What is Twitter ? Is it a social network or a content distribution platform? CEO of Twitter Evan Williams doesn't seem to think it's a social network.

A social network is a piece of technology that facilitates communication through existing social connections. You can share messages, photos and events with your friends, people you already know. Facebook is designed for "strong" connections, people you actually know well in real life.

A content distribution platform is a system that provides users with relevant information and links, and that gives content publishers a way to get their content to interested consumers. TV is probably the most obvious example, but RSS is a web-based version.

Twitter as a Distribution Platform

The argument for Twitter as a content distribution platform is obvious. With media companies like CNN posting their links to over a million users, tweeting is certainly an effective way for publishers to disseminate their content.

Twitter as a Social Network

The argument for Twitter as a social network is also quite obvious. Twitter emphasizes "weak" connections or people you know only a little from real life or even purely online friends and allows you to keep track of what they're doing and engage in conversations.

And the Data? 

The data we uncovered in the second version of the State of the Twittersphere shows both sides of this debate. On one hand, many accounts on Twitter either have no followers or have never posted a tweet, meaning that many users are simply following their favorite celebrities or media outlets to get content.

On the other hand, over 30% of all tweets are replies. This means that when people do start actually using the service, they are using it to converse with their "weak" connections. Active users are leveraging the social network aspect of Twitter.

What do you think? Is Twitter best used as a social network or a content distribution platform?

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Originally published Jun 22, 2009 8:26:00 AM, updated October 20 2016


Twitter Marketing