lord and the things that concern Him.

Since using Twitter, I’ve developed valuable relationships. And I’ve learned a ton. And I hope that I’ve enriched others through it as well.

Also: If you’re interested in following important events as they happen (blow-by-blow), Twitter has become the social media for this all over the world. (Take the revolution in Egypt as an example.) Those who follow an event on Twitter are “in the know” before any news-organization grabs hold of it.

Things For Which I Use Twitter

  • To get group answers to questions. In the past, I’ve had hair-pulling problems with Windows, Word, Facebook, etc. I tweet my questions, and within seconds, I’ll receive instant responses from many different people from all over the world. To date, every question I’ve posted has been answered.
  • To meet new people with common interests. Just reply to someone’s tweet, and there’s a fair chance you’ll get a response. They don’t have to follow you to see your tweet and respond. You can tweet authors, speakers, and other experts. In this way, Twitter is a great tool to meet new people and interact with them. (Of course, if you’re snarky, nasty, or defamatory, don’t expect the person to reply.)
  • To provide answers to people’s questions. If someone tweets a question, and I can help them find the answer, I throw in. It’s always better to give than to receive.
  • To share useful resources that I’ve found. Whether a book, article, email, blog post, audio, essay, film, etc. Then it spreads to many others via a Retweet. Case in point: When compiling this blog post, I tweeted this: “Writing a blog post on how I think Twitter is more beneficial than Facebook. Any other posts on the topic that I could link to?” The links at the bottom of this post are from those who responded on Twitter. Kewl, eh?
  • To keep up with other authors and bloggers I respect as well as with friends. Some would say “use Facebook for this.” But it’s really not the same. First, Facebook limits your friends to 5,000. There’s no limit to Twitter. Second, it’s hard to keep up with everyone’s status feed. Not everyone’s statuses show up on your home feed. In fact, most don’t. Twitter, on the other hand, allows you to follow whomever you want. And it’s easy to not miss a beat from those you really like to read.
  • To share quotes that have impressed or impacted me. I post these quotes when I find them. Some of them usually end up in my upcoming books. Not a few times someone has tweeted back saying, “That quote was exactly what I needed right now.” That’s always encouraging. Especially given that I queue them up long before they are posted.
  • Twitter is viral in spreading an idea or message. Facebook is good for this also. The Retweet makes it easy on Twitter.
  • I often use Twitter to promote other writers, bloggers, and new authors. I enjoy doing this. Some authors (like my good friend Jon Zens, for example) deserve more visibility.
  • Twitter is highly conversational, relational, and participatory. I’m an extrovert, so I enjoy socializing with people. Especially about spiritual things. Twitter is a rich, ongoing conversation with many different people on many different topics. Among Christians who love Christ, it’s like an enlarged, public, cross-denominational, electronic open-participatory church gathering. And you can tune out trolls, paying no attention to them.
  • To have some good-hearted banter with another Tweeter. This is always fun, and a nice break from the stresses of life.
  • Twitter is fun. Sometimes I’ll ask “top 2 favorite comedies” and get tons of replies. Some of which I’ve never seen (so my Netflix queue grows). Or I’ll tweet some lyrics from a song, and people will reply with the rest of the lyrics. (It’s always fun to post from obscure songs and see who knows them.)
  • Alerting my readers to new resources I may have created. Since the people who follow you on Twitter want to know the next thing you’re creating — be it a blog post, article, interview, book, etc. — Twitter is a great venue for blessing them with such information.

The Downside of Facebook

I am well aware that one can automatically link their Tweets up to their Facebook pages. But I’ve never cared for that idea as I’ve always used Facebook for reconnecting with old friends, family, and making new friends (particularly those who have read my books). Also, I’m using Facebook less and less as it’s becoming more and more intrusive and invasive.

For instance, if someone is part of a group or page, they can now automatically add their friends without their consent or knowledge. All surveys I’ve seen suggest that people DO NOT like this. You have to remove yourself to get out of the group or page after being “joined” without your consent.

Also, Facebook isn’t moderated well. I’ve seen a lot of people get mistreated and hurt there (unfortunately, by other Christians who were rude, insensitive, or snarky). Some of these people ended up deactivating their accounts as a result.

