Automating Your Status, Or Not.

A common question I hear is, “How do I make Twitter update Facebook, or vice versa?”

My short answer: don’t do it.

If is not that you can’t, but the two are for different purposes, at least in my view.

Consider Lifestreaming

Lifestreaming from Wikipedia:
Lifestreaming is the practice of collecting an online user’s disjointed online presence in one central “location” or “site.”

The idea behind lifestreaming is that you let people in your network know what is happening in your life: what you are doing, what is on your mind, etc. Both Facebook and Twitter (and LinkedIn for that matter) allow users to post their status to their page. Why does anyone care? This could be the biggest debate for people that are not on Facebook or Twitter. For me, it is a way to deepen the connections between people in my life.

But the key is that you want to choose either Facebook or Twitter (or something else) to be your central location for everything.

Why Twitter shouldn’t update Facebook

Facebook: “What’s on your mind?”
Consider Facebook status as connected conversations about anything that your friends might find interesting in any aspect of their lives. It’s like a party line that is suspended in time. Conversations, comments and such can go on for days and weeks. The size and activity of your network and your friends networks are the only limiting factors.

When Twitter is updating Facebook, people get very confused especially if you are a heavy user. Replies (@hyermish) don’t make sense on Facebook. Even worse, if you are having Twitter update Facebook, you probably are paying attention to the conversation on Twitter and ignoring the conversation on Facebook. So if someone from Facebook comments in Facebook, you are asleep at the wheel and miss their comments.

Even worse, an active conversation on Twitter will completely clutter the Facebook news feed. People will start tuning you out on Facebook.

Why Facebook shouldn’t update Twitter

Twitter: “What are you doing?”
Consider Twitter status as disconnected conversations in the open where people beyond your friend networks can and will eavesdrop and perhaps join the conversation. And Twitter recognizes this, showing global trends as part of its interface; the more popular the conversation, the more people will join in. Twitter is really about right now, not what happened yesterday or before.

The difference is subtle, but important. Often on Facebook, I post things that I specifically want certain people to pay attention to; I would never post this way on Twitter. And on Twitter, I post things that I want someone to find useful, even the @ replies directed at a certain person should be useful beyond just them. On Twitter, the posts are there to stimulate the conversation now, this instant.

When Facebook is updating Twitter, people on Twitter lose the connected conversation. Simple. And if you are paying attention to Facebook and ignoring Twitter, any @ replies on Twitter will be missed.

Compromise

I agree that there are some things, many things that work well on both. Often these are things that are shared from something else entirely, like your blog, social bookmarks or Flickr feed. And there are tools that will allow you to have all of your blog posts automatically show up in Facebook or Twitter. (Like this one probably did.)

And you can use TweetDeck to write a post and selectively choose which network (or both Twitter and Facebook) to update. It isn’t automated, but since you are paying attention (except for the Facebook comments on the status update) on Tweetdeck, it will save you a few keystrokes.

But my point is simple: Twitter and Facebook are different. So the posts should be different.

And the reason not to automate is that you won’t be around to have the conversation when it happens. And the point of the social networks is to create and deepen relationships with other people, and that you cannot automate.

Comments

  1. Excellent post, Howard. My Facebook friends complained continually about my twitter crossovers. Finally I broke the link. It’s seductive to try and save keystrokes by having the 2 environments talk… but that’s just a siren… Not something to do.

    Net net, my activity has dropped off… but I’m still trying to develop a personal social media strategy that makes sense.

    Dennis

  2. Excellent post, Howard. My Facebook friends complained continually about my twitter crossovers. Finally I broke the link. It’s seductive to try and save keystrokes by having the 2 environments talk… but that’s just a siren… Not something to do.

    Net net, my activity has dropped off… but I’m still trying to develop a personal social media strategy that makes sense.

    Dennis