I was asked this question by many of the people I spoke to during the course of Virtuoso’s Travel Mart. I thought it might be helpful for anyone who is feeling a little bewildered by all the Twitter, Facebook and Ning chatter in the media these days to compare these new technologies to something familiar. The “social” part of the social media tag got me thinking about physical environments in which we commonly interact with a number of people simultaneously…
Twitter is like a busy, big bar on a Friday night. Packed with people from door to door, it’s hard to hear and be heard. The constant stream of multiple conversations happening concurrently in the bar are like the endless flow of tweets from the people you’ve chosen to follow on Twitter. In a busy bar there might be many people you want to talk to, but there are so many people talking at once that a proper conversation is difficult. That said, it’s a great place for initial introductions and for sharing contact information. These initial introductions also mean that you’re no longer a stranger to the people who frequent the bar.
Translated into business terms, participating in Twitter is a way to network with many people at once; to communicate with new and existing clients; and to raise the profile of your company or brand.
In a traditional Irish bar, a snug is a small partitioned section of the bar screened off from the main bar usually by a glass partition. (Traditionally ladies who didn’t want to be seen drinking publicly would use the snug but we won’t go there!) Anyone can join Facebook just as anyone can enter a bar with a snug but you can’t go into the snug unless you’ve been invited to do so. Similarly, on Facebook, you have to be invited to ‘friend’ someone (or have someone accept your friend invitation) to interact with them. This is very different to Twitter where just by following someone you can see their tweets. Facebook is like a bar with many snugs. You are the host on your own profile page (and any group pages you create) and an invited guest on pages created by someone else.
Facebook is a great tool for businesses to use for direct communication with invited clients. It’s simpler and cheaper than adding a discussion board to your company’s website but it allows the same one-on-one conversations. (Not to mention that by using Facebook in this way you don’t have to manage spam and other malicious activity on a discussion board).
Ning is like an invitation to a private bar. You cannot participate in a Ning group without an invitation. You can see the group’s home page, but you will not be able to see members, discussions or any other information the group members have added to the site – as Dustin the Turkey would say “Yer name’s not on de list” (in his best Dublin accent).
Ning is a useful tool for creating virtual meeting places for loosely-affiliated groups. I’ve seen this used well for things as diverse as the Travel Bloggers Exchange group and a support page for a Seattle mayoral candidate.
So, do the analogies help explain the use and function of these social media platforms a little better for you? Or do you have a better description? Leave a comment.
Getting Started With Social Media