All told: I prefer the benefits that Twitter offers and would encourage you to join if you haven’t yet. Oh, and if you don’t “get it,” don’t feel bad. I didn’t either at first. But you will if you hang on. Join me at @FrankViola and get involved in the conversation.

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Comments

  1. Ashley says

    I was in the same boat. I didn’t get Twitter at first, and I resisted it for a long time. But, I’ve lost count of how many ministries, books, quotes, blogs, information and people it has opened up to me. I probably sound like a dork to my husband because I’m constantly saying something like, “Yeah, so-and-so tweeted the other day” or “Yesterday on Twitter so-and-so posted a link to a really cool article.” I also feel like Twitter has expanded the realm of influence I have. There are some who have better contact with me via Twitter than Facebook or email.

    Conversely, Facebook also became too sketchy for me.. I started questioning whether or not my information was still being shared behind my back (paranoid, I know) and whether things I had selected for only some to see was still being shared with the whole. I also feel like Facebook can be a hostile environment.. like middle school or high school in some ways. I have since shut it down and the only thing I miss about it is being able to stay in touch with my closest friends and family. Beyond email and my blog, there is no consistent way to remain in touch with them. And for that, I may decide to reactivate my account for my family only.

  2. says

    First time on your blog which is in hiatus anyway. Nonetheless I love the take-home:

    I liken Facebook to a class reunion.

    I liken Twitter to a huge roundtable discussion.

  3. Jan Carver says

    I am an abolitionist greatly involved in Human Trafficking & just started twittering & love it – just trying to keep up also… ♥

    Under His Wings
    Ms. Jan Carver

  4. says

    Frank,

    For the last year+, I’ve been posting blog content on Facebook and Twitter. At one time, I also tweeted and posted statuses on both Facebook and Twitter. For some reason, I always got better response and more traffic from Facebook, with very little interaction or traffic from Twitter. So, I stopped using Twitter much at all, although my blog post titles with links are still published on Twitter.

    Then, a few weeks ago, without anything change in what I do, I began to get more and more traffic from Twitter. Five weeks ago, 3% of my hits came from Twitter. Four weeks ago, also 3% came from Twitter. Then, three weeks ago, 8% of my traffic came from Twitter. The next two weeks (including the current week so far), the percentages jumped to 12% and 18%.

    I don’t know why I’m now getting more traffic from Twitter. Is anyone else seeing an increase in traffic from Twitter?

    -Alan

  5. says

    good advice and like you, I don’t send tweets to facebook – they are two different mediums with different purposes. But, unlike you, I am more involved on facebook than twitter. That may change, it may not. I agree that the groups feature of adding people without permission is problematic, but I’m guessing that will change. There are many features in the new groups that work well for me. And btw, I came to this via your facebook post, not twitter ;)

  6. says

    Frank, because of your teaching I started a Christian Blog from which to learn not teach. Maybe in a few years teaching could happen. Love what you’re doing w/Twitter.

  7. mark says

    I really like your distinctions here and have had similar experience. When I started using twitter, sometime in 2008, it was an endless stream of personal updates on EVERYTHING. It was just way too much for me. Facebook is that way now – lots and lots of noise (no offense – I know it is mostly good stuff that is important, but we can only take in so much). My twitter and facebook friends are mostly independent of each other. Facebook is useful for social interaction, but twitter seems to be the winner on tracking and sharing information without all of the other noise to filter through. I’m really reducing the time I spend on facebook and spending more time on twitter, and getting some great links to blogs and resources that I don’t get on facebook.

  8. Birkir says

    Thanks guys for good advice. I´ll hang in there, give it some effort and see if its turns out to be a meaningful communication tool for me in the end :)

  9. says

    Birkir,

    Concentrate on the people you follow. Authors, leaders in your field, people in your community. Begin to engage them by RETWEETING, REPLYING, asking ???s, interacting with these folks. Look at Twitter as a learning conversation. Little by little your “FOLLOWERS” will grow. It will take about six months to grow a following; then your challenge will be whom you should UNFOLLOW.

