There seems to be this notion floating around that when it comes to social networks, there can be only one. They mus all battle to the death, and decapitate each other devouring their social graphs in some sort of social media quickening. Every time a new social network is launched, people start talking about whether it will be a “Facebook killer” or “the next Myspace”.
But that thinking is a bit backwards. Facebook did not kill Myspace. Not directly anyway. Myspace more or less killed itself, by failing to innovate and keep pace with the changing market. While Facebook was offering it’s users new and interesting features, Myspace remained stagnant and unmoving. It’s no wonder that a lot of people simply jumped ship, and left their accounts lay fallow. By the time the migration became too apparent to ignore, it was already to late. The network effect kicked in and most people simply had no reason visit Myspace anymore seeing how all their friends have moved on.
Does this mean that this is how all social networks work? Not necessarily. Twitter has been going strong for many years now and I have been a member almost since the beginning. You could say it’s success is partly related to the fact that they don’t directly compete with facebook. Both are in the business of data mining social graphs, but they offer very different experience to their users. So both are able to co-exist peacefully.
Google Plus – the new contender seems to be more of a threat to Facebook, but so far it has been gaining momentum on its own merit. When it first launched everyone kept comparing the two, and there was a lot of talk about “switching”. Now that the hype died down, it seems that things have settled a bit and people are slowly realizing that you can use more than one network.
For example, I have been using all 3 for some time now, and I noticed that I tend to use them for very different things.
The network I’m spending most of my time at these days is Twitter. This is sort of my go-to place for posting funny one-liners, jokes and drop sudden profundity bombs whenever I manage to think them up. It is where I go to goof off. One thing I like about Twitter is how open it is. It has never been a walled garden – in fact it has been anything but. It is a platform for broadcasting your thoughts and ideas to wide audiences, and I love how my tweets sometimes reach people who don’t know or follow me via the magic of re-tweets or public timelines. More than once I have posted a question there, only to get a prompt answer from a complete stranger.
Facebook to me is a personal communication tool. I use it to share pictures, and messages with close friends and family. I also syndicate my Twitter output there, because most of my Facebook friends never actually venture on the World Wild Web unless you make them. Which is I guess the main way Facebook differs from Twitter – it’s users never seem to want to leave. It is a walled garden, and I tend to use it as such. My privacy on Facebook is cranked up to 11, and I usually tend not to friend people I don’t know, or have met IRL. I hardly ever post original stuff there, because I know that my audience is fairly limited. Or rather the only original posts there are things that would interest close friends and family (as in “check out these pictures I took on so-and-so’s wedding”).
I reviewed Google+ not so long ago, but at the time I had no clue how I was going to use it. Since the network is young, it still seems to have a somewhat geeky vibe to it (though perhaps its just my circles that are like that). When I scroll through my Twitter or G+ streams I see tech news, video game related stuff, RPG topics and etc. When I scroll through my Facebook wall a lot of that cool stuff gets drowned out by more mundane real life garbage. So to keep with the spirit of things, I decided to use my G+ for geeky posts.
That said, I didn’t really want to make it a duplicate of my Twitter stream. I already do that for Facebook (because of the walled garden issue) but G+ is more open than that. So while my Twitter persona has been evolving towards becoming a full time geek-joke producing machine, I figured my G+ profile could be for SRS BZNS type stuff – namely commenting on tech & science news. So that’s what I have been doing with it lately.
So to summarize: I use Facebook to interact with close friends and family, Twitter to goof off with everyone and G+ to post interesting tech & science articles I find on the web, and discuss them with my geek brethren. Each network has it’s own niche, and I find all of them useful. Each one lets me interact with a slightly different group of people, even though I do have a significant overlap of friends on all these networks.
How do you use your social circles? Are you on Twitter/Google+? Do you have specific things you post on each network, or do you tend to replicate your output on all of them. Let me know in the comments.