Tale of Two Twitters: Information vs Social

Giff Constable social media


I was reading Dave Hornik’s latest post over at VentureBlog and stopped at this sentence: “To P&G, Twitter is a great broadcast medium — it is best for one to many communications that are short bursts of timely information.

I’ve heard others call Twitter an “information network, not a social network” and gather that Twitter itself likes the former term. It is always better to judge and define a service by what you personally experience rather than what you read in the media, but you must question how representative personal experience is of the whole. Case in point: I’ve seen two completely different Twitter usage patterns.

I have two twitter accounts, one for tech/startup/socialmedia and one with the food blogging community (yes, I love to cook).  Since starting Aprizi, I haven’t had any time for the latter, but I was part of that community for long enough to observe a big difference in behavior.

I started the tech account just after SXSW 2007.  Among people I see via this account, the primary usage seems to be the sharing of interesting links or news. While there is some conversational chatter back and forth, the main focus seems to be on adding value through useful information and curation. People are generally careful not to clutter up their stream with too many public but targeted @_____ messages that are irrelevant to many followers.

I watched as the food blogging community discovered Twitter in late 2008.  Within just a few weeks it seemed like everyone had an account.  It is a very friendly, supportive community, and Twitter acts as the watercooler.  There are a few celebrities, but it is largely flat in hierarchy.  Usage always struck me as being more about the “social” than the “information”. You will see many more public 1-on-1 conversations, but at any time those can turn into group discussions. To outsiders the stream might appear tedious, but for the community it’s a fantastic medium for communication — much more effective than chat or forums.

So whenever I hear people talk about how Twitter is used, I always wonder — is that judgment from broad research or merely personal observation?

Putting Twitter aside, it is worth keeping this in mind when investigating any Web 2.0 technology.

Image note: left from Presentation Zen, and right from A Good Appetite