I occasionally let it slip to people that a set of images comes to mind when I think of the various social networks. I find these mental visuals helpful when I’m trying to decide how to best position a message, post, or strategy to fit each network.
My esteemed colleague Leslie thought my (possibly overactive) imagination might offer some insights into one of the ways we strategize for each network. Do you do something similar? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below! Meanwhile, here are my musings:
Twitter to me feels like an open-air market in a public square (specifically, I imagine the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy!). Although the image of Twitter being like a cocktail party is evidently a popular one, I personally envision every Twitter user as having a table in the circle of the town square. Most people have left their tables and are in the middle, milling around and observing news, information and opinions the other tables are broadcasting. Sometimes a group of loyal fans congregate around a specific table, studying its flyers and conversing with its merchant and each other; and some even pick up the leaflets and help distribute them amongst the crowd (those would be retweets!). And sometimes the whole square starts to buzz with common news and shared experiences (those would be the trending topics and #hashtags).
Facebook feels like an open house where your friends drop by regularly. They show you pictures of their kids and cats, talk about their dinner plans or the last concert they went to, and maybe tell a few jokes. Some may bend your ear a bit about political news, or enlist your help to join a cause. Others will recommend businesses they’ve done business with, inspiring you to look into them too. You’ve put up pictures, set up some apps and made it homey. Despite having over a billion users, Facebook is the most personal and intimate of the social networks. If I imagine Twitter as a public square, Facebook is a home filled with friends (and occasionally, frenemies!).
Google+ I’m less fond of. Personally speaking, it feels like the office party you’d really rather skip, but are obliged to attend. I wrote about this on my personal blog last year and the last 12 months haven’t changed my opinion. Hey, I’m a professional; I use G+ and understand its benefits. I know using G+ has critical SEO implications for businesses that want to be found online. I also know there are some people who really like G+, who enjoy the specialization of their circles and the less crowded environment. I know it’s populated with photographers, tech-savvy people, Wil Wheaton, Google employees, and generally, highly educated young men. I know it’s a party that I need to attend… but honestly? I’m glad when it’s time to go home to Facebook
LinkedIn reminds me of a giant Chamber of Commerce mixer. Everybody talks up their expertise and expounds on industry news and trends. You learn a lot, do a lot of networking, and feel it’s time well spent. But after the fourth or fifth self-aggrandizing networker cuts in on a conversation you’re having to hand out his business card, it can be time to leave.
Pinterest feels a little like being a voyeur into other people’s interests and hobbies — but what a guilty pleasure (particularly for female users like me)! MySpace, which once felt like a lonely and desolate dance hall that saw its heyday years ago, has found new life as a space taken over by garage bands. Yelp, in my mind, is the modern-day, social equivalent to the Yellow Pages. And there are others — Instagram, Quora, Reddit, Foursquare, Flickr, YouTube and others — that all have their niches, and their corresponding imagined ecospheres in my mind’s eye.
What about you? Do you think of a cocktail party, a town square or something else when you think of Twitter? Does Facebook feel like home-sweet-home or a bulletin board? We’d love to hear how you think of various social networks. Let us know in the comments below!