Have you ever thought about what really makes your social networks different? How do the relationships differ? For me, my connections on LinkedIn are those who I have done business with and respect, or trust enough to be part of my professional network. On Facebook, my filter is mainly people I would want to share pictures of my kids with. Twitter is my addiction. I love the rapid flow and variety of information I get, as well as the ability to constantly find something new.
When I talk to people about this, some of them have a sense of why they use each of these networks, while other people are just on them because someone else is. I have used the image above when I talk about various social networks in presentations. The point is that each of your social networks has a purpose, and more importantly, a context in which you formed the relationships you have on them. For me there is little overlap between the three networks I use the most. The people that do overlap on more than one have a deeper relationship with me.
What is the relationship context of each of these networks?
For most people, LinkedIn is filled with relationships that existed first outside of the platform. The relationships were formed because you and I worked together, or have done business together in the past. These are existing relationships that you bring to the platform.
Facebook has a huge amount of people on the platform. Most of the connections are your friends, family, or people you went to high school or college with. These are all based on pre-existing relationships. You might have some things in common with these people, or you might not- They may just be people you "know", so you connect.
Twitter is different. While there are people I know from an existing relationship, that is only 1% of the people I am connected to here. This network is made up of the subjects that I am interested in. I build multiple sub-networks based on the things I care about - Social media, virtualization, IT security, web design, NBA, news, etc.
This is what makes Twitter different and exciting for me. Facebook and LinkedIn have groups around subjects of interest, and these are great, but they have yet to reach the scale of Twitter. For the masses, Facebook and LinkedIn are about bringing together existing relationships regardless of subject.
Because of these different relationship contexts, my usage of each network varies quite a bit. Twitter is open all the time because the things I care about happen there. Facebook can get checked once a day to catch up on what my friends are doing. I have joined a few private groups of people that have similar interests and this has changed my usage of Facebook some, but not at the scale of Twitter. LinkedIn gets checked on occasion, but most people I know look at it when they need to do something for their career, or when the network update email comes out.
When I stop to think about the differing nature of my relationships within these three networks, it clarifies the value I get from each, and how I can use them best.
What do you think? How do you see your relationships in these networks?