Twitter is Not Facebook: Why Automating Your Social Media Doesn't Work

by Frank on April 13, 2010

Hi, my name is Frank, and I’m a gadget guy.

I freely admit my obsession interest in the latest shiny flashy techie thing.  Mashable was a terrible discovery.  My wife has wisely forbidden me from setting foot in Best Buy or an Apple store unsupervised.  Our kids do have to eat, after all.

I’m a huge fan of technology making my life easier (or at least technology creating cool-looking solutions to the problems of too much technology).  Occasionally technology has a humanizing effect, rather than the other way around.

That said, there’s one solution I think sucks, at least from a marketing perspective: pumping out identical stuff to every social media channel you use.  To put this another way: there are a ton of people I follow (you know who you are) who think Twitter is the same thing as updating their status on Facebook.  It’s not.

Twitter is not Facebook is not LinkedIn is not a Blog

Don’t get me wrong: I understand why people see value in being able to pump a single message out to all their social media channels.  It saves time, and social media takes a lot of time.  As a marketer, I’m sure you’ve heard the complaint: social media takes a ton of time to properly use, and doesn’t provide any ROI.  This is an unfortunate criticism, I think, but the solution is not simply to pump the same words out over every channel.

Putting the “Non” in “Non-Profit”

I used to work for a non-profit with an institutional phobia for technology.  However, they did understand (better than many for-profit companies, in fact) that an organization needs to have one message, consistent with their one identity.  Too many messages make you look schizo, which is obviously bad for marketing.  (This will be important to remember later, when you decide to accuse me of saying you need to create a totally unique message for each segment of your audience.  I’m not.)  Unfortunately, their commitment to staying “on message” resulted in treating every channel the same.  For example: when they put together their 2-3 page monthly letter, they’d simply slap that in an email and blast it out.  There were two obvious problems with that method that also apply to the current misuse of social media:

  1. People communicate differently in email than they do through paper mail
  2. Virtually all of the people on one list were also members of the other

In Social Media, the Medium is the Message

As Marshall McLuhan famously pointed out, in any technological media, the choice of media itself coveys a message.  With that in mind, the first problem above – that people communicate differently through different media – should be obvious.  You communicate much differently through a text message than you do through a phone call or email.  If someone subscribes to your email list, they have an idea in their mind of what they expect to get from you.  You’ve likely set some of those expectations yourself on the “subscribe” page, but the new subscriber also expects your emails to look and act like the rest of the emails they receive.

The same is true of social media.  Twitter will appeal to some people, with its 140-character limit and no images.  Facebook will appeal to others, with its emphasis on images and social connections rather than information.  Blogging – especially those with longer posts – and LinkedIn, with its primarily business audience will also have distinct audience demographics and expectations.  The same message that works on one social media channel will likely be a big fat FAIL on the others.

For example, as a study on social media in the Harvard Business Journal pointed out, Twitter users had very different personality types – and therefore expectations – than users of Facebook.  Twitter users.  The media appeals to extroverts (or at least to those who are extroverts online).  “Only people who are willing to put themselves out there publicly in words to people they may not know will use Twitter,” said Harvard Business School professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski.  Piskorski and his team also noticed some significant gender dynamics on Twitter that were unique to that medium.  For example, female Twitter users create fewer links in their Tweets than men.  “Women actually say things, guys give references to other things.”   On the other hand, Facebook users are far more interested in images, in a feeling of human connection, than in simply communicating and consuming information.

Providing Value: Segmentation Applies to Social Media Too!

Which brings us to the second problem above: Why should I be your friend (or fan) on Facebook AND follow you on Twitter AND subscribe to your email list?  If every list you have is full of the same people, you’re doing it wrong.  I’m often dumbfounded by marketers who will write a blog post about the values of segmenting your audience and then pump out the same 140-character link to that post via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  Segmenting your list has huge benefits.  Numerous case studies have been written on Barack Obama’s wildly successful online campaign, and with good reason.  He segmented his list, and then segmented his segments.  He tracked every interaction and then communicated with each segment according to what that segment had indicated was important to them.  In the same way – and as the HBS study above showed – if I’m following you on Twitter, it’s probably because I see you as a source of good information.  If I’m a friend of yours on Facebook, it’s likely I want to see what you’re like as a human being.  While they’re not mutually-exclusive, they are different, and if you talk to me the same way through both channels, it’s likely that I’m not getting as much value out of either social media channel – and I may opt out of both.

Generating Positive ROI from Twitter and Facebook

Getting a positive ROI from all the time you spend on Twitter, Facebook, LinedIn and  or your other social media channels means more than just limiting the amount of time you spend on social media.  It means providing value to your Twitter followers and Facebook friends, your email subscribers and blog readers.  And yes, that takes time.  But “value” is determined by the customer, not you.  I’d recommend a good look at which channels you feel like you can provide unique value through, and focus on those.  If you can only blog once a month, but you can tweet great information 20 times a day, then Twitter may be the place the drives the best return on your time investment.

Remember: social media is not magic.  It’s a marketing vehicle, and should be used – and measured – just like any other marketing channel.

  • Thanks for including my post in this article 🙂

    • Frank

      Thanks for writing it, Sarah – it’s how I discovered your blog, which – like the post – is really good!

  • Thanks for including my post in this article 🙂

    • Frank

      Thanks for writing it, Sarah – it’s how I discovered your blog, which – like the post – is really good!

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