The Fight Between the Three Major Social Networks

Before I start, I think this graph is ultra biased.  1000+ days ago was 2008.  Facebook was released in parts first to college, then to high school, then to entities.  Twitter was created in 2006, to the still lingering question, “What do I do with this.” Google being the number 1 search engine by a huge margin, has been creating rumors about their social network. When it finally came out, of course EVERYONE wanted to try it.   Now the question is, “Which one of these services is going to suffer?”

Twitter started as a way to text what you were doing.  It is dead simple to use, and there are many ways to tweet out anything you want (as long as it is less than 140 characters).  Twitter has been long criticized for this arbitrary (yet not so arbitrary limit).  I like it, and it should stay.  This limit keeps the noise down.  The APIs and the 3rd party apps really propelled its significance into the mainstream.  Startups now have to get the .com, the facebook url, and the twitter handle.

So where does twitter fit in?  I’ve heard that twitter are the friends you wish you had.  I agree in theory, but not in practice.  Those people are there, go hang out with them.  What I think twitter should be is a place to broadcast your message, even if that message is “Please look at my plate of sushi.”  There is no privacy in twitter.  If you post, it will be seen (and archived by the Library of Congress).  Twitter has matured since then, but now and again, good looking sushi is good looking.  The 140 character limit is a broadcast mechanism.  The idea of of “What’s Happening?” is a good question.  What is happening, and do it in 140 characters.

How about this idea:

Twitter is for broadcasting to a variety of different people, where you don’t want/need a group discussion.  You want to share news, opinions, ideas, but be limited in your engagement.

Facebook is the bloated swiss army knife.  It does everything you want, but in a klugey way.   It allows longer posts (but not that long unless you make it a note).  It allows sharing of photos, videos, and other media fairly easily.  It allows chat, reminds you of birthdays, and allows people to post information about themselves.  Technically, you never have to leave the facebook ecosystem (exaggerated).  For the tech-illiterate this is the best service because it is dead simple to use.  For the person who can do more than just turn on a computer, the privacy implications outweigh the ease of use.  The implication of privacy deteriorates every few months when an engineer decides that profile photos should be public.

So what should facebook be used for.  Well its use shouldn’t change.  I see the use of facebook as a mechanism to ask the mutual following of people a question where engagement is the purpose. The question of “What’s on your mind,” has iterated over the years, but is the right question for now.  What is on your mind, with the expectation of engagement.  Facebook has the added differentiation of mutual following.  Mutual following is important.  Whereas twitter was asymmetrical, Facebook needs a mutual agreement on friendship where personal information is the consequence. The engagement is with your friends and family.

Facebook’s idea:

Facebook should be used to engage mutual friends that share common core values.  The ability to aggregate comments allows deeper, more meaningful conversations.  Being simplistic is a tradeoff to privacy, but allows the tech luddites to feel engaged.  It’s current use (whatever that is) shouldn’t really change.

Google+ obviously is so new, that people are trying to pigeon hole it into something it may or may not be.  So far my best description is that it took the best from twitter and facebook and put them together.  The asymmetric friendship, with the longer posts and facebook public comments, are its strong suits.  To do this it forced you to create your own privacy.

Circles are forced upon you on the onset.  Being nascent, it has a clean slate to work with.  As you add people (read: not necessarily friends), please put them into a circle that you would be comfortable associating with them.  This idea extends to every facet of the google+ experience mainly being the profile page with personal information.  Unlike facebook, which added “lists” years later, google+ explains the importance upfront. So while facebook has the same functionality with personalized posting to different lists, I haven’t found too many people that have sat down, and made said lists.

Circles lends itself to the public nature of twitter, and the private nature of facebook.  It allows people that wear multiple “hats” to be friends with people that shouldn’t be together.  I can be friends with my coworkers without worrying that they are reading something they shouldn’t.

Google+ has some other nifty functionality, specifically being hangout, and photo sharing.  It pulls all of the elements of facebook, but adds group video chat (again that can be private or public), and easier photo sharing.  This allows more spontaneous sharing.

Unlike facebook and (for the most part) twitter, you can pull all your data out of google+.  While facebook makes it extremely difficult (so they can sell information), and twitter which has allowed developers to write programs to pull information, google+ has a feature in the settings.  While google is still getting flack for privacy, I feel that it is going in the right direction.

So what is the use of google+.  I use it to ask questions, and post statements where I want both my friends and followers to engage in conversation.  Since I can cultivate my audience (followers and following), I can eliminate the spam bots (which has eluded twitter). I can feel comfortable sharing a personal picture to a certain circle (or publicly).  So what should the real use of google+ be?

Google+ should be used as a hybrid between Twitter and Facebook.  Use it to ask for engagement from people you have selected (either friends, family, or the general public).  Google+ adds the granularity to select the privacy setting of choice.  You can have real conversations from your selected bunch of experts, while limiting the noise of people who don’t have much to add. 

So which service will suffer the most.  None of them.  I don’t think any of the three will go away.  Twitter will still be used by the people who understand it.  Facebook will be used by the majority.  Google + will just be another service that you will have to decide to use.  Since it integrates with google seamlessly, and has some useful features, it will gain popularity.  I will broadcast with twitter, keep a presence for my friends and family on facebook, but ask questions and statements on google+.

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