Perplexing Platforms: Making sense of tangled social networking


Yesterday, I had an interesting Twitter discussion with one of my friends – to what degree, if any, should you connect your social networking platforms? Or, as he said:

“What content is twitter worthy vs facebook worthy vs facebook page worthy vs myspace worthy? What goes where?” (sic)

My first question should have been, “Who the hell uses MySpace anymore?” Except…I don’t think I’ve deleted mine. Don’t judge me.

At any rate, the question is sound because the vast majority of social networking users have a presence on multiple platforms, each serving different functions and potentially reaching different audiences.

How much inter-platform connection is reasonable?

The first and major point of consideration has to be: how many social networking platforms do you use, and for what purpose? For example, I have:

  • A personal Facebook account that I use to stay connected with friends
  • A personal Twitter account that I use to promote my blog and get mini-updates on the world
  • The previously mentioned and still embarrassing personal MySpace profile, which I don’t actually use for anything
  • (Obviously) a blog, in which I reflect on personal topics, social and political issues, and media reviews

While I use Facebook and Twitter for purely personal reasons, I want move my blog away from “personal diary” and toward “professional commentary”, with its own branding and a concise mission that will have less to do with my everyday life and more to do with the issues that concern all of us. For now, let’s focus on the purpose for 95 per cent of the world’s social networking: personal connection.

I’m sure that many people would agree with my conviction that we don’t really need all of the social networking platforms we have – especially since they’re all hell-bent on feeding into one another. However, the market will always expand for competitors to get in on the most potentially profitable venture, and I’m sure that many people will also agree that social media is the forum for targeted marketing in the 21st century.

For those who use multiple platforms, like me, the ability to update multiple platforms at once by feeding them into one another can be alluring. Why post a tweet and at least one status update about the same thing when you can let one platform do the work for you? By allowing one platform to update the others it’s easier to share your life with everyone in your circles. That being said, using one platform to update the others brings with it certain issues, which I think go to the heart of the original question about “what goes where”.

  • First, you usually have to update more complex platforms from simpler platforms – that is, you can feed your tweets into Facebook but not vice-versa because of the dreaded 140-character limit. If you use multiple platforms to take advantage of the resources they offer, why would you restrict yourself?
  • Second, conversations in one network don’t always translate well to another network: if, for example, I was to connect my Twitter feed to Facebook, most conversations I have with other Twitter users would be completely out of context to my Facebook friends who don’t also follow me on Twitter. You may not be as concerned with clarity of message in your personal profile as would someone who maintains a professional presence, but your friends will thank you.
  • Third, if you are connected to the same people on different networks you risk double dipping, or the Web equivalent of my grandmother’s tendency to tell the same stories over and over again without ever making them entertaining. This is pretty much unavoidable if you faithfully update more than one social networking platform and your friend/follower lists overlap, but posting to each platform individually will alleviate the first and second concerns, thereby making this issue far less onerous.

I use NetworkedBlogs’ Facebook extension to feed this blog into my personal Facebook profile, which makes it more readily accessible to a larger audience. On Twitter, meanwhile, I have a standing link to Reaching for the Moon’s home page and I tweet shortened links to individual posts. Each update accomplishes the same goal – promoting my blog to increase readership – but takes full advantage of the platform in question while making my purpose clear.

Oh, and seeing @ and # icons on Facebook rankles me to no end.

If saving time is your goal, a program like HootSuite or TweetDeck will allow you the convenience of one-stop updating without having to sacrifice the functionality of more complex platforms.

Coming up: social media, the “person”, and the “personality”…

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