Facebook takes another shot @ Twitter

Anyone on Twitter is familiar with the use of the @ sign as a way to identify people you are referencing in your tweets. Now, folks on Facebook are going to start using the @ sign more, too, even though you won’t see it.

facebook tag screenshotFacebook announced yesterday it is going to start allowing its users to tag people in their status updates the way they’ve been tagging them in photos, notes, etc.

According to the social networking giant’s blog:

As you type the name of what you would like to reference, a drop-down menu will appear that allows you to choose from your list of friends and other connections, including groups, events, applications and Pages.

The difference between what you see on Twitter vs. what you see on Facebook when using the @ sign is really about what you won’t see. Facebook will automatically turn your @ reference into a link, so the status update will show the person or page you’ve referenced as a link and the @ sign will disappear.

I can’t help but think how much Facebook is trying to become a competitor to Twitter when, in reality, they fulfill different functions. Still, with the announcement of Facebook Lite earlier this summer, this addition of @ tagging isn’t surprising. It sounds like the Lite version is arriving in bits and pieces.

It will be interesting to see how much of a ruckus this new status update tagging feature causes for the rabid Facebook fans who are opposed to change. What will their Facebook protest group be called? Facebook says you’ll be able to untag yourself from someone’s status update, the way you can now from photos and videos. But that won’t be enough for those folks who want to remain anonymous on a public social network.

Still, this move isn’t about Facebook vs. Twitter. It’s about information searching and marketing and how that’s going to change from Google searches and performance review sites to a crowd sourcing model.

There’s an old saying that goes, “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.” That’s about to become even more true for Facebook users as the what you’re doing can now be easily linked to whom you’re doing it with.

(Screen shot courtesy of Facebook.)

Michigan Lawmakers Aren’t Tweeting, Yet

The state Capitol newsletter, MIRS, recently wrote an article about Michigan legislators using Facebook and Twitter — or perhaps it’s better to say it’s about how they aren’t using those two social networking sites.

I think it’s clear from the article that some legislators, like Rep. Barb Byrum, get it and some, like Rep. Wayne Schmidt, don’t. As I said in the article, it’s probably going to take a few good wins under their belt that can be attributed to the use of social media and social networking before the two major political parties realize this is something they can’t ignore. On the other hand, perhaps having them ignore it long enough for a third-party candidate to make good use of it and swoop in to office wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all!

I’m reprinting the article here, which normally is available only via subscription. Because of that, indulge me while I make a quick pitch that for people who want to know what’s going on in Michigan government, both out front and behind the scenes, a MIRS subscription is one of the best investments you can make.

Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, Page Two:

70% Of Lawmakers Use Facebook, 20% Tweet
A strong majority in both the House and Senate have pages on the social networking site Facebook, but the “Twitter” fad has yet to catch on as strong, with only 20 percent of lawmakers registered to that Web site and even fewer using the medium regularly.

A review of both social networking sites by MIRS revealed that at least 24 Senators and 80 members of the House are on Facebook. Only nine Senators and 21 House members are on Twitter.

The legislators’ use of both of these sites vary wildly, however, from Rep. Barb BYRUM‘s (D-Onondaga) expansive list of 377 followers on Twitter and multi-day “tweet” postings to lawmakers who appeared to have set up a Twitter account, then done little else.

But according to Michigan State University instructor Ari ADLER, these numbers are bound to go up as incoming legislators take advantage of this free way to connect with, check-in with and update more constituents.

“This is the modern-day version of the grassroots movement,” Adler said. “It’s not about organizing people in the neighborhoods. That’s still important, but the on-line community is the new neighborhood, so to speak.”

A growing number of people are learning they can share information faster and easier by publishing their own commentary on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. That’s good for politicians, who used to be at the mercy of the news media to get their message out. Now, politicians can print whatever information they want the world to see, he said.

The only cost, he said, is time. Those wanting to use social media to get a message out do need to set aside some time in a given day to get their message out, Adler said. Also, he added, it helps if the politician puts up the posts as opposed to staffers doing it.

“It’s about a conversation,” he said. “It’s not a broadcast medium.”

Adler said the success of Byrum’s Twitter and Facebook page is that she updates it several times a day and mixes in funny anecdotes from her day (on Monday she cut six inches off her hair) with news about her coffee hours.

“I think it’s important that elected officials are accountable and it’s important for people to know what we’re up to,” said Byrum, who can update her status as much as 12 times a day. “It’s also important to communicate with people through the medium they feel more comfortable using. For some, this is the way they prefer to contact me.”

To avoid any conflict with House rules, Byrum said she posts all of her tweets and Facebook updates on her personal phone.

Rep. Wayne SCHMIDT (R-Traverse City) recently signed up to Twitter and has 21 “followers.”

He said he’s trying out the new way to update people on his activities, but said finding the time for it and balancing what he posts will be the biggest challenge.

“E-mails replaced memos and letters. Instant messaging and texting replaced the telephone call. ‘Tweeting’ doesn’t really replace anything,” Schmidt said. “It’s a ‘Hey, here’s what I’m doing.’ It’s a huge time suck.”

