A lot of people are confused about the differences between WhatsApp and Twitter. After all, both services are very similar on the surface: Both offer almost instant communication in short bursts.
Despite that, there are some very important differences that make WhatsApp a far more popular social media solution. The major difference between the two is that WhatsApp is a messaging solution and Twitter is a microblog.
Microblogs vs. Messaging Solutions
A messaging solution is designed to facilitate communication between individuals much like email is. Unlike email, messaging services are designed as a less formal and more personal kind of communication. Another key difference is that WhatsApp is designed to facilitate communication over smartphones, while email was designed for the Internet.
A microblog is designed as a communication to be read by large groups of people at once. That is why celebrities such as writers, journalists, politicians, and movie stars make wide use of Twitter in the United States and Great Britain. A messaging app is designed to facilitate communication between two people or small groups of people.
A good way to think of it is like this: A message is designed to get a response. A microblog is not necessarily designed to get a response. Instead, microblogs such as Twitter are designed to get thoughts, ideas, or concepts before large groups of people. That means Twitter was designed basically as a marketing medium, while WhatsApp was designed as a communications venue.
This explains why Twitter has been so successful in North America, where there are large numbers of people that want to broadcast their thoughts to large audiences. It also explains why WhatsApp is so popular in less affluent nations, where people are looking for a cheap communications medium.
Is WhatsApp Becoming More Like Twitter?
Strangely enough, WhatsApp and Twitter do have one thing in common. Both solutions are losing a lot of money. WhatsApp apparently lost $138 million before it was acquired by Facebook.
Twitter, which is a publically-traded company that trades under the ticker TWTR on the New York Stock Exchange, lost $556.15 million in the third quarter of 2015. The promoters of neither solution have figured out how to make money, unlike Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), which reported making $2.28 billion during the third quarter of 2015.
WhatsApp’s management team of Jan Koum and Brian Acton has tried to rectify this situation with a feature called Broadcast Lists. Broadcast Lists works sort of like a mini Twitter inside WhatsApp that allows users to send out a microblog to around 250 people.
Unfortunately, this feature has not yet attracted the popularity or prominence of Twitter, probably because it cannot reach as many people at once. No media have so far reported on Broadcast List messages the way America media often report on tweets.
Nor do politicians and other celebrities seem to be sending out Broadcast Lists deliberately designed to attract attention in the way that some individuals send out tweets. Tweets have actually become a major occurrence in American politics.
One strong possibility is that WhatsApp could expand Broadcast Lists to reach large numbers of people and form a sort of Twitter with a global reach. This might be Mark Zuckerberg’s plan for WhatsApp. The Facebook CEO has famously stated that he plans to concentrate on WhatsApp growth for now and monetize the solution later on.
WhatsApp and Twitter around the World
WhatsApp has been far more successful than Twitter has; it currently has around 900 million users worldwide, according to Statista . Twitter only has around 300 million users, making it about a third the size of WhatsApp.
That indicates that WhatsApp seems to be a far more popular idea than Twitter and more appealing to people in a wide variety of nations and cultures. The numbers seem to show us that microblogging lacks the popular appeal of messaging.
Twitter has not been able to achieve the kind of rapid growth WhatsApp has, possibly because people have to go out of their way to use the service. Another problem that Twitter faces in some places is that some people, particularly in the United States, find it very obnoxious and annoying.
The association with celebrities and politicians drives away many ordinary people, especially those that find celebrity culture and American politics crass. Another problem that Twitter could face is that many people consider it a distinctly American service. That could drive away persons in other countries that feel offended or threatened by the United States.
One thing is certain: Twitter will have to make some major changes if it wants to seriously compete with WhatsApp. A possible solution would be to add a messaging service to Twitter or to combine with a more successful messaging solution such as Viber.
WhatsApp Is Winning the Social Media Wars
Currently, WhatsApp seems to be winning the social media wars, which is bad news for Twitter. The messaging solution has been widely adopted around the world in a way that Twitter has not.
WhatsApp’s creators have also been able to expand their app into a full media solution. It now contains video, audio, and photographs and offers users the ability to make telephone calls. This utility makes it more versatile than Twitter and opens up the possibility of a wide variety of ecommerce usages, including payment.
Payment could be the most profitable area of messaging. Mobile payment is now a $90 billion a year industry in China, Quartz reported . The leading players there are the ecommerce giant Alibaba and Tencent, which owns the popular messaging solution WeChat.
In the United States, a number of companies, including Apple, Alphabet (the company formerly known as Google), PayPal , and the nation’s largest bank, JPMorgan Chase, are developing mobile payment solutions. If one or more of these solutions could be combined with WhatsApp, that could make it the world’s dominant and most profitable messaging solution.
It is hard to see how Twitter could be used for payment but easy to see how WhatsApp could be adapted for payment. Venmo, which allows people to send money to friends and family, seems the most likely fit for WhatsApp. Venmo is currently owned by PayPal Holdings.
Therefore WhatsApp is the future of social media, while Twitter could be doomed to the status of a footnote in the history books. The microblogging solution’s nature could keep it from reaching the kind of vast global audience that WhatsApp has achieved.