This post is more so a raw and unrefined observation/opinion of mine, rather than a picking apart of the two services. For some time I've wanted to write a blog post about how Facebook has become the new mass media, or how Twitter has seemingly morphed to a medium, but I think it's probably even smarter to discuss the ubiquity of these two services as it encompasses both topics. I think it goes without saying that Facebook and Twitter are huge. Taking a quick glance at their usage statistics, you'll see they've grown into behemoths in the social space.
As a disclaimer, I'm well aware that Twitter's advertised user base of 75 million is grossly inflated, being as only 21% of its users are actually active, according to a brand new study by Barracuda Networks. But that's neither here nor there, and doesn't change the point of my argument.
When you get a new client and they want to go social, what's the first thing you think of? Odds are, most of you raised your hand for Facebook. I'll give it to you that Twitter isn't for everyone, but let's focus on Facebook for right now, a name that has basically become everyday diction for us. Do you realize that we all seem to immediately snap to Facebook? As if you're retarded if you're not on it.
I'm not saying that it's not without good reason. It's a stellar social network. It's got everything from profiles, to photos and videos, to status updates, to corporate fan pages and groups. And it's only getting better. The mobile site is brilliantly designed, and has grown to become the most visited mobile social network . So, I'm not here to say shame on you for looking to Facebook, but I do want to challenge you with the question: Why? Is it because all your other clients ended up with a Facebook Fan Page? Do you have a genuine argument as to why it's the first thing that comes to mind, or is it because that's just "what we do" nowadays?
Twitter, on the other hand, has reached a status that to me is quite different from Facebook. Because of the nature of the two services, I feel that Twitter took a different path, one towards channelization. Facebook is a social networking site. Twitter is a medium. I could be getting ahead of myself here, but the fashion in which Twitter has grown and is used, has led me to believe that we could be thinking about it all wrong. I don't think Twitter is a social networking platform anymore; it's transformed (not transcended) into something instrumental.
I think on some level it's become as ordinary and unremarkable as the telephone, or email. We talk about not focusing on the tools, and I wholeheartedly agree. But isn't that argument used to make the point of putting strategy ahead of tactics. What if Twitter really is just a tool. A tool like my iPhone, or my Samsung/TiVo combo. What is Twitter used for? Communication. It's only a communication, and sometimes entertainment, tool; no different from the telephone or television. And the way we've instructed clients to use it, reflects that.
We measure our clients' customer relationships in Facebook fans. We measure their "address book" in Twitter followers.
Sure it's because of their mammoth size, but does anyone else realize that we've turned these two sites into the "Break Glass In Case of Emergency" social media services. They've become ubiquitous with the term Social Media. When you explain your job to your relatives, what do you say? I'd be surprised if neither Facebook nor Twitter came out of your mouth. When did "social media" become synonymous with these two sites/services/tools?
It's a hackneyed term, and the vast majority of us don't deserve the title, but why aren't we called Digital Anthropologist or Ethnographers? Regardless of how many people may hate the usage of that title (and rightfully so), those same people (I'd hope) also understand that at the end of the day our job is about human beings connecting with human beings. Aren't we all just digital social workers, hopefully making some kind of difference in peoples' lives through smiles, laughter, or tears?
When did Facebook and Twitter become the masters of the universe, which have come to define our professional existences? And when did we become tools ourselves?