Avoid one size fits all solutions

If social media is plural and not singular and if having social media reflect how we interact with different social circles is desirable, why is there such a desire to treat social media as all the same?

One of my greatest pet peeves on social media is the desire to connect different forms of social media–or worse to cross-post the same updates to a wide range of platforms.

Yes, you can post your tweets on Facebook and LinkedIn. But should you? Yes, you can post your FourSquare updates on Twitter. But should you? Yes, you can use a tool like Tweetdeck to manage multiple social media profiles and post the same information. But should you?

No. No. And no.

Resist the urge to merge. Resist the opportunity to homogenize your social experience online. Embrace the diversity of experiences and opportunities.

As explored in my last post, each form of social media reflects different social circles in your life. It comes down to the fact that each form of social media is different. There are no one size fits all solutions for social media. In order to get the most out of each form of social media, you are best to experience them separately.

Keep Foursquare updates off Twitter

I first noticed the cross-pollination of social media when I saw Foursquare updates in my Twitter feed. Now I don’t mind occasional tweets about where you are or what you are doing but I see no value in knowing your every move. And I certainly don’t care if you have become the “mayor” of your local bagel shop or unlocked some “badge.” I follow people on Twitter because they have interesting things to share or say. I follow them because more often than not I find value in what they are posting. Your daily movements especially as you run chores offers me no value. Besides why would you want everyone on Twitter (aka anyone anywhere) to know where you are? Issues related personal safety and the security of my home, family and possessions are enough reason to stop me from even considering connecting these media.

Besides, it’s annoying to post information only relevant to Foursquare users on Twitter. If I want to follow your every move and if you want me to, I’ll use Foursquare. That’s one of the core reasons why it exists.

Keep your tweets where they belong

Tweets belong on Twitter. Keep them there.

If you’re using Twitter properly, you’re posting information regularly and reacting to others posts. Everyday. Likely many times daily. This frequency is at odds with how most people commonly use Facebook or LinkedIn.

My cousin once noticed that I updated my Facebook status everyday. She thought that was a lot. Like a lot of other Facebook users, she visits occasionally. Visiting everyday is a level of commitment and time that they are not prepared to make. For many other people, they make it a part of their daily ritual. But even those folks got taken aback when I mistakingly linked Twitter and Facebook.

Sure some folks post on Facebook multiple times a day but that’s the exception and not the norm. Don’t expect what is acceptable on Twitter to be valued on Facebook–especially if it comes complete with hashtags and @ mentions–and that includes frequency of posts.

Much the same can be said for tweets on LinkedIn. I haven’t looked at the stats but based upon my experience LinkedIn is not used as frequently as other forms of social media and so updates are posted less frequently. If someone posts all of their tweets on LinkedIn, I take them out of my feed. Why? If enough of my connections post tweets, I lose the professional status updates of the vast majority of my network in the noise. I can get the tweets on Twitter, I don’t want to lose what I can only get on LinkedIn and is a part of the reason why I am there.

There’s also the issue that unless your tweets are very targeted that you may be sharing information with your professional network that you would never share face to face.

Does that mean that you should never post a tweet to LinkedIn or Facebook? Or never tweet your LinkedIn status? On the contrary, I see value in the ability to selectively cross-post between these media. But it should be occasionally and only when it makes sense to each platform’s audience.

Be one place at a time and make it count

I think what bothers me the most about cross-posting between social media is that it means that you’re not using one or more of the media involved in a way that builds relationships and communities. The same can be said for relying on tools that allow you to manage your social media profiles simultaneously.

If you only update Facebook with tweets, you’re indicating that you’re not on Facebook. You’re just using it as a tool to extend your presence online. You’re unlikely to be commenting or “liking” my activity. You may not even know if I have interacted with any of your activity. How does that help to build our relationship? How does that build community? It’s more like sending body doubles to multiple events at the same time and expecting to get the real benefits that are possible by actually attending each of them.

Besides, if you don’t actually go on to Facebook or LinkedIn you miss out on the richness that each holds. Only by directly interacting with them can you use them effectively and enjoy the full experience. On LinkedIn that means for example being actively involved in groups which are an excellent source of professional development and networking for a variety of purposes.

I tried using Tweetdeck to view Facebook updates and I use the Blackberry app. Neither comes anywhere close to replicating the experience of actually being on web version. To me that shows that the value of Facebook comes from more than a news feed of status updates but in the widerange of activities that my friends engage in (though I draw the line at Farmville and its ilk and have blocked those updates). An important part of that value comes from the interaction between Facebook friends–and if desired, their Facebook friends.

In social media. going viral–even on a limited scale–is desirable. For news, information, notices about events to travel though we must interact with it in a direct and authentic manner. Otherwise, we’re simply broadcasting. For a conversation to exist, we must actively participate and that means using each social media tool separately and as intended.

Keep in mind that social media is constantly evolving

I am fully aware that the social media giants like Facebook are in the midst of trying to be all things to all people and to amalgamate different social media into one neat package. And yes, that may be the future. But even they are recognizing that we have different social circles and different ways of interacting with people. Being able to assign people to different lists and being able to determine what gets posted to which lists is one recognition of these facts. I believe the new Facebook groups are another. But there’s a part of me that thinks using all of these tools, maintaining them and consciously using them is a lot of work–work that most of us don’t want to be doing. That’s why I like having different social media playgrounds and knowing what the ground rules are going into each of them. For me, it helps to keep my head where it should be. I expect I am not alone in this and that we’ll continue to see different platforms for different purposes.

Having said that, the internet and social media are constantly evolving. Not long ago, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter were not even part of our vocabulary. Not long ago sending a document as an attachment instead of by fax was a big deal. Not long ago even the world wide web was opening doors to information sharing that never existed before. So who knows how the internet and social media will evolve and change how we interact?

But for now, I believe that we must avoid taking shortcuts in living our lives online. We benefit most if we take the time to make the most out of our existing platforms as separate entities and the opportunities that they present.