Twitter more popular than Facebook in 2011

Twitter received more media coverage this year than Facebook did. More specifically, Twitter had 50 percent of the mentions when talking about social networks, while Facebook had just 45 percent.

Although Facebook dominates Twitter in many areas, it lost to its smaller competitor in at least one metric for 2011. Twitter was discussed in about 50 percent of media coverage regarding social networks this year, while Facebook was only talked about 45 percent of the time, according to HighBeam Research. The report did not even bother mentioning Google+.

Twitter beat out Facebook in every single month of the year, except for February and April. It even did better than Facebook in September, which is when the social networking giant hosted its 2011 f8 developer conference and made a slew of announcements, including the Facebook Timeline and updated Open Graph.

This is impressive for one simple reason: Facebook dwarfs Twitter. In terms of active users, it's eight times bigger, and in terms of content shared, it's 16 times bigger.

Facebook has over 800 million monthly active users as of September 2011 while Twitter has just 100 million monthly active users, also as of three months ago. Facebook users share 4 billion "things" every day as of July 2011, while Twitter users shared 250 million tweets every day as of October 2011.

Twitter's dominance in the media can be explained with one general rule: public first, private second. If you create a Twitter account, by default all information shared on it is publicly available. You have to secure your account if you want to keep your tweets private. On Facebook, it's a bit more complicated, but by default only your friends can see your content. Menlo Park is, however, trying to encourage public sharing in various cases; I would argue this is the main reason for all those privacy gaffes the company has had over the years.

Three months ago, Facebook launched Subscriptions and this month, Facebook launched a Subscribe button for websites. Given how similar the first is to Twitter's basic following feature and how the second is basically Twitter's Follow button, I would argue Facebook wants to get its users (especially high-profile individuals) to share at least some content publicly. We'll soon see how that plan works out: I wouldn't be surprised if Facebook has a higher media attention next year than Twitter does.

I'm not sure if Google+ was excluded from the report because its share really was insignificant or if it is simply too new to bother measuring. Either way, third, fourth, and five places were taken as follows: LinkedIn (3.33 percent), Myspace (1.3 percent), and Foursquare (0.71 percent).

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