The Emergence of One Social Network

By Beatrice Whelan, Social Media and Content Specialist at Sage Ireland.

The New Twitter Layout

The New Twitter Layout

Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google Plus, Youtube, the list goes on and on. With so many social media channels, many businesses often wonder where to invest their time and money when they dip their feet in social media. When I first started using social media for business, I liked the individuality of each different channel. Depending on what you wanted to do, what results you wanted and the type of interaction you wanted to achieve with your audience, you could choose a social network that suited those goals.

I always felt that Twitter was more suited to real time conversation and with direct messaging could  be used to carry out an instant message like conversation with another person. The hashtag feature means it is a great way to allow your business to get involved in a particular conversation at a particular time. Your business does not have to be on Twitter every minute of the day but you can pick a particular event or current topic of conversation and tweet in real time about that.

For example, Sage Ireland joined the conversation on Twitter about budget 2012 by tweeting live updates of budget day two as it happened using the hashtag #budget2012. By only tweeting budget updates that related particularly to business owners, it meant we could join the conversation in a meaningful way that made our budget tweets especially useful to a particular audience.

While under normal circumstances, that volume of tweets in a short space of time from one twitter account might turn followers off, because they related to a live event with a topical hashtag, it was perfectly fine and very much Twitter.

Facebook on the other hand is completely different. We would not have used Facebook for live budget updates. In fact if we did we would probably have really annoyed our Facebook fans and lost a few in the process. To keep our Facebook fans engaged Sage shares information and useful content on our Facebook page, but also uses Facebook apps to keep fans active and rewarded. Twitter on the other hand does not have apps so that type of interaction is not currently available on Twitter.

This example really demonstrates how different Facebook and Twitter really are or at least how different they have been to date. Recent and upcoming changes to both networks are starting to blur the lines between these and other social networks. The new Facebook timeline layout and the new Twitter design have a lot of similarities.

Last week Twitter announced it would be rolling out enhanced profile pages which they say will help “marketers create an even more compelling destination on Twitter for their brands”. Part of this new profile design will be a big header image for displaying your logo, tagline and other visuals. This sounds similar (though not as big in size) to the new header image that will be part of Facebook profiles when the new facebook timeline layout  is rolled out in the coming months. Similarly the new promoted tweet feature with an expanded view of the image or video that is being shared is really just how a Facebook status updates looks when the status update is a photo or video and the comparison is even closer when the new Facebook Timeline layout is used.

The New Facebook Layout

The New Facebook Layout

Twitter is not alone in taking elements from other social networks. Facebook has been steadily adding new features that appear to be attempting to counter their rivals’ unique appeal. Facebook recently added a Subscribe button that essentially gives people the ability to follow friends and others, and be followed, in a similar way to Twitter. Facebook also borrowed from Google+ with it’s addition of an improved friends list  in similar fashion to Google+ Circles .

Google+ itself is Google’s attempt to get a larger piece of the social media advertising pie. Not content with owning the second most popular search engine after Google, YouTube, Google launched Google+. Google are very good at indexing and searching content produced elsewhere, so perhaps they should have produced a social media search engine or dashboard and competed with Hootsuite instead of Facebook and Twitter. They could then have monestised the dashboard with advertising and  rode the wave of Facebook’s suceess instead of competeing with it.

With Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus all starting to adopt elements from each other, will we eventually have one main social media channel that trumps the rest? The advantages to users would mean having to only spend time on one social network but it has been the variety of experience that has made each so appealing to date.

  • I personally believe that the subtle differences between each of the networks in terms of the way that the data that is displayed will become so inconspicuous that there will be a race to keep ahead of each other with new functionality.

    Ultimately, I think the so called “heavy users” with multiple platforms will end up using aggregation publishing platforms such as Hootsuite as a single point of entry for their content to disseminate across multiple platforms.

    Either way it is probably likely that each of the networks will find their niche for particular users albeit with smaller (more tightly knit) communities.