Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Twitterization of Facebook -- and Me

Jay Baer, a social media consultant, wrote an interesting article, “Imitation and Obsolescence – Facebook Guns for Twitter” in which he asks if Facebook’s recent moves to incorporate Twitter-like features is the beginning of the end for Twitter. (I love how Jay always tries to stir up conversation.) In reference to the new Facebook feature that mimics @replies (a way to flag particular Twitter users) on Twitter, Jay wrote, “… this will break down one of the last cultural differences between Twitter and Facebook in that people ‘follow’ many people…on Twitter whom they don’t really know at all, but most folks restrict Facebook friends to people they actually know…That’s going to change…”

Well, maybe.

Name drops won’t change the way I use Facebook. Facebook only allows a user to have one account/ID. If I were able to have a professional Facebook account AND a personal Facebook account, I’d be golden. But since I have to choose, my Facebook friends are only people I know and trust in meat space. Privacy controls help me feel reasonably comfortable posting details about my family and musings I’d disclose over a latte with buddies at the neighborhood coffee shop, but would never announce over institutional coffee with associates at the conference table. Facebook gives me a way to maintain closer relationships with a greater number of friends and family than I previously could within the time and space limitations of our busy lives. I’m genuinely interested in 90% of my news stream, read it voraciously, and often comment (the other 10% is Farmville and Mafia Wars) because I genuinely care about these people. I’m not trying to widely expand or diversify this network, but simply strengthen or renew bonds that already exist. I suspect that I am not alone in this approach.

But, on Twitter, I don’t know who’s reading, so I post only what I am comfortable disclosing openly. It is a place for social and informational risk-taking---following someone just because they said something interesting, I admire their work, or they are a friend of a friend. The benefit I find in Twitter is expanding my network to include people I don’t (and probably won’t) know in meat space. We have common ground but don’t operate in the same circles, so our perspectives arose differently. This influx of fresh perspective and pointers to sources of information I may not have found otherwise refines, tests, and pushes my thinking---huge value. But, as the net is cast much wider, I have true interest in less than half of the posts in my news stream and only read, comment, or retweet (i.e., re-post as a quote) the stand-outs. The members of my Twitter network aren’t emotionally invested in each other, which is why we’ll sustain the associated social risks. I lose a follower on Twitter and I sigh, but I lose a friend on FB and my heart aches.

I continuously “meet” insanely interesting new people on Twitter, which gives my network breadth. Over time---and if we meet face-to-face---some of the people in my Twitter network may become my friends. But, on Facebook, I continuously learn more about how insanely interesting the friends I already have are, which gives depth to my Facebook network. For me, these are entirely different types of networks.

So, I for one, will be continuing to use both Facebook (minus Farmville and Mafia Wars) and Twitter for the foreseeable future.

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Neither Plum nor Java said...

"I lose a follower on Twitter and I sigh, but I lose a friend on FB and my heart aches." <-- This is so true. How I wish though that my friends on FB will stop playing Mafia Wars and Farmville and start posting something meaningful whether it's personal or not. I like Twitter though and I, sometimes, cross-post. Nice article!

distortiongirl said...

Thanks for your comment!

Jason Baer said...

Thanks for the thoughtful post, and the link.

I hear you. I use Facebook differently than Twitter, too. But, there's no question that Facebook wants to continue giving those looking for the Twitter experience the opportunity to find it via the Facebook platform. And because Facebook truly is so much more than Twitter, I think they'll eventually succeed. It's a lot easier to provide stripped down functionality than it is to add functionality seamlessly.

We'll see how it goes. And maybe Twitter lives on. Another $100 million this week helps. But it wasn't that long ago that MySpace was king of the jungle, and we saw how that worked out.

distortiongirl said...

Thanks, Jay!

Oh, yes, I agree with you. I think FB, which is the better platform, could potentially replace Twitter with a key change -- it needs to let me separate my public and private images. This is pretty easily solved -- either by some changes to privacy (behind the firewall apps like Yammer do this by letting me have various public and private groups of followers or friends) or by letting me set up 2 IDs. It's not much of an obstacle and it could change everything.

Wonder how LinkedIn will respond...changes seem to be happening there as well. Or, whatever the next contender is in the social media arena...

Again, thanks for your comment and for your post that inspired mine.