Twitter Wins For High-Volume Randomness
"You'll use Google+ whether you want to or not," writes Tom Anderson this week in The Next Web. His reasoning is sound: Namely, that Google+'s (ok, that is officially the weirdest syntax ever) ability to offer both public and private content allows the social net to effectively pursue a beachhead strategy.
Highly targeted public content focusing on what Anderson calls "subgroups" -- say, photography -- means you might have incentive to tune in -- even though none of your friends are there. As you tune in more and more, your friends become more and more likely to be there.
Anderson may be right -- and, of course, he might not be. When it comes to the prospects of Google+, you can get several thousand opinions for your dime instead of the usual dozen. Even your faithful Online Spin columnist has been known to weigh in. And they're all guesses until the future becomes the past. But there was one thing I noticed about his article: There was no "+1" share button on it.
There was a tweet button, with a number next to it: 1,309. And a "Like" button, with another number: 797.
Interesting. We all know Facebook trumps Twitter for user numbers -- yet here, nearly twice as many people are choosing to share Anderson's piece via Twitter than via Facebook.
I wondered if this was an anomaly, so I started checking around. Twitter's winning the volume vote on Mashable; the top article has 1,306 tweets compared to 229 Likes. They also don't have +1 buttons on their home page articles -- although they appear when you click through to the full piece. Same setup on ReadWriteWeb: no +1 on the home page, top article has 176 tweets with just 53 Likes. TechCrunch has +1 on the home page, as well as a LinkedIn Share button, but still Twitter wins with 662 vs. 354 for Facebook, 140 for LinkedIn and 47 for +1.
I decided to check some non-tech media: The New York Times, for example, has only Facebook and Twitter and doesn't show numbers for either. In fact, the only media outlet that had articles with more Likes than tweets was The Onion, whose article "New Apple CEO Tim Cook: 'I'm Thinking Printers" got 6,000 Likes to 3,000 tweets. (+1 made a respectable appearance with 651.)
What's the point of this highly unscientific, anecdotal survey? Well first of all, for something so new, +1 isn't doing all that badly. But what's more interesting to me is how incredibly popular Twitter is when it comes to engaging in this particular type of sharing activity. It's a mind-set I can relate to. Sometimes, I just want to put a thought out into the universe, for whomever happens to be awake and sharing this moment in space time. These thoughts aren't private -- far from it, or I obviously wouldn't put them on Twitter -- but they are fleeting. They are like location jokes: if you didn't happen to catch them at the time, they're not worth revisiting.
This, to me, is one of the key differences between Twitter and the public face of Google+. Twitter is not just about being public. It is about straddling the line between present and past. It is a lovely form of asynchronous real-time communication. It is, in the words of Hugh MacLeod, a river that you live beside. You don't have to catch every fish to live beside it.
Do you think Google+ captures that element of spontaneous serendipity that Twitter has? Let me know, in the comments or -- where else -- on Twitter.