Monday, December 03, 2012

Facebook is to bulletin board as Twitter is to chat room

Hey there,

So this past weekend, I had yet another friend casually ask what the deal was with Twitter because they just didn't get it. And this is someone who is on Facebook.

And as I like to over-analyze things, there are a couple of (what I would call safe) assumptions that I make about what someone is REALLY asking with this question?

The first is that part of the essence of their inquiry is "I'm already on a social network, why should I put time and energy into another one?" Another part of what's behind their query is "How is this different from what I'm already on?"

To answer the first question, I'd actually that for some people, they probably shouldn't be on Twitter. The best comparison, which I've shared and others have generally agreed with, is that Facebook is like an online bulletin board while Twitter is the chat room. I'd also say that in general, Facebook is more on the private, friends and family, end of the spectrum, while Twitter is more on the public end, friends as well as people you might not even know or ever meet in real life.

And, yes, there is an option to make your Facebook profile public and subscribe-able, and one can have a private Twitter account, so this obviously isn't speaking of individuals who would like to use each platform as such. But those users tend to be the exception and in terms of the general, intended use, I would say Facebook is more for building on and maintaining existing relationships while Twitter is more for cultivating conversations among friends and strangers alike, particularly when you take hashtags into account.

Again, think public chat room with Twitter. It's a much more immediate sense of engagement compared to Facebook.

As I type this, I realize that one thing that clearly illustrates how the two platforms differ are by the tools they give you to interact with other people's content.

On Facebook you can Like, Comment, and Share. On Twitter, you can Favorite, Reply, and Retweet. And that's a blog post for another day, but if you have time and you aren't familiar with either set of interactions, definitely take a couple of minutes to just look it up.

And I digress. What's interesting is that even when I get through this, there are some people who've already made up their mind, and say they just don't have the time, which I call bollocks on if they're on Facebook. Or they say Twitter's just a waste of time, which might actually be true for them.

Whether personally or professionally, it isn't a platform to hop on just to do so. And it certainly isn't one to sign up for if all you're going to do is sync it to push from your other social media.

But if you're curious, I'd say the best thing to do is to find your friends, follow others who share your interests and passions, and just start by listening and replying to what shows up in your Twitter feed. Because ultimately, if you're not willing to engage with and share what others are tweeting, then...well you get what you give, or don't give in this case.

Let me know what you think about any of this. Are you a recent Twitter convert? Did you try it out and it just didn't jive with you? Are you the one your friends ask to explain it to them?

Leave a comment, as well as thoughts on other related topics that I should consider blogging about in the future.

- JR

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