Social Enterprise

Facebook and Twitter: Treat them like your kids

Just as parents need to treat their various kids differently, but fairly, so do professionals need to deal with Twitter and Facebook using a separate but equal approach. Here are some suggestions.

Almost everyone who has ever had a brother or sister has complained about them getting favoritism from mom and dad. However, once you become a parent, it doesn't take long to realize that you have to treat every kid a little differently because they have different strengths and weaknesses and different things that motivate them. You ultimately try to be fair and equitable because there's no way you could treat them exactly the same, even if you wanted to.

It's the same way with social media. Or, at least that's my conclusion this week.

While social media remains one of the most powerful and fastest growing trends in tech, communications, and culture, there are instances where social media is being painted with too broad of a brush. The way many of the social media "experts" talk, you'd think social media was a single platform with a single set of best practices. It's not. It is a barely-connected set of sites and services with different audiences and different expectations.

Those of us who have tried to be efficient by cross-posting social media streams between different services -- Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Foursquare, etc. -- are often doing as much harm as good to the brands that we represent (even if it's just our own personal brand and online reputation).

I've come to this conclusion recently as I've been thinking about making a change in the way that I handle social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook.

As far as social networks go, I've always been most active in Twitter. I have a lot of technophiles that follow me there and I post a daily stream of links to the top tech stories, instant analysis of tech news, and updates on my work at TechRepublic. For the past several years, I've also had my Twitter account connected to Facebook and have simply fed all of my tweets into my Facebook stream.

However, I've recently realized that's not working very well. The stuff that I post on Twitter is perfect for Twitter and for the audience that follows me there. However, it is highly technical stuff and I'll sometimes post a flurry of links (four or five in an hour). Over on Facebook, the friends that I'm connected to are not nearly as technical. My Facebook friends are mostly family, high school and college friends, non-technical colleagues, and local community connections. I've had several of them tell me that the stuff I post on Facebook is "neat" but that they can barely understand any of it since the tech world has so many acronyms and so much jargon. It's also not kosher to post as much on Facebook as it is on Twitter, so people have remarked about how a string of updates from me will end up overtaking their whole Facebook feed for a short period of time.

As a result, this week I decided to disconnect my Twitter feed from my Facebook account and treat Facebook differently than Twitter. That includes showing up on Facebook a little more often and tailoring what I do there to the audience. Since some of my TechRepublic readers on Facebook have said that they'd like to continue to get my daily updates on tech news, I've decided to set up an official page for that (sometimes called a "fan page"). Here is a quick summary of how I plan to handle these three different social pages:

  • Twitter - Continue to post primarily tech news, commentary, and instant analysis in short bites. Anyone can follow.
  • Official Facebook page - This one is focused on tech and is very similar to my Twitter stream, but not quite as many posts and more multimedia posts. Also, I use the opportunity to engage in semi-threaded conversations with the audience right there on Facebook. Anyone can follow.
  • Facebook personal account - I use this page for more general updates and posting links to broader tech stories that have a wider appeal and are easier to understand. Only post 2-3 times per day. on average. I limit connections to family, friends, and professional colleagues and direct everyone else to my official page.

While I realize that most people aren't going to need to set up an official page (a.k.a. fan page), a lot of you will be setting up and managing Facebook pages for the businesses and organizations that you work with, so you can apply this line of thinking to that model.

The bottom line is to think about the different social networks differently, whether it's Twitter or Facebook or Linkedin or gdgt or Gowalla or Quora. Figure out their strengths and weaknesses and then match up a strategy for how you can best develop and serve an audience there. Also, avoid automatically importing updates from other social networks whenever possible. It's better to post less but post good stuff that people find useful.

That said, this isn't necessarily the approach everyone should take. If you only post occasionally (up to 3-4 updates per day) and you mix personal and professional updates and avoid jargon, then it might not hurt to keep posting your updates in multiple accounts, especially if splitting the accounts would mean one of the accounts is likely to get neglected.

Just keep in mind that it's still very early in the game for social media. There are a lot of tips and best practices that need to be developed, and the conventional wisdom is likely to remain in flux over the next several years. TechRepublic will continue to offer assistance and guidance to help IT and business professionals get optimized with their social media experience.

