I [heart] Twitter. Such a simple service with so much power. But it just hasn’t won me over the way a certain, special social network has. There are just so many more friendly people, fun games, interesting pictures, and gifts. It’s so complex, and full of character. You know which one I’m talking about: Facebook.
Twitter may be popular with us media types. But the rest of the world hangs out in Facebook. “It’s like email with other stuff,” my 24-year-old brother, James, tells me over Skype from Austin. He works as a bike delivery guy for Whole Foods in one of America’s most plugged in cities. “I’ve heard of Twitter. I know older people who use it,” he says, clarifying that old means me — 29 and over the hill. “But Twitter moves too fast. I don’t have to do anything to use Facebook.”
This voyeuristic channel offers just enough privacy, plenty of fun and games, and a passive platform to keep tabs on anyone who will let you be their “friend”. (Contrary to the experts, people can have way more than 150 friends.) Oh yes, and before I forget, Facebook has news.
News is the new sweet in the redesigned candy shop. And our friends at Facebook are telling all of us how we can use our news feed to get the news — not just the latest photos of some girl we knew in high school. Match that with analysts showing Facebook’s rising star as a news source against the big three — Google, Yahoo, and MSN — and I wonder: Does my little brother actually engage with news in his 2-to-20 minute daily stops on Facebook? So I ask him.
“No,” James says. But news to me isn’t news to him. News is like a bowl of shredded wheat. What he reads are Lucky Charms — something he actually wants to consume. So he doesn’t call it news. Facebook is his hyperpersonal news stream, unfettered by the Austin American-Statesman or CNN. (He’s not a fan.)
I keep prodding. ”Some of your friends are probably interested in agri-business and urban farming, like you. Do they ever link to stories in their status update?”
The light switches on. “Yeah, of course. That’s how I found out Monsanto’s genetically modified corn is linked to organ failure.” The headline certainly inspires awe and disbelief. So I quickly search for this story, and bam. The write up in The Huffington Post has been “shared” on Facebook 6,797 times. Compare that to 1,105 “tweets”, and the winner is clear.
So why are so many hyperlocal startups ignoring the behemoth of social media? Facebook has so much to offer, like more than 200 million people. The Secret London phenomenon shows what this critical mass of people can do for a startup — even if the Big Smoke is far from hyperlocal. And this mass are fairly regular Joes — or James — that like to identify where they live, what they like and what they’re doing. So while I’ve received plenty of interest in my own hyperlocal blog set off by tweets @LlandaffNews, I’m not sure if many — or any — of the “tweeps” live in Llandaff.
Twitter is too simple for its own good. It may be a starting point for little, local newsfeeds, but its not the full package for building a network. Right now, I want Facebook, in all its alluring complexity. It’s the social medium the cult of hyperlocal needs to crack next — until something else comes along. Have you heard the buzz?
P.S. If I’m missing a brilliant example of hyperlocal meets Facebook, please share. I would love for someone to give me a Valentine’s Day treat.