Five reasons not to link your Twitter and Facebook statuses

Last week Jonathan Crossfield wrote about the difference between Twitter and other social networks, explaining that Twitter is not well suited for broadcasting to your friends some pithy observations about your cat or what you had for breakfast. In Jonathan’s mind, Twitter is a serious networking tool, while Facebook is about keeping up with your friends and playing Scrabble or annoying vampire and zombie games.

You may not agree with Jonathan’s pro-Twitter/anti-Facebook fanaticism, but he raises an important point, namely Twitter, Facebook and other social networks have different audiences and different purposes. If Facebook is a pub, Twitter is a new-media or IT conference.

Despite this, many people link their Twitter, Facebook and other social network statuses. I tried it because I was tired of coming up with different things to say to my Facebook and Twitter audiences. But after about a week, I gave up. In the process, I discovered five reasons why linking statuses is a very bad idea.

1. It’s ungrammatical

Try to construct a sentence that answers the question ‘What are you doing?’ for Twitter, but also makes sense with the your name in front of it, as it appears in Facebook. It CAN be done, but it’s hard work and nobody bothers. Your Twitter-using friends on Facebook will probably understand, but everyone else will think you have trouble constructing a grammatical sentence. If you’re OK with that…

2. It’s rude to flood

There are occasions when community-minded individuals decide to twitstream an event they’re attending for the good of the general public. While it would be churlish to question such altruism, it has an unintended consequence: since Facebook redesigned itself to be more like Twitter, it floods people’s Facebook pages, often with information relating to some conference (is that what #SXCW09 is?) or TV show they couldn’t care less about.

Yes, it’s possible to switch you off temporarily, but people are more likely to forget to turn you back on, or block your Facebook updates permanently. This defeats the purpose of linking your statuses in the first place.

3. Links don’t translate

One of the things I like about Facebook is when you post a link, it pops up a headline, summary and picture. This doesn’t work when your tweet gets automatically posted to your Facebook status. Also, tweets usually use abbreviated links to save space. In the real world, people like to have full URLs because they convey important information such as the site the page is posted on, and what it’s about. It’s a luxury Twits have learned to live without, but most people are quite fond of it.

4. Jargon doesn’t translate

The best way to illustrate this is with an average tweet:

zaphod Oh noes! RT @ford_prefect: OMG @arthurdent just told Vogon guard to FOAD. FAIL! http://aa.bb/R3G04 #gettingthrownoutofanairlock

To someone who has been using Twitter for a while, this makes perfect sense. In this case, someone called zaphod is expressing concern and relaying a message from his friend ford_prefect about something his friend arthurdent told someone, which did not have the intended result. There’s a link for more information and a hash tag for a common search term.

To normal human beings (that is, most of your Facebook friends), this is complete gibberish.

Real people don’t refer to their friends as @nickname or tag their major #keywords for searchability. They don’t speak entirely in impenetrable acronyms, obscure references and exclusionary dialects like Lolcat. They use full-length URLs which describe useful things such as the name of the site (see #3 above).

Of course, some people have learned to use words efficiently and communicate entire, perfectly formed concepts in under 140 characters. Like today’s tweet from UK artist/writer Warren Ellis:

Books I will write one day – IT COULD BE WORSE, I COULD HAVE STABBED YOU TWICE: How To Train Your Editor

If you can tweet like that, ignore this point.

5. Twits can sound like twats

A lot of ‘normal’ behaviour on Twitter seems impolite or even antisocial in the real world. Two examples: nerdish obsession and shameless self-promotion. When Google released its Chrome browser, Twitter was flooded with discussions, links and boasts about who had Chromed and what they thought of it. People who didn’t care about Chrome, or were on Mac OS (it was released on Windows first) were bored senseless.

And if you walked into a pub and told everyone about the great blog post you just wrote, you’d either be ignored or glassed.

Most people who link their Twitter and Facebook statuses write primarily for the Twitter audience and consider Facebook another channel to get the word out. This doesn’t work.