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About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

33 comments
Elanor123
Elanor123

An interesting analogy, and insightful! Different social media platforms are like different social gatherings, before rushing into a new one, it's always better to stop for a second and figure out the images one want to project with the apparel.

rakeshmshah
rakeshmshah

Even Blogs, Website, Buzz etc need to be handled cautiosly. I believe unknowingly contents are repeated all over platform and media tool gets feeble down the line.

dev
dev

My usage of Twitter and Facebook are completely separate. Facebook is only for keeping up with friends and family--and ONLY for people I know personally. Twitter is strictly for technology-related posts (or sometimes other somewhat related or potentially funny or interesting things). I only use LinkedIn as a business card/resume--I never post anything there. I believe that most people say way too much on all social mediums. I have no idea why I need to know that someone is attending a conference or that someone else is stuck in a traffic jam. If you learned something new and interesting at the conference tell your followers. If you're going to be late to a meeting because of the traffic, tell only the people that will miss you. And please don't link your various communications together--if I'm your friend on Facebook, your colleague on LinkedIn and follow your Twitter feed, I don't want to see your post three times!

kirsty_wilson
kirsty_wilson

Whilst Twitter & Facebook offer a social media platform, like kids they need nurturing but in quite different ways and the bottom line is you need to be present in both of them, after all it's "Social" Media. By linking any accounts and thinking it makes it more efficient, it ultimately alienates those who have to read your feed that is fed from the other. I learned very early on that tweets should remain on Twitter with it's unique language of hashtags, RTs, etc! I'm all for making things more efficient & don't have a problem with those generic tweets being fed from a Tweeting client to your other accounts but the user must remember "All the kids need nurturing!"

ScarF
ScarF

I don't use either, and my company's firewall blocks both.

g-man_863
g-man_863

My biggest beef with Facebook is that - by adding something to your personal interests or giving a "like" to a commercial site - you are actually giving permission for that company, celeberty, etc. to show their posts on your page. I learned this the hard way when I added my favorite TV shows to my profile. Although I enjoy watching Hawaii Five-0 and SNL, not all of my personal Facebook friends share the same tastes. If 25%-50% of my page content looks like listings out of TV Guide, it waters down the quality of my personal posts for those with limited attention spans (i.e. everyone). Call me old-fashioned, but I consider personal information posted on Facebook, Twitter, etc. one step above forwarding junk e-mail to friends. If I want to share personal thoughts with a friend, I prefer two-way interactive communication. As Betty White said, "In my day we used the telephone to connect with friends."

Andrei Martin
Andrei Martin

I think the real problem was that the author didn't use Facebook properly. Had he used Facebook Pages from the start, he could merge all his updates from Twitter to there. The page is for your followers (who use Facebook more), while your Twitter is for your followers (in Twitter). Your main Facebook account should be for your personal and/or private contacts, where you can share personal opinions, photos, and/or stories. I've read a good piece last year that says Facebook is really a social network while Twitter is an information network. I couldn't agree more.

jehoceanwave
jehoceanwave

I agree with Jason. You adapt your content to the audience and the audience is different with the kind of medium you are using. I'm also noticing that others are instinctively adapting their content depending on the type of feedback. More "hello, how do you do" on FB and more hard core niche specific tips on Twitter. Of course, I would also agree that if you can't figure why any of those would be useful, then you probably have nothing useful to share. But if you have pics of your newborn that you would like to share with acquaintances close and far then FB is the place (and yes I do like family and personal updates from friends - they are friends, no?). And if you have some inside educated opinion on a tech topic, I want to know so I can do my job better. And for the topic of breach of confidentiality: really, breach of confidentiality? In most big companies that is laughable. Memos and directives inside corporations are very obscure, so if others can interpret outside what others can't interpret inside, all the more power to them. Usually for real corporate info, you have to wait for the media link for the merger annoucement, or the layoffs announcement, or the whatever. I have yet to see people leak specific data sensitive info, such as a sales $ or specific passwords, etc.

Englebert
Englebert

Every article makes a point and Jason makes a point. Keep your SM posts separate and relevant to your audience or else risk being ignored.

jpb_budrakey
jpb_budrakey

Well, I am retired but I have been working in the tech field for over a half century. In this article, you say that " I???ll sometimes post a flurry of links (four or five in an hour)," and your intention is "showing up on Facebook a little more often," than you used to. And of course you must follow others on both Twitter and Facebook as you have written many times. My question is how do you get any work done (unless your sole function is to be the Social Media face for Tech Republic)? Please understand that I am not criticizing, I'm just trying to understand the Social Media phenomenon. To prove that I am not just a crank, I just got my first smart phone yesterday :-) and based on a Tech Republic review I picked up a Coby Kyros tablet a few weeks ago.

pacsguy
pacsguy

But then, millions of people are hooked on Dancing With the Stars and American Idol, and I don't understand that either =P

julie.ann.harris
julie.ann.harris

Thanks. I don't tweet but I do use FB. I will like you page.

rsantuci
rsantuci

I know most of my Facebook friends won't appreciate most of my tweets, but once in a while they do surprise me. And I try to make sure they cover a variety of subjects that might interest one or two of my non-technical friends. I also like to post them to Facebook because, in this day and age, it is all about branding yourself.

