Why Twitter is not a social network! It is the telegraph of the internet.
A social network is characterized by a high degree of reciprocity. Take Facebook for example; there will not be anyone on your network that you have not accepted into it. If someone known to you sends you an invite you would most probably accept it. Also not many people who are unknown would actually send you an invite. Also most people in your network on Facebook are actually people you already know.
But Twitter is characterized by a high degree of non-reciprocity. Let me explain with an example. Kim Kardashian the reality show star has 10 million followers on Twitter but she follows only 140 odd people. Similarly Lady Gaga the most followed person on Twitter follows about 140,000 thousand and she has about 14 million followers. An analysis on others on Twitter shows a similar trend. As a matter of fact according to a research, I heard on a Freakonomics podcast 60% of the tweets on twitter come from roughly 20,000 followers, though Twitter has more than 200 million odd accounts.
So what is Twitter if not a social network? Well I am not sure about others but in my opinion Twitter is a medium of communication and is actually the internet version of the telegraph. Now I got this analogy the other day when I was reading the Sherlock Holmes Mystery ‘The Hound of Baskerville’s’ where all important piece of information was transmitted over the telegraph and Holmes or Dr Watson were often wiring each other over important developments of the case.
The analogy is similar with Twitter where one has to use 140 characters or less to share his information. This information can also be a private message or can be broadcast to all the followers.
Often I hear important piece of information first on Twitter and it is probably a characteristic of our internet world. I am on the internet for more time than I watch the television or read the newspaper. But I always have twitter on and after setting up tools like Tweet Deck the information keeps coming up on the screen. So I read the news of Steve Job’s death first on my Twitter account, and also followed Arab Spring movement on it.
I think eventually Twitter has turned out to be more of a news agency than a social network and the model that will suit it best is the one Reuters set up at the turn of the century. As I look to my Twitter account I notice that a Indian Musician has just died, time to amplify the message. Happy
Dr Vikram Venkateswaran is a marketing professional with more than 10 years of experience in Healthcare, Life Sciences and Information technology industries. He is a blogger who blogs at www.doctersoccer.blogspot.com. He can also be followed on Twitter @drvikram. The views expressed here are his personal views and not of his organization.