Posts making your crazy? Folks on Facebook revealing a bit too much about the values behind their facade? Tweets flittering by as if there can’t be content in a few dozen characters? LinkedIn seeming to be so dull that it isn’t worth watching? Yeah, me, too. But what’s really there and why am I willing to spend time, precious time, the most precious resource on social media? I’m a geek. Arm-waving and considering anecdotes isn’t as satisfying as taking data. Here are a few insights into how Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn fit into my life, if at all.
Here’s how I did it in case: 1) you’re curious, or 2) you want to check out the same thing for yourself, or 3) both.
Of the dozen or more social media sites where I have accounts, I only regularly spend time on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You’re welcome to go have fun on Pinterest, Instagram, and others. Similar data can be gathered there, too. For each of my main three platforms I scrolled through four hours of posts (which takes much less than four hours if I ignore the content). Each post or tweet was informally, unscientifically, and rather quickly categorized as social, meme, advocacy, entrepreneurial, commercial, or news.
Social – “Hey, look at what happened in my life.”
Meme – “Hey, this has nothing to do with me, but it is cute, or pretty, or funny.”
Advocacy – “Someone needs to do something about this!”
Entrepreneurial – “You must know me because we’re friends or connections or following each other; which is why I know you need to know about my business. Buy now!”
Commercial – “Hi, I’m a mega-corp trying to look all friendly-like and you should “Buy Now!”
News – “Here’s the news but without advocacy or agenda from trusted sources – as much as possible in November 2020.”
Every social media platform has some combination of these kinds of posts. Your categories and mix will be different. Mine skews towards data and away from politics, until politics begins crashing into budgets. One of my other blogs is Pretending Not To Panic, news that is “for people who are eager and anxious about the future”, news that is significant, based on facts, data, logic, and ideally apolitical. Apolitical. Ha! Several years ago I fed that site a few posts a day. November 2020, zero; none so far this month. That observation helped prompt this study.
How much of what I’m seeing is truly social, or simply news, or highly opinionated, or really just another ad?
So, I counted. And now my eyes are a bit bleary, but I haven’t done this in about three years, and may not feel the need for a few more years. (Wasting Time on Facebook, October 2017)
Here we go. Data. Charts!
Do you want social? Facebook rules. And yet, when I joined Facebook (twelve?) years ago every post was social 100%. As I recall, we couldn’t even include links. Photos were a new thing. In 2017, that was down to 25%. Now, 20%. That’s much more social than the other two, but it also shows that about 80% of the posts have little or nothing to do with being social. It’s now more common to see things created by others and shared. Original content is fading. People are more caring though. Maybe this is a measure of November 2020, but about 25% of the posts are exhorting people to action. Being a moderate with a wonderfully eclectic collection of friends, this also means I see extremes that may only reach each other by meeting at infinity approached from opposite directions.
Twitter has the news, at least in my feed. About 2/3 of what I see is either news or opinion. News plus advocacy pulls in most of the traffic. There’s a great grey area between supposedly academic discourse of current events and how to interpret those events. One handy feature is seeing the different opinions beside each other. Sure, Twitter now runs ads, but they’re only about 15%; more than Facebook but far less than LinkedIn.
Ah, LinkedIn. The most purposely boring of the sites, even though that’s where work is getting done, or at least announced, or where folks are asking for work or trying to hire people. It’s not a surprise that an environment like that is home to ads. The surprise is that so many non-profits are on the site that there’s more advocacy there than on the other sites – at least in my feed.
A few other observations:
Small businesses are busier on Facebook. Corporations are posting more to LinkedIn.
All three are giving voice to advocacy, which can also mean very free and sometimes commentary that is less self-critical.
Four hours held ~180 posts on Facebook, ~520 tweets, and ~53 LinkedIn posts. I’ll leave it to you to decide how to balance quality and quantity.
For me, this is not academic. It cost me a few hours of time to compile the data, but as I’ve said frequently, time is the most precious resource. Why shouldn’t I analyze the way I spend time to a greater degree than how I spend that less precious resource called money? Personal finance in a hectic world should consider both. In 2020, there doesn’t seem to be enough of either.
If I wasn’t working I know I’d spend less time on social media. A double cost or double benefit, depending on my financial perspective. Social media is how I run my business. Social media is a remarkable tool. I make remarks about it frequently, sometimes accompanied by grumbles of frustration. I’ve taught classes on how to use it for business and advocacy. And those lessons continue to change.
Social media is free, at least financially. It costs me time. My activity, all of our activities on their sites make them money. Someone has to pay for the servers, the service, and the updates (whether we want them or not.) Free, as in no fee, however, is hard to ignore for an entrepreneur.
I’m sure this little analysis will trickle through my brain as I ponder options and alternatives. Facebook is adding so many features that it crashes my browser, hence I am using it less; even though it has the largest audience. Twitter is my preferred site because it is easier to get useful news, and occasionally directly contact corporations’ Help Centers. LinkedIn, boring LinkedIn, will stay in the rotation because, while it offers less, it also offers more credible connections. All of them include enough friends, real people, that each has a community worth visiting.
I don’t expect many others to do this. How OCD, anal-retentive, and bored must someone be to do such a thing? I will, but we all that ain’t normal. Maybe about every three years seems about right.
Now, it’s time for me to finish this post, add some links, engaging graphics, hashtags and keywords, and then share it out to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And it all goes round, and round, and round. See you on the feed.