Friend vs Follower: How to use Social Media as it is intended

Facebook vs Twitter: friend/follower

On Facebook, you have friends. On Twitter, you have followers. This difference is significant.

Understanding the difference will help you use social media more wisely. Or maybe even, as it is intended. Failing to understand, will most likely lead to a few problems.

So what’s the difference?

Friends are probably interested in what I’m DOING. They like to see pictures, learn about what’s going on in my family, hear about new things, etc. This is why there are comments and the like button. It encourages interaction.

You’re friends with somebody “just because” you went to high school together, find each other funny, have some social connection, etc.

Followers are interested in what I’m SAYING. I can admit, it’s perfectly acceptable to post whatever you want, but chances are you won’t gain any interest from people if you post nonsense. This is why it’s important that you follow a set of rules (see my posts here). Think of following a leader. If that person is a fool, chances are you’re gonna go find someone else to follow. This is no different on Twitter. I don’t typically have any interest in following someone who has nothing important to say. I’m expecting you to impact my life in some way. This really is the point of Twitter.

You don’t follow someone “just because.” You can, but you probably wouldn’t. And if you do, they’re probably leading you somewhere you don’t want to go.

Here’s an example.
In my getting older age, I’m trying to write more about youth ministry. But my guess is that not every one of my friends is interested in reading about youth ministry or my thoughts on Jesus and the Bible (some of them aren’t even Christians, and I don’t adhere to the bullhorn style of evangelism). So I don’t post blog entries (typically) on Facebook.

Twitter is different though. It’s for followers. Or, people who have an interest in what I’m saying. You can’t watch TV and NOT see Twitter being advertised, especially in news and sports. That’s because people desire to know what’s being said by these organizations and celebrities. We have an obsession with following the leaders we respect. This is exactly why Twitter is so successful.

Problem #1: “I can post whatever I want”
That being said, this is where I get frustrated with how teenagers use Twitter, or with people who think it’s dumb. It’s not about posting whatever you’re thinking or doing at the moment. If you must, Facebook is slightly more appropriate for that. Twitter, however, is helping to bring relevancy to social media. Think of it as you would a book. You don’t just write whatever and get published; it requires thought and to be relevant on some level. We dumb it down when we ignore this. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

I don’t understand why we post random thoughts about what we’re thinking. I need a good resource on this subject. I’m sure future generations will look back and wonder why we posted so much nonsense online. Narcissistic, maybe? Probably.

Problem #2: Mixing purposes
The problem with posting on Facebook as if you had followers, not friends? If you post links to articles or info you’re interested in, chances are a good number of your friends aren’t interested in it and they will find Facebook becoming irrelevant, especially the more people post stuff like that. Which is why you shouldn’t do it. Have you ever seen somebody try to sell something on Facebook? I have. And I can guarantee that 99% of your friends aren’t interested in buying your car. Use ebay. I can understand that it’s a simple way just to see if anybody is interested. But chances are they’re not. And the more we do stuff like this, the more irrelevant social media becomes.

This is why Facebook added pages. It’s a way to follow organizations. There’s a little bit of an identity crisis goin on, however.

So in conclusion, get a journal. And be a leader worth following online.


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