Twitter’s Continued Inflection: Time For Facebook Connect

TC notes the extraordinary growth Twitter has seen since its initial inflection. This is a growth pattern I have never seen in terms of speed – not in the nearly 25 years I've been watching this industry. I think this is both Twitter's most important and dangerous phase of its…

TC notes the extraordinary growth Twitter has seen since its initial inflection. This is a growth pattern I have never seen in terms of speed – not in the nearly 25 years I’ve been watching this industry.

I think this is both Twitter’s most important and dangerous phase of its young life. The retention problem must be addressed, and quickly. In my previous post about Twitter adding value to new users, I suggested Twitter incorporate some structure around its suggested users feature.

But with an inflection like this, I think it’s time to swallow hard and embrace some serious social media jujitsu. In short, Twitter should integrate Facebook Connect in its signup process, and offer it as a feature for current users.

If it were to do that, then every new user who is also on Facebook (and who is not, at this point?) would be able to instantly follow Facebook friends who are on Twitter. Integrate this with a Groups feature, and you’re proving value immediately.   

Talking with Whrrl CEO Jeff Holden yesterday, I mentioned this idea (I have also been bouncing it off a number of folks over the past month or so). He countered that such a move might add too much value to Facebook, but I disagree. Facebook has won the first round of the social graph game. Twitter has far more to gain by leveraging Facebook right now.

And after all, they can always turn the feature off it they want to.

What do you think?

23 thoughts on “Twitter’s Continued Inflection: Time For Facebook Connect”

  1. Great idea. It will be very helpful for them. BTW, thanks for offering facebook connect on this blog so I can easily sign in to comment 😉 I wish I could have chosen my username though…

  2. I think that Twitter and Facebook are just not in the same space… The future of FB is to organize your social life. The future of Twitter on the other end is in real time search… It’s a tool used for communicating directly (140 characters) and rapidly. And yes FB has some Twitter-like features but the two are just not alike… The signup process on Twitter is so easy that I don’t think it needs to integrate facebook connect… FB connect works well when you need to import lots of personal info on a site that doesn’t provide an easy and quick signup. The second thing to consider is the following: Why would Twitter need FB Connect in order to get signups ??? Look at the hockey-stick-graph in your article… I don’t think it would be a smart move to integrate FB connect now since twitter is already registering users like crazy…

    I think what I mean by all that is… Twitter is already doing well without FB… FB connect helps website integrate social features and people to import their identity… The kind of things that don’t necessarily fit in Twitter…

    Very interesting post though

  3. JB,

    I don’t get it. That seems to benefit facebook much more than twitter.

    You can already automatically have your twitter updates show on your facebook feed, which I think is major threat to twitter, fantastic move on FB’s part to copy so quickly and well.

    I’m not sure its in twitter’s interest to further brand and connect the two experiences right now. They have much more leverage but having all sorts of data that FB does not have.


  4. I think all the comments are relevant but tend to agree with JB here. The future of the web is every site is a social experience that can be shared…twitter and facebook will become less about being destinations and even more about being ubiquitous activities than they currently are. I think twitter can leverage the facebook social graph and scale, however, and to argue against myself..I do think your connections on facebook are stronger and more deliberate and twitter is more like a readership..and thus people may indeed want to keep them separate.
    Nonetheless that’s what is so exciting about media now…the debate on all of the possibilities that could unfold.

  5. I respectfully disagree in a major way that Twitter can experiment with Facebook Connect by adding the feature and then if they don’t get enough in return or it cedes to much power to Facebook (as I think it would) they can turn it off later. Didn’t we see just last week in the flame war that was unleashed on Twitter on their own service and many others when they turned off a feature used by only 3% of their users, the ability to see all @ replies for those they follow. Imagine what would come down on them if they implemented Facebook Connect and then turned the feature off? It would take a company that has a huge positive buzz and turn it around 180 degrees and envelope them as a selfish company that was only looking out for themselves at the expense of their users.

  6. John – you’re right about this (and hope you’re good, btw). What you don’t say is that Twitter may well have maxed out the early adopter crowd, and is somewhat challenged by its esoteric nature of really conquering the unwashed masses, FB-style.

    Every big platform eventually tosses some of the cache that early adopters prize overboard.

    I think FB updates should be auto-Tweeted as well.

  7. I agree with you completely. Twitter gained notoriety by stripping social networking down to bare bones, but at some point, they are going to reach a critical mass when people want more from them. Facebook has been pretty good about adding just enough new features to keep people interested (user revolts aside). I don’t have the answers for Twitter, but someone will think of something.

  8. Yesterday, I attended a Second Life talk with Mitch Wagner of Information Week. He was asked about using facebook connect and other single sign on providers and he was against it. I was curious about this because I have asked other entrepreneurs and the general consensus is not to do it yet a lot of the bigger UGC properties do use it. Later on, I realized why Mitch was against Facebook Connect. A big revenue stream for them right now is what they call sponsorships which is code for selling your mailing list. If you let users register with Facebook Connect, then you don’t really get access to the email address which is what these guys are trying to sell.

