This is the last of a three-part series on the three big social networking sites, to help readers understand what the difference is between them. These posts are intended to help you navigate the terrain of these seemingly foreign planets, and to hopefully encourage you to visit and perhaps stay for a while!
In the prior posts in this series, I likened LinkedIn to a Chamber of Commerce mixer – a place that is intended for networking that is all business. And I described Twitter as a huge party, where every conceivable type of person with every conceivable interest is available for you to mingle with and get to know.
Facebook, in my analogy-driven mind, is like a neighborhood block party. At a block party, the streets are closed off, and the only folks who will be welcome are those who live in your neighborhood or were invited by you or your neighbors.
At a block party, you will catch up with the people you already know (and may already be friends with). Even when you are mingling with neighbors you do not know yet, you still have a sense of familiarity. “Oh, you’re the one who grows the sunflowers!” or “I see you walking your dog all the time – what breed is he?” or “Your baby has gotten so big – I remember we met when she was just born!”
Unlike the kind of huge gala event we envisioned with Twitter, a block party is usually a leisurely affair in all ways. Block parties bring to mind shorts and flip flops, potluck dinners, and a slow pace. At a block party, you sit on lawn chairs and shoot the breeze, watching the kids run around. You don’t really have to be “on” because these are the people who have seen you dragging your trash to the curb in your pajamas!
Many things can happen at a block party, because you are all, in essence, at home. If someone mentions they are going to Paris, you can easily say, “I was there last year. I got a great guidebook. Let me run in the house and get it.” Same goes for pictures of your kids, or a recipe, or a houseplant cutting.
Block parties are also notorious for recruiting neighbors to help other neighbors and the neighborhood overall. Will you join the Neighborhood Watch? Come to the Neighborhood Association meeting? Help with the Alley-Cleanup next Saturday?
All that is what Facebook feels like. It is a friendly place, where you are as likely to find a favorite business associate as you are to find your teenaged nephew. Like a block party, for the most part you will only include people in your sphere if you already know them or have been somehow otherwise introduced.
At Facebook, you can post photos and videos and links to things you find interesting. You can start a group that is dedicated to any one of a zillion causes or issues – from being a fan of Firefly to wanting to save Darfur – and like the block party, you can recruit your friends to join you in those causes. You can send gifts and throw snowballs.
Unlike LinkedIn, where you can also post a profile and initiate discussions, Facebook is casual, friendly, informal. You may meet someone at LinkedIn through business, but eventually you will tell them, “I’ve got photos of my kids on my Facebook page. Become my friend on Facebook, and you’ll see them.”
The bottom line at Facebook is that it is about who you are as a person, rather than just what you do for a living. Facebook is where you may be asked to tell 25 things most people don’t know about you. (Yes, I know, I still need to do mine. I will, I promise!) It is where you will start to feel more comfortable with the people you only see one side of when you work together.
• We are told over and over that people tend to do business with people they like. Facebook shows you the personal side of your work associates, so you can get to like them!
• Much as it is with Twitter, Facebook can get the word out quickly to a lot of people at once, as a post by you will be seen by all your friends. Then they can post it to THEIR friends, and so on.
• Because Facebook has the ability to create groups around similar interests, and to have discussions posted there, it is possible to find people who are NOT already your friends, who have joined a group because they are interested in what you are interested in. From there, you can become friends / expand your network!
• With Facebook’s ability to post virtually anything you want – video, photos, links – it is really like carrying your house around with you online.
• At Facebook, when the box at the top of your home page asks, “What are you doing right now?” you can actually feel comfortable sharing what you’re doing! Frequently people will share what they just saw, or what they’re making for dinner – and that’s totally ok.
• If you are the type who is not comfortable mixing your business and personal lives, you will likely not find great value in Facebook. There is a lot of “cause” talk, but not a lot of actual business.
• Much of what happens on Facebook is mind-numbingly dumb. Someone wants you to take a quiz to show how smart you are, how sexy you are, how stupid you are, what dog you would be. (A Twitter post by @AdamIsacson made me laugh out loud: “NYT Magazine reports Egyptian police beat up a guy to get his Facebook password. Now State Security knows what 80s movie character he’d be.”)
And while all 3 systems have their strengths, there is huge strength in using them all together. And then adding in your blog. And inviting folks in all 3 places to comment at your blog. Or to pass along your blog post to people on Twitter. Or to link to your Twitter account from LinkedIn. After all, they don’t call it “social networking” for nothing!
If you think I missed anything on this or any of the other posts on this topic, please add your observations at the comment line. (Note – the comment button is at the TOP of this post.)