Where Should I Post It?
If you’re like me, you have several options to consider when you want to tell the internet what’s going on in your life at any given moment. Should I tell Twitter? Facebook? Flickr? Foursquare? I didn’t even have a damn Tumblr until ten minutes ago, but now that’s an option too. And with the abundance of APIs and mashups for all these services, It’s easy to post once and distribute to all.
This decision should be based on the needs of two personas: 1) What’s best for me, the poster, and 2) What’s best for my audience (the consumer), whether that audience is friends, the general public, or posterity in general. The purpose of this post is to explore the pros and cons of each posting vector for the two personas.
What is Twitter good for? Well, although my tweets are public, it’s for my followers first and foremost, and the general public as an afterthought (assuming that what I’m saying is interesting enough that my followers or spambots will re-tweet it). It’s also a great way to connect to my followers immediately. Anecdotally, folks check their Twitter far more often than they do their Facebook, Flickr, or RSS feeds.
As a poster, Twitter is great for random announcements or questions that I want answered quickly (“Where can I get a decent cup of coffee near 85th & Greenwood?”), overly clever observations that I’d like to share with the world (“Play her off, Kanye”), re-tweets of overly clever observations, and direct replies to people I’m following.
As a consumer, Twitter is great for PSAs (“Game day traffic has turned 3rd Avenue into a parking lot!”), overly clever observations of people I follow but who aren’t necessarily friends of mine, and easy, on-the-go time-wasting in general. Because Twitter’s website and the iPhone apps I use don’t support filtering followers, I am extremely conservative with regards to adding people, and this enables me to actually keep up with my stream.
It hasn’t jumped the shark yet, and Facebook is bar none the most successful social networking site when it comes to the people I know. Infinitely more usable than Myspace and boasting five times the number of users in my peer group than Twitter, it allows me to follow the goings-on in the lives of 90% of my friends. This is an extremely good thing. It also makes for severe information overload when your friends list is pushing 500.
As a poster, I update my Facebook status when I want to share something with just my friends (and indeed, maybe only a subset of my friends) and I’m interested in my friends’ feedback. Granted, you can “reply” to your friends’ tweets on Twitter, but the @username syntax is rudimentary, non-threaded, and clunky. I nearly always read my tweetstream in reverse (top-down), and sorting out which @reply refers to which is annoying at best. Facebook’s comments trump Twitter’s @replies in both simplicity and usability.
As a consumer, I browse my Facebook news feed to keep up with what my friends are doing, especially the 80% that aren’t on Twitter. These updates are necessarily succinct, but are far richer than tweets: they can include inline images, videos, commenting, contextual links, etc. On the website I have the option to hide updates from mere acquaintances or boorish friends, but the mobile interface makes for extreme information overload unless I’m refreshing hourly.
And what about the others? This post illustrates the strengths of Tumblr: the posts are intended for public consumption but are obviously far too long for a tweet; Facebook has the “Notes” feature, but it’s rarely used (and I suspect rarely clicked-through) and discoverability is restricted to friends-only. As far as photos are concerned, Facebook offers a rich photo-sharing interface, but I’m far too invested in Flickr, and again, discoverability by the general public is severely handicapped on Facebook. Thankfully, both Facebook and Twitter have excellent Flickr plugins that allow for easy cross-posting.
This last point, cross-posting, is an interesting one, and in fact is the inspiration for this post. If my audience is following me on multiple services, reading the same update three times over can be tiresome indeed. Certainly posting to Facebook will reach a larger audience, but penetration will be higher on Twitter, where (presumably) my audience is more often engaged. Many of my peers use Facebook’s Twitter plug-in to automatically re-tweet their updates to my news feed, but I have a feeling I’m not alone in my annoyance with rereading these updates when I switch between the two services.
Of course, the goal of the poster is to combine the immediacy (and in many cases, accessibility) of posting to Twitter with the large audience (or perhaps intimacy) of Facebook. The user agent of the poster’s audience is also definitely a factor. An iPhone-less friend on the go will be deaf to your Facebook status update, while the majority of your peer group is completely ignorant of your tweet stream.
The conclusion? For the time being, for me at least, Facebook is the clear choice for utility and readership. I will always be mindful of Twitter’s immediacy and reach, but its usefulness in my social software universe has decidedly dried up.
Image courtesy of the|G|™