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Oct 28, 2008

Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, Youtube, Twitter, Friendfeed, Blogs - State of Social Media

I've compared social media to direct mail marketing. Hundreds of social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, Youtube, FlickR, Digg, Twitter, Friendfeed, Blogger, and the endless lists - provide means to connect with a community of suspects, prospects, and fans. 

Are these sites all the same?

Each site has it's own social etiquette, conversation preference, and means to communicate with it's community. This etiquette changes site-by-site and day-by-day. Let's examine the current state for a few major sites.


Facebook is the largest global social network. Although Facebook started on university campuses as implied by the name, the reach increasingly covers gen-x, boomers, and seniors as the recent graduates have invited the older generation to participate. 

As a boomer, I've watched as my connections have grown from a dozen to 350 in eight months. College friends, past employees, lost associates, and current friends have discovered each other via Facebook. In a year, I expect over 2,000 personal connections; and millions indirectly through clients and partners. 

Of course, the latter category is not really a list of friends - more like a direct mail list, as discussed
  • Facebook imports your email list and connects you with your email contacts.
  • Facebook offers networks by school, region, or affiliation; groups by any subject; and fan pages for business entities. Networks are automatic based on your profile. Groups and fan pages can be controlled by Facebook member. 
  • Communications occur through Facebook email, discussion boards, wall postings, and shared photos, web page, videos, etc. 
  • The mini-feed shares personal interactions on your Facebook profile page. These mini feeds include changes to your profile; postings on discussion boards, walls, photos, videos, games; or personal, minute-by-minute status changes.
  • The mini-feed of all your friends is aggregated into a news-feed, personalized for your viewing - as a means to keep up with your friends.
  • Recently, Facebook enabled comments on newsfeed items. This becomes a quick way to interact with friends. These comments show on their mini-feed, aggregate into the newsfeed of your friends and the friend's friends. Thus, they become public conversations shared with friends on both side.
  • Most recently, Facebook has released real-time newsfeeds. This means any new information changes the newsfeed without a click. 
After the recent Presidential debate, I logged into Facebook to see the reactions. Quickly, party advocates have already posted articles and feeds on Facebook. Friends comment on the point of view and a lively discussion / argument follows. Some friends participate realtime. Others join days later. 

Facebook enables conversations among friends, friends of friends, and new friends based on shared interests. 


LinkedIn is also a social network, but more focused on job search and professional connections. Other than a circle of connected friends, LinkedIn has different social etiquettes for reaching out to make friends.
  • LinkedIn imports your email list and connects you.
  • Traditionally, the LinkedIn profile looks like a full resume - enabling employers and employees to find each other. 
  • The Question/Answer board is essentially a forum that allows members to ask questions and receive answers from any other member. 
  • More recently, LinkedIn has re-energized their dormant groups, opened group participation to all members, and added discussion forums and shared news. 
  • LinkedIn has a newsfeed that is your home page. It shares profile and friend changes, group discussions and comments, and shared news. It does not allow direct comments as an easy step to join a conversation or discussion. 
  • LinkedIn content is available to the robotic web, an important distinction for SEM experts.
Both the QA and group forums have been effective means to reach members with similar interests. Unlike Facebook groups where conversations break down into spam and meaningless chit-chat, the exchange is more relevant. Like comments on Facebook newsfeeds, the conversations do become useful.

My personal list started with a couple of dozen one year ago, and has grown to 350. Unlike Facebook with connections to boomer friends, most of the LinkedIn contacts have been new professional affiliations. I expect this list to also grow into the thousands.


This is a small, but emerging social network. It started as an infrastructure service to aggregate RSS feeds. Like all social networks, the core piece is a circle of friends or fans.
  • FriendFeed aggregates all your feeds from blogs, photo share, video share, review share - any site that feeds your participation via RSS. This becomes an RSS feed.
  • FriendFeed aggregates all you friends feeds into an RSS feed.
  • Your feed or your friends' feed can be installed as a panel on Facebook.
  • Recently, FriendFeed added commenting on incoming articles. Further, their is a beta real time feed.
Essentially, FriendFeed has morphed into a real time, multi-subject chat room. Unlike traditional chat where conversations become meaningless and off-topic, the subject is triggered by the postings from a friend. Comments show reactions and amendments to the posted matter. Thus, comments stay on-topic.

It's too early to forecast the future of FriendFeed. A-listers, i.e. top bloggers, love their service. The danger is that larger networks could deploy similar features to eliminate the need. Friendfeed's challenge is to build loyalty and keep the fans at Friendfeed, rather than just a pipe for distribution of information.

Twitter, Myspace, Instant Messaging, Hola-Hoop

Many web features have become hola-hoops like chat rooms, instant messaging, forums, or email groups. Where the conversations could not stay on topic or change with conversation changes, these rooms, groups, and forums have grown and died. 

Today, IM is used by high schoolers to talk about homework. Forums and email groups with niche topics that are still relevant have survived. This includes coding forums. Others that could not sustain the conversation have disappeared.

Twitter extends conversations with SMS postings and reports. They report huge flows that have frequently broken their servers. More challenging than server reliability, Twitter needs to convert idle chatter into relevant conversations. If not, Twitter becomes the next hola-hoop.

Myspace is the largest social network in the US. Much of their traffic is based on social chit-chat, spam, and sex solicitation. Their recent growth is essentially flat. Myspace needs to convert their social network into targeted conversations.

Social network, itself, is not a hola-hoop since it displaces the pain to track email addresses. In a social network, each member updates their own. Connections automatically have updated addresses and phone numbers. This decentralized approach is more efficient than contact lists maintained by each owner.


These are a few of the social media sites on the Internet. Hundreds more have interesting communities and conversations. 

Websites are not the same. Social media marketers need to learn each site's etiquette and methods. Effective operators know what works with each social network. It's a dynamic task that changes day-by-day.

Share your knowledge of a community and its etiquette in the comments.

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