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.