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Twitter Shift: Is Twitter Becoming the New Facebook?

Category: Social Media Marketing

Written by: Tony Adragna

Posted on: October 16, 2017

Twitter, established in 2006, was originally founded as an SMS-based communication platform. As a matter of fact, it was referred to as twttr, as it was popular to drop vowels and abbreviate when texting. It’s why the character limit is 140 characters on the platform, the old standard limit imposed by mobile carriers in text messages.

However, the platform has come a long way since 2006, with 328 million active users per month. But are recent changes with the platform making it just like Facebook? We discuss below.

Is Twitter Becoming the New Facebook?

With over 3X the amount of users that Twitter has, Facebook is the king of social media. So it’s easy to see why Twitter may try to emulate what Facebook has done to try and grow their user base. What exactly has Twitter done to make it more like Facebook?

  • Twitter ShiftChanging the ‘Favorite’ star icon to a ‘Like’ heart - This was a very subtle change with the platform, but from its inception, the star was used when users favorited a tweet. Twitter shifted away from this in 2017 and instead changed it to a heart when a user likes a tweet, which is similar to the heart that Facebook uses when somebody ‘Loves’ a status update.
  • Changing the character limit from 140 to 280 characters - As we noted earlier, Twitter was founded initially as an SMS-based communication platform so the 140 character limit made sense. As the platform evolved, they still stuck with the 140 character limit. That is, until recently. The thought process behind allowing 280 characters is that users will tweet more often if they are able to express themselves beyond 140 characters.
  • Shifting from a linear timeline - For years, Twitter operated with a linear timeline. This means that when you opened the app, you’d see every tweet from every person you followed in chronological order. That is no longer the case. Their new timeline algorithm does not show tweets in chronological order, and it shows you more tweets from users that you interact with the most. It also shows you popular tweets from users that you don’t even follow.

What do all of those changes have in common? They are all very similar to the way Facebook operates. Facebook obviously has the ‘like’ feature. They don’t limit their users to 280 characters, but they do allow for longer posts, which Twitter is now testing. And Facebook also does not use a linear timeline, and uses a similar algorithm to show its users popular posts from their friends that they interact with most.

These changes from Twitter, however, have not come without scrutiny from its user base. Twitter users loved the 140 character limit because it allowed them to scan hundreds of tweets in a short period of time. They now fear that longer character limits will prohibit them from being able to quickly scan.

But with these changes that mimic Facebook, Twitter still has a long way to go to catch up to its competitors’ user base. Time will tell if these changes help them catch up in that department, or if users that were loyal to Twitter jump ship because of the changes.

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