“Quite frankly, I don’t think my friends care if I’m in the grocery store. But my constituents may care if I’m at the Kalkaska Fair.”

Hey, Big Brother, over here — the copy

Below is a post I did for Digital Pivot. While there is some overlap, this blog tends to get visitors who don’t read Digital Pivot, and I think the question is a valid one for everyone, so I wanted to see if there were some folks here that would comment, too:

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1984-coverI’ve had the topic of personal vs. professional online activity come up in Twitter discussions and during presentations to folks wanting to explore social media. It seems that whether we’ve been at this for a while or it’s a strange new playground, none of us are really very comfortable making a decisive argument about how your personal and professional life should or shouldn’t collide via your online activities. (I wonder how George Costanza would survive the Internet!?!)

If I make a bad pun or a risque comment on Twitter, and it’s been known to happen, should that impact how people treat me at work? If a picture of me gets posted on Facebook or Flickr for the world to see and I’m doing something that others wouldn’t agree with, is that a problem for me in a business meeting later? If a blog post I write is written specifically to provoke a discussion but someone who does business with my company disagrees, will that come back to haunt my employer?

David Mullen recently blogged about how teens and twenty-somethings may start to leave Facebook because they’re finding it too creepy to have family members befriending them, among other reasons. But as the comments responding to his blog point out, there isn’t anywhere these folks are going to go where they won’t be facing the same problem. And it’s a problem a lot of us are facing or will face at some point in our careers.

Obviously, if you do something illegal, profane or just plain idiotic and post it for the world to see, then there’s no question you’ll feel the repercussions later. But is the line between personal life and business life now blended so much that it’s becoming imaginary?

What should we be telling people looking to join us in the online universe? Is this like Big Brother watching everything we’re doing, only we’re some sort of insane masochists who volunteer to be watched?

How do we caution them about the downside without scaring them off? Should we be scaring them just enough that they think twice before posting something — or maybe even three times? Or does that defeat the whole point of the instant communication, instant reaction, instant gratification world of Web 2.0 that so many of us find attractive?

Please offer your opinions below — don’t make me write something provocative just to elicit a response. My boss might not like it.  😉

Maybe you can’t go home again

mottLet’s face it, Facebook is an amazing thing. The ability of a social networking site to bring people together is incredible. Being able to reconnect with old friends and colleagues, and to become more closely connected with new friends and colleagues is a great thing.

But there’s also a bit of Facebook that makes me think the adage, “You can’t go home again” is true. I’ve reconnected with a few high school classmates, some former colleagues and friends who, at the time, I never thought I’d lose touch with, but did.

This morning I got caught in the Facebook trap and spent a lot more time on it than I ever intended. It was because of a friend suggestion someone made about another person — a person I didn’t recognize and couldn’t remember. So I spent some time looking through my senior high school yearbook to find this person and jog my memory.

That search got me thinking about the people from high school and what they’re up to now. I doubt anyone would guess what’s happened in my life since we donned those dorky caps and gowns back in 1985. So, I figured, it would be nice to reconnect with comrades from Waterford Mott High School and see what they’re up to.

So I did a Facebook search for those who have listed themselves as being from my alma mater. I didn’t find any. I don’t think I did, anyway. There are a couple of people listed that I remember from my senior class — but we’ve already found each other on Facebook. There were a couple of people who I thought might be someone I remember, but their name isn’t unique enough to prove it’s really them, and their pictures are of people at least 20 years older than the last time I saw them. (To be fair, anyone looking for me might trigger on the unusual name, but my on-line persona is a green peanut M&M, so I’m not helping other searchers out, either.) ari_mm

What I did discover while searching for Mott alumni was the following, in no particular order:

  • People on Facebook really should think twice, and maybe three times, about what they use for their picture. (Says the guy who looks like a green peanut M&M – yeah, whatever, deal with it.)
  • The current students at Mott seem to have a flair for posting pictures of themselves that have more shock value than most. (Here’s hoping they take them down before looking for a job…)
  • “I can’t believe that’s what ____ looks like now!” (Assuming that’s really them.)
  • I wonder what people think when they see my page and get a glimpse of my life when they search for Waterford Mott alumni.
  • This is depressing — people that graduated back in the 1980s look older than seems possible and people going there now all look so, well, young. (Yeah age is a perception thing, but it also can be a slap-in-the-face reality check when you least expect it.)
  • Maybe you can’t go home again.

That last bullet point may seem depressing, and I don’t mean it to be. But the reality is “home” isn’t there anymore. Now, granted, I moved around a lot as a kid, so I don’t have the type of hometown feeling that someone like my fiancee might, because she grew up in the same house in the same town, and her parents still live there. She “goes home” all the time.

Maybe it’s better to think another old saying really is true, too. “Home is where the heart is.” I have a wonderful fiancee, I have two beautiful kids. I have a great job, I have a nice house. I like the community I’m living in and have wonderful friends here. This is where I belong. This is where I am happy.

Maybe the issue is that “you can’t go home again” is misleading. Perhaps we don’t need to “go home,” because home comes to you.

That sounds better and a lot less depressing. OK, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.