Remember that birthday? You had friends over for a party, but your parents also invited a few family members, with the result that grandma told that story about you to your school friends and the next day you had the nickname "Monkey Boy?" I'm joking of course. Today we're talking about the awkwardness that occurs when you mix and match your networks.
Whether you are a company trying to grasp how to use Social Media, or you are an individual balancing you time with friends, colleagues and clients, it's important to remember that networks often don't (and shouldn't) mix.
Fellow blogger Sean Gaffney and I were discussing a company we both follow. This was on a day when the company had some fairly big news. They had clearly sent out press releases, because industry news sites were buzzing. But on Twitter? The last post had been almost a week ago, and it was one of those "hey, which of our products do you like best?" kind of tweets.
Which prompted Sean to comment, "Yes, Press releases are good, but really, Twitter is not meant to be composed of your 'buddies' the way Facebook is. You don't friend a company to be their pal. Or if you do, you aren't worth it."
Twitter is not Facebook. Nor is Facebook a Press Release. LinkedIn is not your Mailing List, Foursquare is personal, not public.
Here's a few ways companies mis-use the most popular Social Networking platforms:
Twitter - Twitter is not, as Sean points out, the same as a press release, nor is it a bulletin board for your press releases. Twitter is a place where people who follow you expect a mix of news, conversation, customer service and insight. The best Twitter accounts supply all this and mix in a good dollop of contests and fun things on top. Making everything you say pithy and retweetable may not be possible, but keeping yourself open for communications is. Don't become the company ticker, unless you don't care about the people who take time to follow you on Twitter.
Facebook - I've said it before, Facebook is easy. Too easy. Facebook gives you a false sense of engagement when your "Fans" have only to click a button to show how much they "like" you, your news, your newest promotional campaign or product. Even if they are your friends, are you really reaching folks on Facebook? "Likes" are the least effective way to tell. Do your fans/friends respond when you post - if not many, there's a good chance that a large number of those "fans" have hidden your posts. Do they see your page as a place to hold a conversation, or jump in with a comment? Or is it all about you, you, you? Facebook can become a mirror filled with nothing but yourself quite easily. Be careful that you're not adding to the delusion of popularity.
Email - Email is a privileged position. You have personal access to your audience. You have time and space to attract their interest. This is your best opportunity to make your point. How many emails do you delete a day? Why? Think about how many ways email marketing fails to be relevant to you. When you have a chance to send that message - make it count.
FourSquare - Publicly posting Foursquare check-ins is the equivalent of having an intimate conversation with a romantic partner in public. It's all well and good for you and your customer, but those of us who remain uninvolved in that relationship are left feeling awkward, maybe embarrassed. Nuzzling your partner in public is not necessarily the right way to show what a great lover you are and having people check in with you for freebies and discounts doesn't really express how great you are to do business with.
LinkedIn - LinkedIn was designed as a professional networking space. Unless your business is truly Business to Business, the chances of you finding your audience, much less your market, on LinkedIn is small. These are your peers, perhaps your vendors or contractors - not your audience. Treat the people there as you might coworkers, or prospective clients. But don't assume that every Answer is an open invitation for a pitch.
Each platform you choose is different - each network you build is different. It's not impossible to mix and match, but being aware when you're doing so. Treating your Facebook Fans like they are your email list, or your Twitter followers like they are your "Fans," is likely to cause conflict and defection.
Enjoy time with your relatives and enjoy time with your friends, but think carefully before you invite them to the same party.