Won’t someone please think of the non-Twits…?

Unless you’re consciously writing for both audiences at once, you’re better off keeping them separate and tailoring your communications to different audiences. Your friends will thank you for it.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Angela says:

    What about Selective Twitter Status??

  2. Ian U says:

    There’s a simple way around this – use the selective Twitter Facebook App. If you include #fb in a tweet then it goes to facebook, if you don’t, it doesn’t. Simple! http://apps.facebook.com/selectivetwitter/

  3. Tim says:

    Here’s another reason:

    Twitter is outward looking; I follow you because of the way you see the world and I’m interested in what you see. But, I don’t necessarily care about *you*.

    Facebook is inward looking; I friend you because when the world does something to you (or you do something to it), I care about what happens to *you*.

    And these approaches mean very different things in terms of updates. Hence, no pet anecdotes on Twitter please, and no Twitter spam riddled with links and hash tags on FB please.

  4. Josh says:

    Thanks for the suggestions. You could also use TweetDeck, which lets you post things to both Twitter and Facebook. The problem is most people who link Twitter and Facebook don’t consider these issues at all.

  5. adam says:

    It’s worked well for me and both audiences seem stoked. I have a more relaxed audience, so when I use hashtags Im actually mocking them, ie. #Imcoolerthanyou #thatsototallyrocksdude

    And people love it. I think it helps bridge a tie between FB and TW. Just don’t be weird and talk in @, acronyms, and hastags. It’s not rocket science folks.

  6. Hmmph – you know my facebook and Twitter are linked, don’t you…

    I agree not everything translates between the two, although not all tweets appear in facebook (for example, replies don’t as far as I can tell).

    On the other hand, I have quite a good response from my facebook friends who aren’t following my Twitter feed, resulting in two conversations prompted from the one tweet.

    Facebook is definitely trying to harness a Twitter style fast moving update concept with its recent update so I don’t think it will be tool long before we see some similar usages as the two cultures continue to converge.

    As for the differences between “What are you doing” and “Jonathan is…”, does anyone really still worry about formatting entries to conform to those restrictive ideas? Twitter should have dropped their question months ago as it is so rarely answered in tweets.

  7. Elissa says:

    I agree with aslam that it’s not rocket science: Twitter acronyms will become mainstream and then FB people will use them as well. I’ve noticed it happening with FB friends who don’t use Twitter, but have started referring to comments on FB with @. But I also agree that FB statuses tend not to be about conversations, whereas (my tweets at least) are usually attempts to engage in interaction. FB is more strictly Elissa is… style messages and tweets don’t always translate.
    But I think your point 2 is important: most people don’t update their Facebook status more than once a day, whereas Twitter is an all day affair. So I’ve taken to selective Tweetdeck updates and hopefully that’s solving bridging the gap.
    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the reason that they two services *should* be linked is laziness. I just don’t have enough spare minutes in the day to be updating for different audiences. So selective updates helps with that.

  8. Tom Ollerton says:

    I happily link my tweets to my facebook status. I feel it focuses me into writing for two audiences, it is another need for editing on to of the 140 characters that twitter imposes. Editing is what web 2.0 needs to cut down on the drivel. I appreciate that facebookers wont get what RT means, but so what? I can’t stand baby photos of people I met a 1000 years ago and the though of slightly annoying them or confusing them gives me satisfaction and if I confuse my genuine friends then I’ll explain when I see them in “real life”.

    Maube I’ve got this totally wrong but eople are discussing this like facebook and twitter updates are like a holy scripture – they’re not. They’re just we call “banter” in the UK. It’s not important irrespective of what Demi Moore or Batman think.

    twitter.com/mrtomollerton

  9. Mike White says:

    Being new to Twitter and an old gamer of the annoying Mafia Wars, I am appreciative of the nature of this article. It brings to light ideas of which I want to be aware. In addition to the concerns given here, I have the added stress of being a teacher. Perception is my executioner if I don’t take things seriously.

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