Pirate Talk

Saw a great feature in Facebook today that changes the native language to English Pirate. Made me really laugh and it is easy to do … 1) Scroll to the bottom of your Facebook page. 2) On the bottom left corner, click English: US. 3) When the language selection appears, click English: Pirate. 4) watch what happens. Nice when there are still things that can make me laugh.


Private Networks

I read an interesting post by danah boyd this morning titled, “Twitter is for friends; Facebook is for everybody” that lays out an interesting teen use case for Twitter in light of Facebook’s continued growth and popularity. We’ve known for some time that the age demographic on Twitter is skewed much more towards my place on the spectrum than say college kids or teens. We also know that more and more high school (and middle school) kids are adopting either Facebook or MySpace as a place to connect and socialize with friends. It is in that point that danah makes a really interesting observation when she says the following in response to a high school student named Dylan that she recently interviewd …

What Dylan is pointing out is that the issue is that Facebook is public (to everyone who matters) and Twitter can be private because of the combination of tools AND the fact that it’s not broadly popular.

What she is saying is that because Facebook is so over the top popular with teens, their parents, relatives, and nearly everyone else that Facebook itself might as well be public. Sure it has a lock on the front door, but if every single person you know in real life has that key then there really aren’t any secrets. What is fascinating to me is the behavior “in the know” teens are exhibiting in Twitter to game this “openly private” conundrum they are in … they create private Twitter accounts so only their real friends (not Mom and Dad) can have access to. So FB becomes the place they shout everything, while Twitter is under the radar enough that they can whisper quietly to each other. Amazingly simple and amazingly smart. danah goes on to wonder if Twitter continues to become more popular will teens end up with yet another social network where they really aren’t free to be? Good question.

In my mind I see the same kind of thing emerging in my own social network use — I need different platforms to do different things. Facebook is overrun and I cannot use it like I really want to. Too many people have access to my profile for me to post some of the content I might want to post. Sure FB has the message features, but they feel really out of place — almost like I am violating some code of conduct by sending a private message to a single person in my network instead of writing it proudly on their wall. The Twitter direct message feels very different and I use that quite a bit more. I’ve felt the same pain with IM … over time I collect too many people that add way too much noise to my communications channels and have to create a new account. It seems like we are stuck in this loop and until something more like Google Wave hits we may be stuck in it. Any thoughts?

Doing it Right?

I had a crazy day yesterday … not that I am complaining, as I spent it with smart people near or at the top of the decision making chain here at PSU. I spent all morning and into the afternoon talking to a couple of groups about social media, social networks, and their potential for impact on students. I was asked over and over again how we as administrators and as an Institution should take advantage of Facebook (and blogs and twitter, and …). The rooms were filled with people of varying levels of comfort with social media sites so you could almost draw a line down the middle between “these sites make no sense” and “we absolutely need to be there.” The interesting thing I kept hearing was that students don’t want us there and that has me thinking about one simple question — Should Universities maintain an official Facebook presence?

Before I get too far down the path let me say that I am not talking about individual professors adding students as friends. I am talking strictly about an Institutional commitment to taking part in the network. As an example I can point you to my alma mater, West Virginia University, where they have (as it appears) made a serious decision about embracing everyone’s favorite social network.

WVU on Facebook

WVU on Facebook

What I wonder is if we need to be there? Should we use our resources (in time and people) to build a strong brand in FB? What does it yield? A place for alumni to reconnect (do they need us for that)? A place where we can do targeted marketing (can’t we do that in FB without a space)? A place to alert students of issues on campus (I hate to think we are relying on FB as our broadcast engine)? I’m just not sure.

There’s been all sorts of chatter about how to deal with the rapidly expanding demographic and how to personally segment the network based on who you want to see your updates. To me what that means is that we are seeing a network that is growing up. What was once the haven of a few geeks and a whole bunch of college kids has turned into a social network with an emerging identity crisis. It is no longer the land of twenty somethings … my Mom, Mother-in-Law, as are parents of my friends are on FB and know how to use it relatively well so something is afoot. Take into account the following from iStrategyLabs as an example …

The biggest surprise (perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising) was that Facebook’s 35-54 year old demographic segment not only continued to grow the fastest, but it accelerated to a 276.4% growth rate over the past 6 months.

Basically what I’m saying is that it isn’t just for college kids anymore … there are now lots of people to think about. So, I’ll return to my question, should Universities maintain an official Facebook presence? Anyone have any thoughts?