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Twitter Is Aiming for Facebook's Crown

Thursday - 4/25/2013, 3:30am  ET

Social media sites inherently have a hard time staying on top for long because they're at the whim of very fickle users. Plus, the social landscape can change in the blink of an eye. A close competitor may overtake you like MySpace did to Friendster, or a site can be rendered obsolete by a "cooler" site -- remember how "uncool" MySpace was when Facebook came around? With the ever-changing social media platforms, you never know when it's your turn to be a has-been, and Facebook may be next on the list.

In Facebook's case, people are becoming wary of useless updates, privacy concerns, and even boredom of the same old baby pictures and relationship updates every day. Facebook fatigue is starting to set in -- and teens are leading the charge.

Fear Facebook fatigue
Two new studies show that Facebook fatigue may be more reality than fantasy. A study by Pew Research found that 61% of respondents have taken an extended break from the site. The top four responses (shown below) are most telling.  

  • 21%: Way too busy / Didn't have time for it
  • 10%: Just wasn't interested / Just didn't like it
  • 10%: Waste of time / Content was not relevant
  • 9%: Too much drama/gossip/negativity/conflict

More concerning to Facebook is the site's falling importance among youth, who typically lead social media trends. A study of teens by Piper Jaffray earlier this year showed that Facebook was the most important social media network to 20% of respondents, down from 30% a year ago. As Facebook spills into older generations and friend requests from distant aunts and uncles pour in, the loss of appeal for teens is understandable.  

New products like Facebook Home only exacerbate Facebook overload, overwhelming users with all Facebook, all the time. Twitter is watching these trends closely -- the budding trend of finding social media useless -- and the site is positioning itself as an vital media platform in order to swoop in and take Facebook's crown.

Twitter's growing importance
Since Twitter was launched in March 2006, the site made its mark through its short blurbs and "tweets," allowing friends to share random thoughts and ordinary people to follow their favorite celebrities and news forums. Since then, Twitter has harvested its inspiration of real-life, 140-character thoughts and evolved this initial principal into a fundamental news hub.

During the Boston Marathon bombing and the resulting aftermath, it was Twitter that became a key source of news and updates for residents. The Boston Police Department used Twitter as the tool of choice to communicate up-to-date information after the bombing and eventually the manhunt that brought the city to a standstill. It was a tweet that simply said, "CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody." That sent the city -- and country, for that matter -- into celebration.

Countless organizations from CNN to the Boston Globe to ESPN use Twitter to disseminate information before it ever hits TV or websites. It has its flaws, but this immediate information is what separates Twitter from Facebook and makes it a must-have for social media users.

Beyond 140 characters
In addition to Twitter's value distributing the written word, the site recently expanded its 140 character updates with video-sharing service Vine, which allows users to take short videos and post them to the site from within the Vine app. Vine launched on Jan. 24 of this year, and by April 9 it was the most downloaded free app on the App Store, adding millions of more users for Twitter.

Facebook should watch out
The combination of Twitter and Vine creates a formidable opponent to Facebook. Twitter has proved to be a useful tool for media, companies, and government officials to distribute information, which is attracting new users. Active Twitter users doubled to 200 million last year, outpacing 25% growth on Facebook. It still lags the 1.06 billion people using Facebook, but its faster pace of growth and increasing importance as a "news" source makes it likely to take the social media crown in the next few years.

If you're still not convinced -- just look at the importance Twitter had over the past week.

Time to dump Facebook shares?
After the world's most hyped IPO turned out to be a dud, most investors probably don't even want to think about shares of Facebook. But there are things every investor needs to know about this company. We've outlined them in our newest premium research report. There's a lot more to Facebook than meets the eye, so read up on whether there is anything to "like" about it today, and we'll tell you whether we think Facebook deserves a place in your portfolio. Access your report by clicking here.

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