Thursday, May 7, 2009

The real difference between Twitter, Facebook and MySpace

For the last several months, every new client that's come to Cause+Effect has wanted to know the same thing - how are they supposed to decide which of today's most popular social networking sites - Twitter, Facebook and MySpace - they're supposed to use? What's the difference between them. And why are they suddenly being expected to manage so many different things all at once?

It's a good question. Six months ago most people in this country hadn't heard of Twitter, and thought only their kids used Facebook and MySpace (my mother conveniently calls the entire concept of social networking "My FaceSpace" - which I find adorable). Today, Oprah has introduced the concept of Twitter to the masses, Facebook drives more traffic on the web than Google, and MySpace is considered the future of the music industry.

[photo credit: psd]

Here's the thing. It's still just a giant conversation. As new as all of this seems - the truth is that human beings have conversations all the time. All different kinds of conversations. In all different kinds of places.

For a long time, the web was simply about listening. We read articles, we played games, we looked for portals that helped organize information. The introduction of social networking sites has allowed us to return to our conversational roots. It allows us to talk to each other. Because of that, it feels oddly familiar, but because it's online it often feels odd.

The trick is to relate these new online conversations back to our more familiar offline ones. Once we do that with our clients, their eyes light up and suddenly the whole idea doesn't seem nearly as daunting.

Here's our approach to social networking strategy at Cause+Effect:

Facebook conversations = Dinner conversations

This is a simple, and effective explanation of Facebook. We started using it several months ago, and it does the trick every time. Simply put, because the idea behind Facebook is to connect people that *already* know one another, conversations on Facebook follow similar rules as do those amongst friends and acquaintances around a dinner table.

The rules are:
- Be polite (Keep shop-talk and self-promotion to a reasonable minimum)

- Be interesting (Share items that others might find interesting to keep the conversation going. Personal tidbits, interesting current events, and quirky stories are all acceptable.)

- Be upbeat (Although it's likely that everyone at the table generally shares similar backgrounds and values, keep controversy to a minimum to help keep the conversation pleasant and light.

Twitter conversations = Cocktail party conversations

Because the idea behind Twitter is to allow you to connect people that you find interesting, but don't necessarily know, conversations on Twitter follow similar rules as do those amongst relative strangers at a professional or social mixer or cocktail party who have all been drawn to the event because of a shared interest or expertise.

The rules are:
- Stay on topic (On Twitter people are following their interests, rather than existing relationships. For that reason, people who demonstrate that they are the best sources of fresh, interesting information on a particular topic quickly develop the largest followings. Self-promotion, to the extent that it's useful and relevant to the conversation, is ok. Pure self-promotion, however, will get you ignored entirely.)

- Mingle (Conversations evolve organically on twitter, just like they do at a cocktail party. To be a part of the best conversations, you have to be sure you're moving around the room and keeping your ears open. Twitter has developed ways to track conversations using hashtags, retweets, and other loosely defined conventions to help users follow topics that matter to them.)

- Take turns (Good cocktail party conversations aren't dominated by one voice, be sure to find and follow others that are tweeting on topics that interest you and then dive in when you have something useful to say.)

MySpace conversations = High school cafeteria conversations

Because MySpace is all about self-expression, conversations on MySpace follow similar rules as do those amongst teenagers in a high school cafeteria. Conversations revolve around sharing personality driven topics - like music, art and fashion - rather than more content heavy topics like news and politics. People with similar tastes, who may or may not have a real-world relationship, are drawn to one another based on their aesthetic similarities.

The rules are:
- Express yourself (Invest time and energy in presenting a virtual persona that visually and functionally represents your best self. Keep it fresh and current on a regular schedule. It's your primary source of credibility.)

- Find your tribe (Find others who share your interests, reach out and make connections.)

- Interact (Not only do you have to keep your own persona fresh and relevant, you have to show the other members of your tribe that you are an active member of the group that contributes to the group's cohesion and overall cool-factor.)

The rules are familiar because at their core, they haven't changed at all. And the truth is, they apply whether the conversation happens in the real world or the virtual one.

They key - as always - is to know what kind of conversation you're having before you open your mouth.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, i like the comparison between FB and Dinner vs Twitter and cocktail party.

I did a post on twitter vs fb, a bit of a different take.

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Anonymous said...

Great way to discuss the differences between each one! Very original and I like that. I would like to reference your blog on my next blog entry. Thanks.

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Babes Around Denver said...

Good explanation and the link to hashtag site helped me too!

Leyla Farah said...

I'm so glad to see that this is helping everyone - I was hoping it would do exactly that!

Jana said...

I definitely prefer dinner conversation to cocktail party conversation, and I am happy to say I left high school cafeteria conversation behind a long time ago ... which is why I use FB instead of the others :)

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The main difference is being where everyone is at which is facebook.
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Crystal clear ideas about diff. dinner party and cocktails comparisons are easy to understand. sure liked it and shared it.

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Anonymous said...

So why not merge all three into one giant conversation tool?

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Myspace was like the "in" thing back then. But when Facebook and Twitter came along, Myspace went down the hill. But your inputs here just simply show how observant you are and for sure you get it all going down there. As for me, Facebook rocks!

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