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Twitter vs. Facebook Analysis: What Users Want

Twitter users want news and Facebook users are more interested in trendy topics. That's the broad brush, take-away from an analysis released today by Chitika, a search-based online advertising network.

"I was interested, since we have this data on 65,000 sites, where Twitterers were actually going to when they click on a link in a tweet," Daniel Ruby, research director for online insights at Chitika, told InternetNews.com. "And then compare it to Facebook, considered the gold standard of social media right now, to see what the difference is."

In Ruby's view, Twitter is really miscast as a social network. "It's its own genre of Internet phenomenon," said Ruby. "I think of it as instant messaging with an audience. And it's so public and unabashedly open. What the data said to me is that Twitterers want to be the first to find out about anything. In an hour or two it's a Twitter meme and then into the breeze it goes, it disappears, it's passé."

By contrast, Ruby notes Facebook, as big as it is, is more of a walled garden of friends. "What I interpret from the data is that people go to Facebook to find out about cool stuff. It's a slower cycle to find things out, but the information has an appeal that's longer lasting than Twitter."

Chitika's research determined that more than 28 percent of all Twitter traffic is going to news sites. Movie sites took second place with 23 percent, followed by tech and gadget sites with 13 percent. Medical sites rounded out the top four at eight percent. Ruby said medical coming in at fourth place was somewhat a surprise, even if it is in the low single digits.

"I think part of it is the Internet has always been a huge repository of medical information when you think about WebMD and sites like that," said Ruby. "People always trust their friends to go to and say like "Hey look at that mark on my arm, what do you think that is?'

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"With Twitter, you can ask these kind of things and get an immediate reply. What is surprising is that Medical beat out Celebrity and Lifestyle because the popular belief is that Twitter is so shallow with the 140-character limit, but there's quite a bit you can do by linking to other sites."

While news sites do receive a good deal of Facebook's referrals (18 percent), they lag behind Tech and Lifestyle sites in Chitika's analysis. Tech sites take the top spot among Facebook referrals at 33 percent, followed by Lifestyle (18 percent, tied with News) and How-to way down at 5 percent in fourth place.