    I also set up lists within my stream to to breakdown my stream into streamlets. One of my lists is “rtpgeeksrfreakingcool”, it contains ONLY folks who live & work around Durham/Raleigh/Chapel Hill, NC.

    The apps that will grow your following will normally bring you LOTS of followers, but not very good content.
    As far as apps that can help organize and streamline Twitter feeds…Tweetdeck is worth a good look.

    • says

      Thanks Jimmy. Many people who are new to Twitter don’t really “get” the RT (ReTweet) option. It works like this. If you like a Tweet that someone posted, click the “Retweet” button on the right bottom. This republishes the post so all your followers can see it. Twitter lives and breathes on the RT option. If you want your posts ReTweeted, then RT others. You can even Tweet blog posts. Many blog posts have a Twitter button at the bottom. (Every post on this blog does. Just look at the bottom.) Click it and all your followers will see the post. Well, maybe not all, but those who use Twitter and see it.

  10. Birkir Kristinsson says

    I´m trying to get Twitter as well after reading your post. It seems to me that you have to have a lot of followers before it becomes helpful. Is it true that nobody sees your tweets (and responds to them) except those who follow you….unless someone sees your tweet as a result of a search. I also wish I could see the responses to something someone else is tweeting, is that not possible?

    Are you using any of those apps to help you get more followers? Can you recommend any apps?

  11. Patrick says

    Twitter rocks. I don’t understand how the links work though. Twitter seems more informative than FB. Facebook seems more like gossip.

  12. says

    Interestingly over the last week we have had in New Zealand as a nation some great results from FB and Twitter in the face of the earthquake in Christchurch. They have been a place for urgent info to be passed around, help rallied, (FB) as a persuasive force to get the Lotteries Commission to donate a large chunk of next weeks take to the earthquake funds, to find people and generally people to send their thoughts and love. These linked with radio talk back have been invaluable to us as a nation. There are enough of us on these and listening that we can pass the info onto those that are not hooked up. A nation fairly well covered….amazing.

    ….I do agree that FB can be a very destructive environment and have heard of Christians hurting Christians….what’s new? Just the medium I suggest. SO SAD! The internet in general is a tool for this and has been for years…just not as ‘in your face’.

  13. says

    I love your thoughts! I always advise churches to focus more on Facebook, but individuals to focus more on Twitter. Facebook is a powerful tool for tight communities, allowing church members to share with each other and by extension, with their other connections, expanding the audience of the church online. But Twitter is hands-down the better tool for any Christian leader hoping to engage in conversations online, outside that tight community circle.

  14. says

    I joined Twitter about a year ago @CSteveSimms but I don’t know what to do with it. I think I have 39 followers and mainly I just tweet links to my latest blog posts.

  15. says

    Yeah, I too didn’t “get” Twitter at first — and I work in the web/computer industry! It seemed limited and trite compared to the breadth of Facebook. But now I value it highly as a great way to catch up on news very very quickly. I don’t use RSS newsreaders anymore, because for me Twitter is an easier way to follow people I like. For the Church, I think Twitter is the online equivalent to the “grapevine” that would connect people in past times. With the new global world we live in, our grapevine has expanded to all over the world, and Twitter handles that with aplomb.

  16. says

    I joined twitter because of Frank! I hesitated because I loathed the idea of taking the time to monitor one more thing. Now, however, I wholeheartedly agree! Twitter has opened my world up to access information and individuals with whom I’d not otherwise get a chance to connect with. Facebook is for my personal connections. Twitter is a place to discover resources.

    http://www.stephaniesikorski.blogspot.com

  17. says

    Like you, it’s taken me a while to “get” Twitter, and I’m still gradually learning the value. There’s a lot of “noise” and I’m learning to filter it out. I’m trying to get the maximum value with the minimum amount of effort.

    • says

      Gary and Nick: One tip for those just beginning is to follow the people you like to read. Then follow some of the people they follow. That’s a good base-line to begin with. And then of course, Tweet and ReTweet.

      One shortcoming of Twitter is that a lot of people don’t know how to ReTweet very well. They may like a post a lot, but not think to ReTweet it to their followers. ReTweeting is what spreads valuable ideas.

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