July 28th, 2007

Web Communication Experiment: Blog vs. Facebook vs. Twitter

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With some wickedly smart and prescient people having invested in Twitter and with Jason Calacanis having quit Facebook (high profile anti-hype is always an interesting sign), I’m going to invest some time in trying to figure out how to maximize the utility of these two applications, particularly for communicating on the web — Fred Wilson’s right that communication is a big part of what the web enables.

Currently, my principal platform for communicating on the web is this blog — I post ideas here and discuss them in the comments, or people respond on their own blogs — sometimes what I post is responding to an idea somebody else posted. Everything else comes and goes through email and IM, although a considerable amount of that is driven by the blog. Of course, Google Reader is the other key piece of my asynchronous web communications, keeping up with what other people post on their blogs.

So I’m going to use this blog as a yardstick to measure the value of Facebook and Twitter. The big obvious difference is the scale of my communication network. When I post on this blog, it goes out to thousands of people. On Facebook I have 41 friends. On Twitter I have 21 follows. So I can talk to thousands of people, or a few dozen.

Well, first of all, it depends on the type of communication. When I post here, it’s not intended as a private, one-to-one communication, as it is in email. It’s one-to-many (publishing, I think they used to call it). Facebook is not intended to be a fully open and public communication medium — it’s one-to-not-so-many. But currently, so much of the communicating I do is fully open and public — that’s how I have expanded my network.

Second, the majority of people listening to me here are anonymous, faceless feed subscribers — until I meet you at a conference or you email me or you comment on the blog or you link to me and I check out your blog — for me, that is the great downside of blogging, and the potentially great upside of social networking.

It’s such an odd experience to have so many people who “know” me through this blog but who I don’t know. Comments make blogs a two-way medium, but the reality is that most people still use it as a one-way medium. But what’s really odd is that, when I write here, I do my best to talk to everyone listening as I would if you were sitting in front of me, but for most of you, I can’t see your faces.

Lastly, I haven’t exactly made a great effort to expand my Facebook and Twitter networks to the point where their utility could start to rival that of this blog.

So let’s try to fix that.

Here’s my Twitter profile: twitter.com/scottkarp

If I can get a “critical mass” of followers on Twitter — I have no idea what that number is or should be, so I’m going to play it by ear — I will start posting there more often. The more followers I get, the more I will post. And if you follow me, I will follow you, so we can actually communicate. I don’t think I’m going to follow 4,000+ people like Jason Calacanis does, because that’s just crazy town, but I’ll do my best.

For Facebook, sure I could spam my contacts list with friends requests, like everyone else has, but instead I’m going to try using this same public invitation approach — it strikes me as a much more interesting experiment.

But to balance out my promiscuity on Twitter — and since, unlike Twitter, I have to approve every Facebook friend request — I’m going to try being just slightly more hard to get on Facebook, so that the notion of “Friend,” fuzzy as it is on Facebook, retains some meaning.

If you’re on Facebook and you and I have ever met, or you’ve comment here, or I’ve commented on your blog, or we have a friend of a friend of a friend, or if I’ll just recognize you from the blogosphere, then please add me as your friend on Facebook.

Scott Karp's Facebook profile

If you know me but you’re not sure whether I know you, then feel free to email me and introduce yourself before you add me as your friend. Or, if you’re into this whole public communication thing, then feel free to introduce yourself in the comments below.

So this highly scientific experiment in web communication will consist of expanding my Twitter and Facebook networks, trying to use them more, comparing that to blogging, feeding all the data into the UNIVAC, then reporting back here what I find. I already have a few hypotheses that I’m going to test, but I’m going to withhold comment until all of the data is in and processed.

In the meantime, check out Rex Hammock’s meditation on Facebook, telephones, and communication.

