Today I want to address a common question from folks who are confused about social networking.
Q.: I'm completely confused as to which social network I should use. I have friends on Facebook who won't use Twitter and vice versa. I'd like to participate in social networking but don't have a clue how to choose a service. Help, please.
A.: As social networks become more popular and common, more beginners feel lost in the maze of choices. While there is no rule written in stone, here are a couple of hints that may help. Bear in mind that this advice is based on my own use of these services, so I'm hardly objective. For Facebook and Twitter, let's use a TV show analogy.
Facebook is theoretically "Friends" or "Cheers", where everybody knows your name. You must request that someone accepts you as a Facebook friend before you can participate on the service with them or even see any content they post.
Facebook is a lively, touchy-feeling community of friends and associates. You can also play games and participate in trivia contests. One issue to note is that many people do not care for games and gifting on the service, so you will want to respect their wishes and target your posts to them appropriately. Facebook does allow users to hide any such content they don't want to see, but it's considered proper etiquette to always avoid offending or aggravating anyone.
Be aware that things are changing now somewhat as Facebook defaults to an option in which some of your posts can be viewed by anyone online through Google and Bing. Guard your privacy carefully by taking the time to learn how to stay safe.
Twitter on the other hand is "The Wild, Wild West" or any current reality show. Anyone can follow the posts of anyone else, although there are certain limits in how each can communicate with each other via direct messages. It moves fast, is limited to brief 140 character posts, and tends to be a roller-coaster ride. It's best if you can adapt to its limited structure and speed, and frame your communications in short bursts.
While Twitter may appear very basic and simple, it is very powerful when used to track real-time events. Several recent disasters were reported in detail on Twitter before most major media centers got wind of them.
I use and enjoy both of these services daily. To sum up with another analogy, Facebook is like an ongoing relaxed conversation while Twitter resembles Morse Code, albeit a powerful one.
Another totally different offering is LinkedIn. This service is for business users only, for folks who want to expand their network of friends and associates. It provides resume features and a great way to build and expand a group of folks to help each other foster business contacts and resources.
Finally you have what we might call the self-service social networks such as KickApps and Ning. These sites let you build your own social network and provide powerful tools for monitoring and managing it. They are each priced very reasonably and provide incredible power to anyone who will take the time to master their systems.