pivert
pivert

Is this something like: "look at me how much stuff I put on the internet, busy busy busy, no time to waste" but in fact, you're just running in circles, put in long hours and get nothing done. Yeah, typical IT :-)

Scott McCoy
Scott McCoy

For the very reasons stated I treat Twitter and Facebook differently. However, there are things from time to time I want to cross-post so I use the Selective Tweets Facebook app to pull any tweet of mine that I add the hashtag #fb to the end. If that hashtag is there it posts that to my Facebook status (minus the hashtag). No hashtag in my tweet and it does nothing on my Facebook account.

horngary
horngary

...for the same reasons as you, Jason. Gary

fvazquez
fvazquez

I thing before going social, you should ask yourself: do I belong here? because it's a lot like messenger, once you're connected it won't take long before someone goes "hey, what are you doing?" so I feel tweeter and facebook are places for socializing and time wasting, not for work... that's the way I see it

ssharkins
ssharkins

The fan page idea has been on my mind alot lately too -- most of my FB friends are truly just friends and family and not tech people so posting links to my articles and TR blog seems... rude somehow. But on the other hand, I will be totally embarrassed if I create a fan page and no one signs up! ;)

Shawn.Barker
Shawn.Barker

If you aren't looking into using social media for business, you're behind before you know it. It is a powerful tool that should be used.

bill
bill

I had FB on my personal/business computer and it started popping up names from my business email account, which it shouldn't have even known existed, as possible "friends". Then it started popping up ads related to my business website. I'm just a mom-and-pop retired guy with a little studio. If I worked in IT at a corporation I would ban FB entirely. It's an amazing breach of confidentiality. To the person who gave everyone who isn't gaga over social media a -1 ... seriously, you need to get a life. If you spend it in front of FB you're going to turn into a vidiot, that is, if you haven't already. OK, another -1 from numbnuts. If you DON'T believe that FB reads your email list, and if you DON'T believe that FB tracks every click you make on your browser, and you DON'T believe that you have no idea nor no way to find out what information they are collecting, where it goes, and who sees it, you are living in an alternate universe. How can anyone who ever gave a damn about corporate network security even THINK of tolerating the use of such software? You either do not understand the ramifications of this or you don't care... and in either case you do not belong in an IT department. If that's your mentality, bub, you should look for another line of work because sooner or later somebody who cares is going to discover you.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's exactly what I do: I treat them exactly like the kids I don't have.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

NEED? That's a pretty strong word. Care to put it in any sort of context, or do you mean 'need' like I need air, water, food, and shelter?

carmensyed
carmensyed

As I was reading the article, what came to mind, is unless you hire someone to handle the social networking aspect, how are entrepreneurs supposed to keep up? I barely have time to log-on once a day to FB (so my Mom knows I'm still alive!) and even less rarely for Twitter. And when I do, I feel information overload, so really... For those who's job is not "social networking" itself, how do entrepreneurs find the time to read all the tweets, posts, make their own tweets, posts AND earn a living?! (This doesn't include time for other tasks required in life...) Right now, I really should be getting to that web site design instead of replying, but I'm intrigued (and maybe procrastinating...) Thanks for bringing it up jbg...

bill
bill

... you could set up a business FB page and administer it from a single computer on an isolated subnet. I might pay someone to maintain a page like that, say, if they could do it in one hour a week.

bill
bill

Are you a paid representative or something?

rname
rname

Do you or anyone else on this page know if a Linux user is 'protected' from the security issues? Finally decided to create FB page for business and now thinking it wasn't the best idea.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

You know I'd be disappointed if you didn't chime in on social media ... so thank you! :-)

JCitizen
JCitizen

My Facebook page started out to be for business, but somehow family discovered it anyway. Despite using disjointed user names. Then I realized my military posts were bombing my profile, so a switched all that to another service to insulate my FaceBook profile even further. I post less and less on Facebook now, our business team practically quit using it. We are setting up for SharePoint now.

Jaqui
Jaqui

I don't use either. social media doesn't interest me at all.

Mike Van Horn
Mike Van Horn

@carmensyed amen! As a business owner, when do I have the time? But also, my clients are business owners, and THEY don't have the time to monitor all my words of wisdom. So if I have trouble getting my current clients to follow my brilliance, how about prospective ones? Hah! I've got to appeal to a small number of people who are seeking the particular b2b service I provide. Quality over quantity, in terms of both prospects and posts. And for me, Twitter and Linked In have it all over Facebook. And next, YouTube

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

As a web-based application, the OS and browser used doesn't matter much. What's at stake is the security of the data you enter on the site, not the security of your client system.

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