They say it’s who you know. But in the social media realm, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s what you know. And sometimes, it’s what you discuss. It all depends on the particular media and context. That point has been driven home to me recently in the most humbling of ways. To explain, let me use three of today’s most popular social media tools: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Now, LinkedIn is all about who you know. Identifying connections and connectors is probably the greatest value of this site. For example, I’m looking for a good patent lawyer, but I don’t know one. However, I know and trust you, and you have given a great recommendation to a patent lawyer contact of yours. So through you, I am able to make this new contact.
Facebook is about who knows you (and vice-versa). Whether you use it at a personal or business level, Facebook’s value is in keeping in contact with others that want updates from you, because they have an interest in you as a person (or in you as an organization). But generally (and especially on the personal level), their primary reason for friending you is not what you say, but the fact that it’s coming from you.
Most people dip their feet in the social media waters with Facebook, and generally receive loads of positive reinforcement. They friend people, make comments through the day on any and all topics, and watch with pleasure as friends will hop in and out of the conversations. In fact, this was my pathway into the current social media scene. But step into the Twitter world of tweeting, and you may eventually be in for a rude awakening, just as I was.
That’s because with Twitter is not about who you know or who knows you. It’s about what I care about, and what you say. As a follower, I pick those I follow based on the content of their tweets. Certainly, there are celebrities on Twitter – people who will be followed regardless of the topics of their tweets. There’s someone who cares that Ashton Kutcher went to the beach this weekend (though I do not). But in general, that’s just not the way Twitter works.
This can cause problems for most well-rounded people who want to use Twitter to establish communications with others who have similar interests. I’ll use myself as an example: a look at my Twitter posts and the people I follow will show that I have a variety of interests. My Twitter followers identify me by a specific interest that drew their attention. They think of me as a new media/social media marketer, a Disney World fan, an employee of Callis & Associates, a Rotary Youth Exchange volunteer, a Sedalian, a ragtime music buff, etc.
I love following (and being followed by) people with similar interests. But lately, as I gain new followers, I’m losing existing ones just as quickly. Why? Because each post is of interest to only a fraction of my followers. With that in mind, you might think I’d have to pick a topic and stick with it.
Fortunately, there’s another solution: establish multiple Twitter accounts, one for each of your online identities. Like most things that are worthwhile, it takes some effort. And if it weren’t for 3rd party tools likeHootSuite (free for now, but probably not forever) and Twhirl (open source, accepts donations), this multi-account strategy would be unmanageable. But these tools allow you to monitor and post from all of your Twitter identities at once – an important ability for those of us who want to use Twitter to further diverse interests.
I’m just now in the process of establishing new individuals identities for my areas of interest. If and when you decide to sign on to Twitter, my suggestion to you would be to establish these identities as you go along. It will be easier than trying to fix the mess after the fact. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure.