January 7, 2009

Choosing Your Social Media Drug

Last week I noted that of all of the social media sites, I’m probably most engaged with Facebook right now. Twitter tends to fragment my attention too much, so I started restricting my time on it to about an hour a day. The conversation there is too disjointed for me, and it’s impossible to find and refer back to all the pieces of a conversation even just a few days later. The best I’ve been able to manage is to use TweetDeck to create groups to check in on periodically, as opposed to trying to keep up with everyone all the time. I still don’t let myself sit on Twitter for too long because as Ed Vielmetti says, “If you keep refreshing it will never, ever stop..” In fact, my rule of thumb on any social site is that I never hit the “older” button.
Then FriendFeed came along, which helped unify conversations and brought pictures, audio, and video into the mix. The breadth of services it aggregates is pretty impressive, so when a critical mass of friends hit there, I switched my hour a day to check in there.
Let me preface this next statement by saying that I love the serendipity of FriendFeed, and it definitely restores fun to aggregation. That said, it moves way too fast for me. As a result, I’ve come to the conclusion that FriendFeed is Twitter on speed, while Facebook is Twitter on Ritalin, and for where I’m at right now, Facebook is my primary drug of choice. I need something to help me control the firehose so that I can more easily focus on specific pieces, and the fact that I can separate the links and posts from the status updates on FB does exactly that. I have the status of about three dozen folks texted to my phone, which means I see what I consider to be the most important function of the site for me front and center.
I had been friending people there for a while, watched what libraries were doing, and gone through the “play with various applications” stage of Facebook love, but then I found myself using it less and less. I fell back in love with it, though, when they added the ability to comment on a friend’s status, because that’s the piece I was having trouble tracking and participating in amongst all of the conversations taking place on Twitter. Even better was a change in the way SMS responses are handled so that replies from my phone now appear as comments on statuses, not inbox messages attached to previous emails. That means there’s conversation around updates, and it’s at a manageable pace.
I still check FriendFeed a couple of times a day, but I’m swamped with enough stuff right now that I use my social networks first and foremost for friend updates, and Facebook turns out to be perfect for that, especially for my non-library friends. I can literally see others getting a lot out of Twitter and FriendFeed because they monitor those sites a lot more closely, and more power to them. There are a lot of conversations right now about the ROI of blogging versus Twitter versus FriendFeed, but it’s important to examine what you want to get from these tools in order to evaluate which one(s) are best for you at any given time, remembering that it’s all cyclical and is likely to change just when you get comfortable with your routine. Of course, that can be a good thing.


  1. Facebook does birthdays better than any other system I know; that’s its one superpower to me. You could spend an hour a day wishing people happy birthday and catching up with the people you only know a tiny bit one day a year and their friends.
    Friendfeed lets you have a nice long conversation with short messages with a bunch of people who used to be bloggers.
    Plurk does long conversations with short messages too, and its UI is so resolutely silly that I’ve only gotten one frakkin spammer trying to friend me there. My lunch crowd is on that so I can spend 10 minutes at about 11:00am there and have some people to share lunch with.
    My delicious feed is full of smart, smart, smart people bookmarking research papers (and me clipping local newspapers, go figure) and I can easily spend an hour a day there.
    I can spend an hour a day in MyBlogLog (web analytics software) figuring out what people are searching for and linking to and reading on my blog and then writing more on topics that are coming from interesting search queries.
    It’s almost like I need to have a television style schedule that says “hm, it’s Wednesday, let’s do wiki wednesday in the 1p-2p slot” and then stay out of wiki for 7 days until it comes up again.

    Comment by Edward Vielmetti — January 8, 2009 @ 12:40 am

  2. I really dislike and distrust Facebook. I feel they are just a big front for advertising agencies.

    Comment by Cybergrunt — January 8, 2009 @ 2:01 am

  3. The old method of advertising is interactive marketing. The term is misleading. Most people think it means that there is some type of interaction on the part of the person advertised to, and there is. But, it is not conversational. Instead, the advertiser wants you to interact with their campaign in a specific set of steps. Following the call to action and visiting a website for instance. It’s the push to make you do something. Live this image. Buy this now.
    Social Media Marketing is just the opposite. It’s the pull of the tribe. The tribe already has your trust so the actions they take are ones you align with. On a larger scale, it’s the allure of belonging in the group as you take action together. “I am doing this so why don’t you do it with me?” On an individual level, the attraction is to behave the same way to get the same results that benefits your fellow tribeswoman or tribesman. “She looks hot! I want to look hot too. I want to go to her hairstylist” and you do. Social Media Marketing uses the power of attraction.
    While advertising tries to use the same tactic, with a billboard for instance, of a gorgeous woman telling you the benefits of the salon, it doesn’t have the same impact because it’s pushing you to go. It is not pulling you in as a trusted friend. Your friends have your best interests at heart and advertisers do not. Social Media Marketing is based on building trust and that foundation will make Social Media a dominant player in Marketing.

    Comment by Brand4profit — January 8, 2009 @ 3:45 am

  4. Ed, that’s a great point about Facebook. I don’t normally use my real birthday when I register with sites, but I do there because of the utility. You’ve clearly examined the various services with a more practical perspective than most of the rest of us do.
    I used to try to carve out specific time each week to check online sites, especially for work, but I haven’t been able to maintain that schedule. Either I’m under a deadline, traveling, or like this week, a crisis hits and I need to pay more attention. I think that’s one reason I like the aggregation of FriendFeed, because it lets me dip in and out of conversations more easily than Twitter does, because I don’t have to do the work to identify them. But for keeping track of my friends at a time like that, nothing beats Facebook for me right now.
    I’m also interested in how well these services work on cell phones, because FriendFeed doesn’t have have any built-in mobile services to help cater to that experience, while Twitter’s disjointed nature just gets transferred into that environment. That’s another advantage of FB for me. It will be interesting to see how these sites adapt when usage becomes even more mobile than it is now.

