The FINANCIAL — Twitter, with 140 million users worldwide, is the least popular online micro-blogging network in Georgia. Despite the surprising success of Facebook in the comparatively tiny country, Twitter has failed to enamour Georgians with it service.
Social media experts are divided when it comes to explaining the reason for the failure of Twitter in the country. Some of them blame local mobile operators which only started supporting Twitter five years after the micro-blogging network was launched.
Georgia now have twice more people (757,460) logging into Facebook than at the beginning of 2011, according to Socialbakers, provider of social media trends. According to the same statistics, Georgia ranks as the 1 country in the region in terms of the use of Facebook, even surpassing Azerbaijan, which has twice as large a population and the number of people with access to the internet there is roughly three times more than in Georgia.
The number of mobile Facebook users at mobile operator Geocell is around 50,000. The number of mobile Twitter users is just 3,000, 16.5 times less. The difference is equally significant between the numbers of mobile Facebook users and mobile Twitter users of Magticom according to company representatives. Magticom declined to give exact figures.
Mobile operators in Georgia charge users for tweeting from their mobiles. Twitter enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters. Unregistered users can read the tweets, while registered users can post tweets through the website interface, SMS, or a range of apps for mobile devices. Twitter played an important role in the Arab Spring and other political protests of recent times. In Georgian politics the role of twitter is largely replaced by Facebook and YouTube. Many political figures, including President Saakashvili, members of the Government and some oppositional leaders, spend thousands for paid ads on social networks.
Social media specialists suggest that mobile operators were late to offer mobile Twitter in Georgia. Consumers are not well informed about the features of Twitter. This is the main reason for the lack of popularity of Twitter in Georgia.
“The majority of Georgians do not have sufficient information about Twitter. They don’t know about or understand the functions of Twitter. That is the reason for the lack of Twitter’s popularity in Georgia,” said Valeri Kvachakhia, SM Specialist at Geocell.
“Mobile companies just recently launched mobile Facebook and mobile Twitter in Georgia. That is the reason for the lack of popularity of Twitter in Georgia. At present there are lots of alternatives for Twitter in Georgia so this website will not easily gain popularity, Sandro Asatiani, Manager for Information and Social Networking at PH International and Trainer at GAU Tbilisi PR School, told The FINANCIAL.
According to Kvachakhia, the social network has become a way of life. “It started earlier than Zuckerberg’s invention. Almost the whole of humankind owns a mobile phone. Communication, share of information, cooperation with friends is unavoidable. And social networks are the best way for all this,” he said.
Kvachakhia said that mass media has played a big role in the popularity of Facebook. An important role was also carried by the popular movie The Social Network. “Many people received information about the website from this film,” he said.
The reason for the disproportional boom of Facebook’s popularity in Georgia remains unclear for Asatiani. He says that no group is responsible for promoting this website. “This website gained popularity simply via word of mouth,” he said.
“They say a lot about the popularity of Facebook. Some think that this popularity is just a trend which will soon be over. But it is not coming to an end. Others see some stagnation in the popularity of Facebook. For me the fate of such huge popularity of this social network is unclear. I cannot see any arguments that truly underline or prove the advantages of Facebook over its competitors,” he said.
“So in the countries with huge popularity of Twitter, users are able to spread information via SMS. For example in Iran internet supply is unstable. Therefore the internet is not even necessary to spread and receive information via Twitter,” Asatiani said.
Kvachakhia does not even bother to compare Facebook with the previously dominant Russian social network odnoklasniki.ru.
“Nothing lasts forever. People eventually get fed up with an environment which cannot offer them anything new or on the contrary, offers them everything and which they therefore seek to escape. They will start looking for some less popular things. The interface or perhaps name will be replaced, like for example google +, Path, Foursquare and others, but the principle will remain. Social networking is already a way of life,” Kvachakhia said.
Asatiani also thinks that Facebook will soon be replaced with some other social networks. We should expect some services with innovative functions and opportunities that will attract users to it.
“I personally have my own Twitter account. I log in twice a week, while I log in to Facebook several times a day,” he said.
Kvachakhia also has his own Twitter account. “I think it is a good way to share your news with your followers. Or alternatively, follow others’ news and be the first to catch up with important information. With my mobile device I am always online. I receive all news automatically and immediately. I do not have to look for news, it comes to me 24/7,” Kvachakhia told The FINANCIAL.