What is a social network?There are plenty of social media sites out there. The Wikipedia list of social networking websites currently lists 180 social networking sites that exist online – and that number is going to grow.

Several sites make an attempt to make sense of all of the chaos surrounding social media by creating aggregators that bring all of your social networking information to a single place. FriendFeed is probably the most familiar of them, though FriendFeed’s popularity seems to have been on the decline since the service was acquired by Facebook. Regardless, there are many more aggregators out there, and many more to come.

Auto-posting social media: You could, but I wouldn’t

I personally feel that using aggregators to view incoming streams is a pretty good idea, and can help you to make sense of everything that’s happening out there. On the other hand, I think that using collectiveray.com aggregators to publish to different social media sites is a pretty bad idea. I’ll give three reasons why:

  1. if you’re trying to build your personal or corporate brand online by using social media, you want to give the impression of personalized, real-time content, targeted toward the person or group of people you’re reaching out to. When you use aggregators to do your posts, you’re sending the opposite message – that you’re dispersing information en masse, without regard to who is receiving what information. I personally am not interested in seeing when someone’s checked into a restaurant on FourSquare (or if they’ve recently become the mayor of their local Walmart), so I don’t make a habit of reading peoples’ posts on FourSquare. Sending such information to Facebook or Twitter means that I have to mentally parse out information sent from FourSquare in order to get to the information I am interested in reading.
  2. Your posts may not make sense for all social media sites. If you make a tweet, one that uses #hashtags and @replies, for example, and then automatically send that tweet to LinkedIn, it will look extremely out of place, especially since tweets are for the most part informal, and conversations on LinkedIn are meant to focus on professional networking. Likewise, sending a tweet to Facebook means that you have necessarily limited your content to 140 characters, where Facebook doesn’t have that sort of limitation. If, to save characters, ur post lks sumthin like ths, your Facebook users might think you’re being lazy or unnecessarily slack with your writing. Such writing will look even more out of place on LinkedIn, a site where the average age of users is significantly higher than on Facebook.
  3. When you send out aggregate posts, unless you’re aggregating what comes in as well, you won’t be as responsive as you should be when participating in social networking. If you send your tweet to Facebook, and someone replies to your Facebook post, are you going to be watching Facebook in order to reply to this post in a suitable amount of time? What if you’re sending your tweets to ten different sites? Social media is a two (or more!) way street, and it’s better to concentrate your activity only to those venues that you know you’re able to keep up with. If you can’t, you’d be better off limiting such communications to your blog or like forms of communication.

There are other reasons, but these three alone should be enough to warrant treating each social networking venue as having values that are different from the others. In my aforementioned examples, Twitter is about open communication; Facebook is about communication, too, but in a somewhat more personal manner; LinkedIn is about networking and professional communication. Take the time to address each social network with care and respect and the benefits will follow.