Segmented Networks and Recognizing Your Audience


As you may know, I belong to (and am active on) a lot of different social networks. Though these networks have a lot of similarities, including connecting with friends, sharing information and meeting new people, it seems that those similarities cause many people to treat them as one and the same. How else can you explain the desire to link all Twitter posts to LinkedIn and Buzz, or all Foursquare posts to Facebook?

In efforts to make posting to social networks “easier” and “more automated”, many power users have try to link all of these networks together and batch update. When you accept an invitation to a Facebook event, it updates your Twitter and Buzz. When you update your Foursquare account, it posts to your Twitter, Facebook and Buzz. And when you tweet from the event, it updates your LinkedIn, Facebook and Buzz. Even if we’re aware that the networks are different and serve different purposes, by automatically linking everything, we’re essentially using them in the same way.

So why is that wrong? Well, for starters, the audience is entirely different. What are the differences and how do they compare to other networks? Let’s break it down:

foursquare NW Mktg Guy Segmented Networks and Recognizing Your Audience
Twitter
Twitter is almost entirely focused on its feed. Profiles are extremely limited, and though there is integration with a number of different clients using its API (and a lot of potential for Twitter in location-based mobile services), at the end of the day it’s all about the feed and the information spread through it. The volume of a power user on Twitter is generally much higher than for any other service (unless that service integrates a handful of other networks), which makes it difficult to translate to any other social network.
Facebook
Facebook is about MUCH more than just a stream of posts – it’s integrated with dozens of different applications, games and deeper profiles. Yes, there’s a live feed, but that feed is a very small part of what Facebook is. More than anything else, Facebook is about connecting with current friends. Where Twitter users will often discover new users through hashtags and location, that’s slightly more rare on Facebook, which puts a premium on the friends you already have, or people you’ve already met in person.
Foursquare
Foursquare, like Twitter is feed-based, but its focus is entirely location-centric. So, if I’m from Seattle and you’re from London, do you really care about which pizza joint I went to if it gets updated to Twitter? Probably not. Yet more often than not, people link their Foursquare directly to Twitter, which is more often used to connect you with users around the country rather than being hyperlocal.
LinkedIn
And LinkedIn is a work-centric network – how is a Foursquare post about my location or a Tweet about an unrelated event at all relevant to my LinkedIn audience? Yet, a good deal of the people I’m connected to on LinkedIn use Twitter as a direct feed into their profile. In terms of update frequency, it makes little sense – people are much less apt to check for updates on LinkedIn, a business network, than they are to check on Twitter – therefore an integrated Twitter feed tends to flood the LinkedIn network with irrelevant data.

As a society, we always look for the easiest solutions to our problems, and that solution often comes from automation. However, automation without consideration is madness. It leads to mixed messaging, spam and annoyance. Imagine if I sent out a mass email every time I checked into a new restaurant. Or if every picture I posted on Flickr automated a text message to each one of my friends. Automation is there to make life easier, but rather than mindlessly clicking an innocuous little check-box, take a few minutes to think of what you’re automating and who your audience is. I promise it will save everyone time and effort.

As part of my own due diligence, I’ve made a quick and dirty list of how I use my own networks, and what gets pushed where.

Twitter: Pushes nowhere. The stream is much more frequent than any other service, and pushing my Twitter stream anywhere else risks disenfranchising and annoying that audience. Honestly, this is my biggest concern for Twitter moving forward – it seems like the most overwhelming social network and is the first for people to drop in a crunch for time.

Facebook: Occasionally pushes to Twitter and Buzz. This stream is fairly versatile, but I still have a slightly different audience on Twitter than I do on Facebook.

Foursquare: Pushes to Facebook. I once pushed this to Twitter, but found that it was just the wrong audience. Facebook has a number of close, local friends, so posting on Foursquare makes sense in the event that people want to meet up at a local place.

LinkedIn: Pushes nowhere. LinkedIn is a pretty niched audience. Though I will sometimes post the same things on LinkedIn that I might on Twitter, I don’t update my LinkedIn status enough to ever post it elsewhere – the status/microblog portion of LinkedIn is a very, very small subset of the overall product.

Google Buzz: Pushes nowhere. Mostly because a lot of my content pushes to Buzz.

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