LinkedIn has Facebook envy, and Facebook has Twitter envy. Ignoring MySpace (my general recommendation), these are three big social networks that, sadly, seem to be trying to co-opt each others strengths rather than differentiate themselves. Per Readwriteweb, LinkedIn is jealous of Facebook’s page views, and is looking for ways (like applications) to keep users connected to the web site. More noticeably, Facebook’s recent failed attempt to buy Twitter was followed up by a redesign that makes Facebook much more like Twitter. Al of this inter-related activity has created some confusion as to what one should or shouldn’t do where, and a question as to whether this strategy of co-opting your neighbors’ features is a sound strategy.
My take is that each of these networks serve different purposes, and, while I am connected to a lot of the same people on all three, they each have distinct audiences and the communication I do on these networks is targeted to the individual networks.
- LinkedIn is a business network. This is a place where potential employers and business associates are likely to go to learn about me. Accordingly, I sparingly use the status update feature there, and never post about what movie I took the kid to or how funny the latest XKCD strip was.
- Facebook is a casual network where I have some control over who sees my posts; it’s also the place where I find the most old friends and family. So, given that my potential employers and business associates aren’t likely to see my profile unless they have a personal or more collegial relationship already established with me, this is where I’ll give a status review of the Watchman movie or post a picture of the kid.
- For me, Twitter is the business casual network, where my nptech peers gather to support each other and shmooze. I am mindful that my tweets paint a public picture, so I keep the ratio of professional to personal tweets high and I don’t say things that I wouldn’t want my wife or boss to see on the web.
The multiple, overlapping networks create some issues in terms of effective messaging. One is the echo chamber effect – it’s ridiculously easy to automatically feed your tweets to Facebook and LinkedIn. The other is the lack of ability to do more than broadly address numerous audiences. I mean, my Facebook friends include co-workers, business associates, childhood friends and Mom; you’re probably in a similar boat. For some people, this creates the “I really didn’t want Mom to hear about the party I attended last night” issue. For most of us, it simply means that we don’t want to bore our old friends and family with our professional blogging and insights, any more than we really want our co-workers to see what sort of hippies we were when we were 17.
So I manage some of this by using Tweetdeck as my primary Twitter client, because the latest version lets me, optionally, send a status update to Facebook as well as Twitter, which I do no more than once a day with something that should be meaningful to both audiences. What I won’t do (as many of my Facebook/Twitter friends do) is publish all of my tweets to Facebook — that’s cruel to both the friends who don’t need to see everything you tweet and the ones who are already seeing what you tweet on Twitter.
At first, I thought the idea of Facebook incorporating Twitter might be a good one. Facebook has a big advantage over Twitter. It’s hard to be new to Twitter; the usefulness and appeal are pretty muted until you have a community that you communicate with. Facebook starts with the community, so it solves that problem. But, for me, the amount of control I have over the distribution has a lot to do with the messaging, and I like that Twitter is completely public, republishable, and Google-searchable. I communicate (appropriately) in that medium; and if you aren’t interested in what I want to communicate, I’m really easy to drop or ignore. But my Mom is probably far less interested in both non-profit management and Technology than my Twitter followers, and I don’t want her to unfriend me on Facebook. So I’d rather let Facebook be Facebook and let Twitter be Twitter. Just because an occasional beer hits the spot, as does an occasional glass of wine, that doesn’t mean that I want to mix them together.