Multiple Audiences, Multiple Networks

When I helped relaunch XPN‘s online presence over 10 years ago, our biggest concern was unifying the experience across multiple platforms. At the time, it still felt strange to shepherd your audience from your on-air stream to your online content. Moving somebody from an FM signal to a blog page felt wrong, and I know radio and television program directors still wrestle with this challenge. (“Why would I tell my audience to stop listening to the station, where we play expensive ads, and play a video on our website?”)

We couldn’t have predicted, back then, that individuals would start having the same dilemmas with personal online publishing. Lori and I finally caught up on our Netflix queue and watched The Social Network over the weekend. The first act made me strangely nostalgic, when the only way a drunken Mark Zuckerberg could express himself online was through his LiveJournal account. Today, he’s got a few different places to vent: like his Facebook wall and his Google+ stream.

Because freelance writers and ghost writers like me usually get paid by the word, I prefer Twitter. 140 characters offer the right kind of constraint, especially if I want to fly off the handle about something. Once I reach character #141, I’ll consider finding a client willing to pay me for my rant, or whether it’s better for the world if I just let it rest for 24 hours. I use Momento on my iPhone to capture those Things I Should Not Say to Anyone, and I guess my friends worry that I’m depriving them of some quality entertainment by doing so.

Lately, some of my colleagues expressed concern that I’ve been very “private,” which I find hilarious. But I see where they’re coming from. Instead of oversharing like I used to, I’ve been funneling my ideas and experiences into my book projects and my blogs at spinme.com, cardratings.com, and rittenhouser.com. Even when each of those sites ping my social streams, they’re maybe a little too formal and infrequent by comparison.

So, I’ve been hanging out on Facebook a lot more, connecting with my friends in highly non-promotional ways. And when some of my friends invited me over to Google+, I hopped on. Unlike Kevin Rose, I’m probably not going to abandon all of my other streams. Honestly, he’s like the Stern of bloggers. If you really love what he has to say, you’ll follow him to whatever service he’s on.

However, my recent experience taught me that I don’t have that luxury. My audiences live on the services where they’re comfortable. And it looks like we’re about to enter a period that can support at least three viable social networking services.

  • Twitter: I post most often there, but I find that my audience here is more often the folks that have read my books or want to engage me in some way. It’s become my primary mode of personal communication, in many ways. Like I say on my contact page, I’m pretty much wired to respond really quickly to a Twitter mention or a DM.
  • Facebook: This is where my mom lives. And that’s been good and bad. I’ve worried about being authentic here, because of complexity in my work and personal lives.
  • Google+: I have a sense that the level of control Google+ gives me over where my posts go can help me be more authentic and unfiltered here. But my audience here is still very limited.

Most of us will probably pick the single service we love the most and “live” there. (I have certainly heard this about the Tumblr subculture, but I just don’t see myself living there without diluting my online presence even further.) In my case, I’ve got to respect that I use each social platform for a mix of personal and promotional reasons. Each audience is different, and I may even have to learn how to “steer” some folks from one platform to another when it’s appropriate, just like we did at the radio station.

When I really want to express myself in a way that requires some formality and permanence, I’ll craft a post right here to my personal blog. And I’ll “share” that post to every service I’m on. But don’t be surprised if I’m carrying on three different conversations about each post on all three of my preferred social networks. My audiences drive those discussions, and I’ve got to honor who shows up.

Discuss this post with me over on my Google+ page.