Comments (13 Responses so far)

  1. , and as Scott Karp quipped, I could always think of it as 360-degree marketing. But mainly, it strikes me as a very good way of driving my handful of regular readers/followers up the wall rather quickly. So with all that in mind, I’m trying a platform experiment of my own. I’m now using Twitterfeed to send this blog’s RSS feed to Twitter.com/TroySchneider — but only for those blog posts I’ve tagged with “Twitter.” So while that tag can now mean either “this is about Twitter,” or “this is something I just

  2. Web Communication Experiment: Blog vs. Facebook vs. Twitter

  3. that I’m going to test, but I’m going to withhold comment until all of the data is in and processed. In the meantime, check out Rex Hammock’s meditation on Facebook, telephones, and communication. [IMG ] [IMG] (via tmonkey’s starred items in Google Reader)

  4. + Discussion: Publishing 2.0, Chuqui 3.0.1 Beta and Smalltalk Tidbits …

  5. I’m a follower and in agreement with all your theories on future revenue models and free content. I spent my life linking to your blog. Am now following your tweets (not that I have time to check all the various networks that have sprouted – where’s the adium for all these various forms of communication? Is it facebook? It might be) I would ideally prefer to follow you through facebook as I seem to follow ‘friends’ blog posts more and more through their profiles as well as my google reader.

  6. In an odd coincidence, I did a somewhat similar post yesterday at http://www.odonnellweb.com/?p=3579

    I find the “I’m too popular” whining of people like Scoble and Calacanis amusing. After all, it was their obsessive embrace of these technologies that led to their visibility in the first place. Nobody pushed it on them, They asked for it. Of course, they don’t just quietly stop using a platform. They make a big scene of quitting, thereby perpetuating the cycle of attention that they claim to be trying to avoid. If they really wanted less attention they could simply shut up for 90 days! I think what they want is more control, a way to enjoy the benefits of notoriety without the downside. I can’t say I blame them, but the “I’m too popular” game doesn’t help in that objective.

    I don’t read either one regularly, so I’m doing my part to help by trying to ignore them ;)

  7. Hi, Scott. I can’t remember if I’ve commented here before or not, but I can tell you that Publishing 2.0 appears on my delicious page frequently.

    I try to keep my Twitter & Facebook communities at a manageable size; about 225 followers on Twitter & 185 friends on Facebook. Like you, I’m not sure what the tipping point is but I actually do use the services as communication channels, not as a measurement of popularity.

    I’ve met some amazing people on Twitter and have hired one of them to do Web site work for me. I’ve met another one in person (a Tweet-up, we call it) and got to hang out with the Washington press corps when they were in Crawford, TX. And I’m about to meet another friend I’ve known only through Twitter next week.

    We also use Twitter as a kind of instant polling or reference channel. Last week several of us helped Paull Young as he was making a PR presentation in NYC, simply by sending Twitter messages to him.

    I’ve added you on Twitter, so I’ll expect to hear from you soon. :-)

  8. Scott:

    I think I made a comment here before. The way to launch deeper connections through the blog is of course to communicate off line especially when meeting new people. And reading their blog ;-) Yes, this may become more onerous than just getting everyone signed up to Twitter (I don’t use it) and Facebook (I carved in as one of the authors of The Age of Conversation).

    As with any other medium and opportunity to meet new people, each will serve you well if you’re willing to put the time into it. With the blog, it’s not only pushing the content out. It’s also going out of your way to meet those who come here.

  9. [...] RSS Feed ← Web Communication Experiment: Blog vs. Facebook vs. Twitter [...]

  10. Scott,

    The thought of doing an experiment like this is amusing. Think of a time before computers were even in peoples’ imaginations. Now we can perform experiments to see which electronic forum returns the most responses, mostly from people we may never meet.

    There are a lot of networks out there. I register with sites all the time. Most I do not bother monitoring or monetizing. If they do not come out and get me once in a while, or if I do not establish a sense of utility with it then it could be months before I return. There simply is too much out there to monitor.

    You do an excellent job communicating your personality through Publishing 2.0. I respect that. I feature you in my newsletter now and always look forward to your message. Let me know when you need ties or contacts in automotive. I can certainly be of use for you.

    You instigated at least one registration for twitter today. I signed up with them upon reading your message and have registered my cell phone and Google Talk account with them.

    Here’s to more great content and more social marketing.

    -Ryan Gerardi
    Philadelphia, PA

  11. [...] Here are some questions about Facebook and Twitter arising from my ongoing web communication experiment. [...]

  12. [...] a theory that’s emerged from my web communication experiment: Twitter isn’t a communication tool, it’s a [...]

  13. [...] 2.0 is doing a Web Communications Experiment comparing Blog vs Facebook vs Twitter. The following posts are part of this series: Twitter is now an Extension of my Blogging, Facebook [...]

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