The recent launch Google Buzz (s goog) brought to light one of the most common problems with participating in many social networks: duplication of posts. Whether you’re using social networks as an individual or on behalf of an organization, the problem of “crossing the streams” remains the same.
For example, Google Buzz allows you to connect many of your other social networks, which means whenever you send a tweet on Twitter or share a photo on Flickr (s yhoo), the same things appear in your Buzz stream. While this sounds productive and gives maximum exposure with the least effort, it risks annoying large numbers of people who are following you because they’re seeing the same information multiple times.
The problem stems from the fact that the majority of people in our social circles don’t exist in just one stream, so if we try to aggregate our messages to cross-post to multiple networks then that means exposing these folks to repetitive posts ad nauseam. To those we annoy, our posts increasingly look like “noise.”
The Noise Makers
The most popular ways that people share their posts across many platforms at one time automatically are with social aggregation services such as FriendFeed and Ping.fm. There are many others in this space, but those are two of the most popular and powerful apps available today. Detractors call these tools “noise makers” because of the digital pollution they dump into the social streams, contaminating the social ecosystem.
Personally, I like automation and the way these two apps work because of all the options they provide. For example, FriendFeed allows you to add just about all of the social networks and the RSS feeds of your blogs. Whenever someone subscribes to your FriendFeed stream they will see everything you share.
The nice thing about FriendFeed, though, is that it allows you to hide or mute any streams you don’t care to see from a particular person, without blocking them entirely. So, people can see your company’s Twitter updates but they could hide/mute your personal Flickr and Youtube updates and so on. Unfortunately, Google Buzz doesn’t yet offer that level of complexity so it’s either feast or famine at this point — people must subscribe to all of your updates, or none. That’s not to say that Google won’t implement this vital feature somewhere down the road.
Divide and Conquer
So, how can you avoid being so “noisy?” Well, some will insist on separation of social streams. However, this goal is very difficult to implement and maintain, at least on a consistent basis. Let’s say you’ve decided to stop repeating yourself across the social landscape. Obviously, you will have to stop using social aggregators such as FriendFeed and Ping.fm. You must also ensure that you’ve not connected feeds from any of your networks to any of the others, such as with Google Buzz. The goal will be to keep your streams as clean and pure as possible. This also means not using desktop clients such as TweetDeck, Seesmic Desktop or whatever to cross-post simultaneous updates to Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.
The Downside of Solo Streams
Let’s say that you’ve been able to isolate all of your social networks and now none of the things you share are regurgitated on other networks. The good news is that you can never be labeled a litterbug or perceived as noisy by the minimalists. The bad news is that this means most people will never see/read/hear most of your content any more, because most people don’t belong to all the same networks that you do. Thus, the people who never use anything other than Facebook will never see your special announcement on Twitter for a new sale that your company has going on. Conversely, the same is true for those who only use Twitter and never go to Facebook; they will never see your messages on your firm’s Facebook page.
Moderation is the Key
I think the best answer is moderation. As in all things in life, over-indulgence of anything is a bad thing. I think it makes sense, especially for businesses and organizations, to connect some of their social platforms in order to ensure that their message (and their brand) gets distributed to the most people with the minimum amount of effort. Will they then be duplicating themselves and crossing streams from time to time? Yes, they will, and I say, “so what?” Mainstream media has been doing this for a long time now, using many different platforms such as TV, billboards, magazine ads, etc.. The secret is in not abusing the powerful tools that we have today. The goal isn’t to saturate, but to satisfy. Spread the word and engage your community.
Rolling Your Own Social Stream Aggregator
If you still like the idea of having all of your content in one place and don’t want to risk being too noisy with apps like Friendfeed, then perhaps hosting your own social stream can be the answer. This means streaming all of your links and messages on your own web site or blog, which could be the perfect solution for businesses and organizations. There are many ways to do this. For example, LifeStream is a plugin that I’ve covered before in “3 Ways to Create a LifeStream for Your Brand.” In short, it lets you add all of your social network streams to your blog. You can create a widget or a page that will display everything you share on places like Twitter, Flickr, Youtube and many other places in chronological order. I think it might be one way to have your cake and eat it too.
What do you think about “crossing streams” and digital noise pollution? Please share your opinions in the comments. We’d love to hear your take on this.
Related GigaOM Pro Research: Social Media in the Enterprise