This a post I made on my personal Facebook page in 2011. I had a twitter account at the time but did not use it much, because I didn’t really understand what it was for. I’d grown up using social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace (and others you may not have heard of called CollegeClub and BlackPlanet) and these were all about keeping up with old friends and meeting new ones. After a while, Myspace and the others died (well they all still exist actually, just in very different forms), and Facebook began to be more about keeping in touch with people you knew and sticking inside your own bubble.
As Twitter began to get more popular, I was a bit baffled about its purpose. A quote I heard back in the day was “Twitter is for people whose friends don’t text them back.” Unlike Facebook where you actually had to click on people’s profiles and where people could comment directly on your posts, Twitter just seemed to be a bunch of people screaming abbreviated messages into a void. You could reply to people, sure, but all that did was make another tweet that was shown on your page. It wasn’t like a Facebook comment.
But then my YouTube channel started to take off.
When you’re trying to establish an audience on the internet, social networking is a no-brainer. Social networking sites are an amazing way to share your ideas and projects, and also a good way for your audience to keep up with your schedule and work. But most social networks were created before the boom of independent online creators. There have of course, always been independent creators on the internet, but in the past few years the internet has become a very friendly place for people who want to create things and share them with a large audience (and even make a living doing it!). The problem is sites like Facebook and Tumblr were not designed with creators in mind. They were designed with the idea of many people communicating and sharing with each other. A network, or web. Not a tree, with one creator at the top.
Twitter seems to be the only social networking platform that was designed with public figures/celebrities in mind. On all the others it’s really inconvenient to share stuff and interact with your followers. On Tumblr, the main way you react to posts is through “reblogs.” This creates a copy of something someone posted and puts on on your blog, which you can then respond to. If the person you reblogged has many followers, it’s very likely that your comment will be completely lost in the sea of notifications, and keep in mind, you have to visit each blog to read the response. There are also “replies”, which along with reblogs and Likes, make up an individual posts “Notes.” All these reactions are lumped together, and like I said, if you have many followers, they’re likely to just get lost. One Tumblr feature I do enjoy, however, is “Asks.” It allows another user to directly send you a message, which you can respond to and convert into a separate blogpost (which can then be reblogged, replied to, or Liked). It’s sort of like a direct message except you generally share your response publicly.
On Facebook, keeping up with your audience is made unnecessarily complicated. It would actually be fine if you could use your personal profile as your creator page, because profiles are really good about notifications and comments and post sharing. But Facebook does not want it to be this way–they limit the amount of friends you can have (to 5000), and while people can follow your public posts and interact with them, they are many Facebook functions that do not work well if you’ve not added someone as a friend, such as private messaging.
Facebook’s answer to this is Facebook Pages, where an unlimited number of people can “Like” your page, and you can moderate it and post content on it to your hearts delight. However, Pages do an awful job of notifying you when your fans interact with you. When you visit the page you can manually click to see messages and notifications, but in my experience these functions are poorly organized and unhelpful. Also there are so many ways a person can engage with your page that it’s hard to keep up with. They can send you a direct message, which you don’t know exists until you click the message icon. They can comment on a post you’ve made, which you don’t know exists unless you happen to skim through the post. Or they can make a “Visitor Post”, which Facebook does not even bother notifying you about, and the link to find these posts is even kind of hidden on the page. Add all this to the fact that Facebook intentionally throttle fan discovery of your posts in an attempt to strong-arm you into paying them to “Boost” a post, and you can see why Facebook is not great for creators.
Twitter, however, lays out everything very cleanly. When you make a post, it is sent to (all of) your followers timelines. Whenever someone likes, replies to a post or tags you in one, it’s added to your notifications. When you click your notifications tab, they’re all there on the same page. You don’t have to click on anything else. You just read them there. This is of course, made easier by the fact that Twitter posts are limited to 150 characters or less, but I’m starting to believe that social media is not the place for long drawn out discussions. Especially if you’re a creator or public figure. I think in depth conversations are probably best had on a 1 on 1 basis, through something like email, or direct messages (a function that twitter also does better than the others).
If you want to stalk your friends and family, Facebook is still your best bet. And if you just want to look through a dashboard of memes and art and social media posts, then try Tumblr. But for creators and figures who want a good place to communicate with their audience and for their audience to keep up with them, I feel Twitter is number 1 at the moment.