Tuesday, June 26, 2012

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. Most people you know personally are on your friend list. If someone known to you sends you an invite, in all likelihood you accept it. Not many people who are unknown to you would send you an invite anyway.

However, Twitter is characterized by a high degree of non-reciprocity. Here’s an example- Kim Kardashian the reality show star has more than 10 million followers on Twitter. But she chooses to follow only 140 odd people. Consider Lady Gaga. The most followed person on Twitter follows about 140,000 thousand while she herself has about 14 million fans following her.

An analysis on others on Twitter shows a similar trend.

As a matter of fact, according to a research, aired 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 simply a medium of communication and is actually the internet version of the telegraph.

This analogy revealed itself to me while reading ‘The Hound of Baskervilles’ by Sherlock Holmes. Anyone who has read this marvelous book knows all about how important bits of information were being transmitted over the telegraph.
Not very different from Twitter with its limitation of 140 characters to share information. The news can be a private message or broadcast to all followers.
Quite often, breaking news finds its way onto Twitter before the television or the paper. News networks pick up on information from trending tweets.  Setting up tools like the Tweet Deck, supplies me with quick information. And that’s how I end up reading about Steve Job’s death first via Twitter and follow the 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.

Your thoughts?

 By Dr.Vikram Venkateswaran, Founder & Director | TheSocialPeople

Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran is a marketing professional with almost 10 years of experience. He is passionate about public health, blogging, writing, public speaking and lawn tennis. He can be followed on his twitter handle @drvikram. Visit his blog at Docter Soccer.

Founder Speak is our weekly column by the founders of TheSocialPeople- Viral Thaker & Dr.Vikram Venkateswaran.


  1. this was a very intresting post...and i agree wid u too great extent twitter is more like modern day telegraph service

    1. Thank you Alka, I thought of this analogy while reading Sherlock Holmes.