    Question for the folks here. Is anyone considering including Google Friend Connect in addition to Facebook Connect?

  9. Maybe they should consider Gigya Socialize? The Twitter will have FB Connect and MSID ( the service has Twitter too, but no relevant for Twitter itself). See a live event implementation in action on for the Eastern Conference finals tomorrow night. Early data shows users like choice, with FB, MS and Twitter users making a strong showing.

  10. Friendfeed has already done it; it’s super easy. I can go into my account every few days and hit the Twitter button and suck in new connections. It automatically adds my FB friends when they sign up.

    What makes Twitter unique is its simplistic minimalism versus FB’s everything to everyone.

    They are heading in the right direction with search. Google quality search results paired with user reputation is something powerful.

  11. I agree with Louise-Pierre. They’re not in the same space. Folks keep a firewall between the two – with good reason.

    Twitter’s best potential moves:
    1) help users untangle and make sense of the stream
    2) provide widgets to help folks blend content from blogs with streams (yes, 3rd party developers have done this; however, they’re limited.) I think there are subscription possibilities here.
    3) As suggested above, provide systematic ways to find people to follow and to build followers, if so desired.
    4) help users understand who their network really is (geo, interests, profiles, etc)

  12. As Louis stated, these two are different animals, and thus coupling them in this way would create synergy rather than a competetive advantange for one over the other. Also, It would drive an otherwise indifferent facebook market to join twitter. Kudos, Battelle.

  13. This is a very complex question, and it is hard to know the right answer. Is Facebook really so competitive that Twitter would choose not to do something that might benefit Facebook even if it would help Twitter? The web ecosystem thus far suggests that leveraging other platforms where you can is beneficial to everyone. If I were Twitter I would try it, even on a limited basis. As you say, they could always switch it off (if their users let them!). FB seems a bit wiser here.

  14. I don’t see any disadvantage of having Twitter and FB connect more. However, @Peter is correct. Friendfeed kind of does this for you. I also think that Twitter likes its sleek,no-nonsense, get to the point image.

  15. John:
    I concur. Most people don’t totally comprehend just how unprecedented Twitter’s growth rate is. I seriously think that Twitter has the possibility of rivaling Facebook’s traffic within a 1-2 years if it is able to maintain this. I posted an article on my blog describing why I believe that Twitter could be one of the most valuable properties ever. You can find it here:

    Based on Compete’s data I had projected that Twitter would surpass Digg by the end of the summer but it looks like that may have already occurred.

    It’s interesting that you suggest that the retention of users may be a problem. I’ve found that according to Compete’s unique visitors for April, the growth rate was diminished from ~100% to ~39%. When Compete’s stats for May are released we should be able to answer the retention question. If it’s down for a second month in a row Twitter could indeed be in need of some serious help.

  16. There must be an opt in (or at least opt out) option then…

    If FB had been forced on me and attached to my Twitter account I would have never joined Twitter.

    Don’t alienate people too much, too soon. Twitter must remain “pure” for a while. Otherwise their cousins or twins will replace them fast.

    Don’t be Evil too soon John…

  17. Actually, Twitter was one of the original 24 partners announced for Facebook Connect in July 2008. As late as December 2008, they claimed they were still working on it.

    At this point, the most reasonable explanation for Twitter not using Facebook Connect is incompetence. The only real question is whether it’s engineering incompetence or managerial incompetence.

    There are reports all over the place about Twitter having too many inactive accounts. I submit that part of the problem is that it’s too damn hard to find real-world friends on the service. As much as Twitter’s biggest fans think it’s about following strangers and celebrities, most people join social networks primarily to interact with people they already know. Twitter has horrible friend-finding tools — they can’t even get most of their users to list real names or location in their profiles. People join Twitter, can’t find anyone they know, and leave.

    Twitter had a huge first-mover advantage over Facebook in the arena of multi-platform status updates. Some of its biggest proponents were people who wanted mobile services Facebook and other services weren’t providing. Twitter could have been using Facebook Connect (and/or its buggy Facebook application) to virally promote itself to Facebook users and help users replicate their real-world networks on Twitter. Instead, they’ve been fixating on marginal issues like verifying celebrities and link-tracking.

    Now, Facebook is catching up in the mobile arena (with SMS services and an expanded APIT), and you’re seeing an signifcant number of Facebook users describing Twitter as redundant for them. That’s bad news for Twitter.

    Twitter is really close to losing whatever advantages it still has. They need to improve friend-finding (Facebook Connect would help, obviously), figure out what still differentiates them from Facebook, and promote that, or they’re going to plateau and crash.

    I’d move fast, if I were Twitter. Right now, their biggest feature advantage over Facebook is the ease of @replies, and Facebook’s introduction of usernames will make it very easy for Facebook to copy that feature, too.

    Unfortunately, if there’s one thing about Twitter that I’m sure of, it’s that they’re not good at moving fast. I like and use Twitter, but I’m having trouble believing it will still be around in 2 years, just becase I see no sign of Twitter’s management having a clue.

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