    Comment by jenny — January 8, 2009 @ 6:40 am

  5. Cybergrunt, I completely distrust Facebook, but I feel the same way about Twitter, FriendFeed, Yelp, Flickr, and every other site. I’m careful not to put too much on Facebook, especially content they could claim ownership of down the road. Google is one big front for advertisers, but I still use it, although I do shape how that usage.
    It’s good to recognize your distrust and decide not to use FB, but I don’t think it’s a practical strategy to avoid every site if you want to interact with others online. If you use Twitter or FriendFeed, you have to do so with the knowledge that they could be bought out at any time, thereby exposing your data even further to all kinds of marketing.
    I’m curious – how are you choosing which sites you participate in now? I’d be interested to hear your criteria.

    Comment by jenny — January 8, 2009 @ 6:46 am

  6. My favorite mobile phone (Blackberry) site of these is twitter; it works the best in my particular mobile constraint of being on the bus and wanting to write something short or notify friends to expect me on the other end of the bus route.
    Facebook works really well as a mobile site too; in fact the mobile Facebook birthday greetings process works very smoothly.
    The mobile stuff I really want to have are the various “professional” social networks. I remember trying to look someone up from my phone and failing, but that was a couple of years ago.
    There should be some mobile phone assisted roll call taking – you are in a meeting with unfamiliar people and you hae enough dexterity and bandwidth on your mobile phone to help you keep track of who is there. I still end up using paper for that task.

    Comment by Edward Vielmetti — January 8, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  7. It appears I’ve said something similar about FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/e/141a745d-9aca-48ee-aeda-4dd3ea897f27/Greg-says-FriendFeed-is-like-Twitter-on-crack-I/

    Comment by Greg Schwartz — January 8, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  8. Great minds think alike, Greg! I agree with you about the addiction and intensity aspects of FF, but I specifically used “speed” because the river flows so damn faster than what I can take in on a continual basis (and still be productive, anyway).
    The more I mull all of this over, the more I realize that I’m drawn most to the FB status updates because that’s where friends choose the most important thing about that moment that they want me to know, and I don’t have to wade through the noise of links and comments to find it. I love the extra noise when I’m in a position to engage with it, but I like the deliberativeness of FB status. They are the needles in the haystack for me.

    Comment by jenny — January 8, 2009 @ 8:59 am

  9. I hear ya. It’s not like I know the first thing about crack or speed anyway. I like FB status updates too. So much so that I subscribed to my feed of them. As it turns out, once you hit a certain critical mass of friends, the Facebook status updates are pretty much a crazy flowing river too.

    Comment by Greg Schwartz — January 8, 2009 @ 9:09 am

  10. True, but that’s why I have the ones I care most about texted to my phone. Of course, you have to be willing to accept that kind of intrusion and you really need an unlimited texting plan. It’s the combination of picking out specific status updates and putting them in a channel I’m deliberately not overloading that’s working well for me.
    I think this is an important lesson for libraries to note the need to be flexible enough that they adapt to the user’s flow and can be accessed in whatever way works best for the user.

    Comment by jenny — January 8, 2009 @ 10:20 am

  11. Greg, I thought about this some more and remembered that you’ve always been a lot more careful about who you friend on Facebook, so probably all of your friends there are important. I’m a lot more careful now, but I wasn’t always, so I have a lot of friendsters there. So I can see what you’re saying about your FB stream, since they’re probably all relevant to you, whereas I can narrow mine down to a few dozen, and they don’t all update often because they’re not techies.
    That’s probably why the unique combination of mobile availability and focus on status are so appealing to me. You doing that would probably overwhelm that channel for you. I’m really interested in your approaches to managing online identity and want to explore that more.

    Comment by jenny — January 8, 2009 @ 10:55 pm

  12. Ed, I love your meeting idea and could really use that myself, especially at conference. It sounds like the Palm Pre might be the first tentative steps towards that since clicking on a name in email displays the standard contact info plus Facebook status, Gtalk update, etc. I’m pretty sure there’s a Pre in my future, and maybe they’ll have thought through how to make something like FriendFeed more manageable in a mobile environment. I’m still floored that FF is completely ignoring the mobile market. As someone from Facebook said during the Pre launch at the CES today, mobile users are the most active and engaged.

    Comment by jenny — January 8, 2009 @ 10:59 pm

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  14. I’ve been thinking about this as well this week – whether I want to continue to participate in Twitter, FriendFeed *and* Facebook, or if I can select one to be rid of. There seems to be a bit too much for me to keep up with, although your “older button” rule may help with that. I like the immediacy of Twitter (for things like the plane in the Hudson and the TVA coal ash spill), and the grouped conversations in FriendFeed. I like Facebook for some of the reasons you mention, and see it more as a tool for keeping up with people, whereas FriendFeed is maybe more for keeping up with things and ideas. I actually find FriendFeed less hectic than Twitter, because of the grouping of replies. Now, if these services would just be more redundant so I could feel better about ditching one! :)

    Comment by Rachel — January 18, 2009 @ 10:11 am

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