Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is Social Networking Replacing Anything Or Just Doing Its Own Thing?

Becky Levine had an interesting post at her blog a couple of weeks ago on whether or not Facebook and Twitter will replace author websites and blogs. What was particularly interesting was that some of her commenters didn't seem that enthused for seeing that happen.

I am all about communication. Social networking sites like Facebook may be fine for socializing, but I don't see the kind of quick communication happening on Facebook pages that happens on a well-done website. When I want information on authors new to me, I want to immediately find links that will take me to a page describing their work, a link to a page describing their background, and a link to a page describing their appearances. I want neat, orderly information that I can get to quickly. If I don't find it, I leave.

Look at the difference between Meg Cabot's Facebook page and her website. Now, maybe if I signed up for Facebook, I could get more content about her. But I don't have to do anything to get a whole lot of content from her website. If I am a brand new Cabot reader who has been living in a cave for the last decade, I can find out about her books, I can read her bio, I can see what's new in her work life, and I can find out how to buy her books. If the information isn't actually on the homepage, a link is there that will take me to what I want to know. Her website can grab me and pull me in with facts, facts, facts.

I think part of the reason people want to move away from websites is that for most of us websites are difficult to create and maintain. You may need a computer guy to do it for you. Money will often change hands. Blogs are much easier. Companies provide a sort of template and usually don't even charge for it. But I've said it before and I'll say it again--blogs are not websites! They serve a different function! They are about personality. Websites are about information.

From what I understand, Facebook is pretty easy to use, too. But it still seems to serve a different function. It's called a social networking site. Social. Websites, on the other hand, are informational.

Twitter appears to try to merge the personality of a blog with the social networking of something like Facebook. That's fine if you like that sort of thing, but does Twitter offer the information traditionally found at websites? Can a reader of a 140 character tweet immediately find information about authors' books? If not, then Twitter isn't replacing websites. I can see why writers might like it because if you do have a following, you can remind them you exist all day long. But that means its function is different from a website's function.

Different is totally fine. Different doesn't mean replace, though.

Besides, some people think Twitter is for old people. I don't know why. Maybe the theory is the elderly have attention spans that will only hold up for 140 characters.

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