I’m a fan of social media sites. Sites like twitter and facebook are loads of fun, and great for staying in touch with old friends, new friends, and potential friends. In a recent post I commented on what I felt were the differences between facebook and myspace. In the end, I believe that myspace is primarily a vanity site, whereas facebook focuses on relationships.
A more subtle comparison happens between facebook and twitter. Both of these sites really focus on relationships, and both are amazing. But they excel at completely different things. This article will look into how they are similar, yet dramatically different, especially in terms of what your audience is.
First, let’s look at how they are similar Both have popular mobile device integration. Both are open to anyone with internet. Both allow direct communication, photosharing, and miniblogging. Both have profiles of some sort. They both get mentioned on mainstream media pretty frequently.
Next, let’s look at some key differences. Facebook requires mutual acceptance prior to establishing a relationship. In twitter this is an option, but most people do not employ it. Twitter has a great open API, whereas facebook recently offered one. Basically, this has allowed a lot of third-party applications like TweetDeck to thrive with Twitter, while the Facebook interface has been the primary manner of updating FB. Twitter also limits communication to a small number of characters, whereas it is possible to send or share almost anything through facebook. Facebook also has a great set of tools for finding possible relationships, whereas the built-in twitter interface for this is quite Spartan. Facebook’s site threads conversations by default, whereas on twitter does not. While both sites have profiles, there is a tendency to have more sensitive information on facebook (phone number, email).
Twitter enables very agile communication. It enables one entity to communicate to a large number of people, who are self-selecting, very easily. The communications are brief, and preferably clear and succinct. Lots of people spin on Twitter etiquette…things like multiple consecutive tweets, retweets, referrals, and more are blogged about ad nauseum.
Facebook is a bit less agile. While you can post to facebook in a similar manner as twitter, using many of the same tools and updating concurrently, the primary mode of interaction with facebook is the conversation. The existence of the trust relationship between friends on Facebook encourages different types of communication as well.
These factors contribute to the types of relationships users of the two sites typically cultivate. Twitter’s agility has made it a very convenient tool for keeping contact with my closer friends. We have brief conversations and typically have device updates enabled. It also allows me to have conversations with strangers who have similar interests. A lot of people see this aspect of twitter as a great marketing tool. Get the word out on something, and it spreads virally. This certainly happens. The consequence of this, and the relationship with like-minded strangers, is that there’s a certain branding that occurs with your twitter voice. A lot of people want to convey a particular message overall from their tweets.
In twitter, there are profiles that will provide almost any kind of information. Realtime updates on Blazer games, one-line jokes, news, recommended books, whatever you’re looking for you can probably find it.
Facebook, on the other hand, discourages relationships with people you don’t actually know. It’s up to you to decide how high or low you want to set the bar for friendships in facebook. These are typically family, friends (old and new), colleagues. I’ve read Defective Yeti for years and follow him on twitter and RSS, and know a lot of his life story, but am not friends with him on facebook. I doubt I’d turn him down, but can’t imagine why Matthew would ask.
This means that on facebook you can be yourself. Relatively. I don’t kid myself that people don’t try to build a facade, but we do in our classic relationships as well. But there’s not the same drive for personal branding as on twitter. Relationships tend to be deeper. While public, conversations are more directed, and there is more background available. Inside jokes are more accessible.
Time plays a bigger role, past and future are more real in facebook. Twitter focuses on what is happening now. What am I doing. What I did rolled off the bottom hours ago. In facebook, what you’re doing is right next to photos of what you did.
So, what’s the point of all this?
In the end, it all comes down to audience. It is important to think about who is on the other end of what you’re broadcasting.
In twitter, you’ve got close friends to complete strangers following you. Why are they following you? Do you care? In facebook, you’ve mutually friended relationships from throughout your life. What do you want to share?
In the end, it’s about having fun and enriching our lives. Both of these tools are amazing, and can be life changing.
I dedicate this article to all of the people who always update facebook and twitter with the same content and miss out on the conversation. cheers!