Social media is a quickly evolving landscape. Just a few years ago, MySpace was flourishing; now, it is almost a ghost town. Facebook dominates most social media activity, but other platforms such as Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, and Pinterest are becoming more common for everyday social media users. Even social video is more mainstream, as several startups are taking the initiative to revolutionize the method by which we communicate. The problem with several of these platforms is that many have failed to provide an adequate platform to do just that: communicate. Many platforms require users to truncate their thoughts in one way or another; Twitter limits your thoughts to 140 characters, and some YouTube videos are still limited to 15 minutes. Other services require invites as they build out the capacity. Tumblr is inherently designed to share media, as is Pinterest. Until Google+ launched earlier this year, social media users were limited to sharing longer, written thoughts either via a blog or on Facebook — and it wasn’t until September, when the character limit was increased from 500 to 5,000, that Facebook was even a viable option for writing much more than a few sentences.
This increase in September was a direct result of the launch of Google+, which offered a character limit of 100,000 in posts as well as privacy filters that Facebook was also lacking at the time. As a result, some early adopters immediately clamored to use Google+ as their new portal for all things social, including blogging. Kevin Rose went so far as to announce he was redirecting his personal domain name to his Google+ profile as he found the social network gave him more real-time feedback and engagement. The community he found on Google+ that was lacking elsewhere was primarily a result of the structure of Google+, as it provided the ability for more content that was more accessible to both his friends and fans.
This week, Facebook increased its character limit again — this time, to over 60,000 characters. (This is about 13,000 words, which is quite a bit longer than a blog post of this length.) This change by Facebook, combined with the recent upgrades to Facebook lists (which have always existed, but are now much more prominent and easier to use), places Facebook on at least the same playing field as Google+, and notably with many more users. Let’s face it: Facebook is encroaching on 1 billion users, while Google+ only has only slightly more than 40 million users. Even big brands like Starbucks are having a difficult time acquiring not only the same fan base, but seeing the same level of engagement as found on Facebook. This might actually mean, with the same features as Google+, Facebook is in a better position.
But if users of Google+, such as Kevin Rose, thought that the all-in-one package lent to using the social network as a blogging platform, too, does that mean Facebook users should act accordingly? The simple answer is no. Just as these Google+ users banking on risky terms that gave Google ownership of all content that the user shared on Google+, Facebook users are at the helm of Facebook when sharing content, whether it is in the form of photos, text, or other types of media. Should any content you share or your entire profile get flagged for inappropriate content — even if it is not — you risk the possibility of losing everything. For those who are developing a personal brand or using Facebook as a business, this could make or break the stability of your future. Not only is writing blog posts in Facebook risky business, but users just don’t want to see it. When I polled a few of my friends on Facebook, some said that they think that seeing blog pots on Facebook would be “annoying.” Another said that “it’s called micro-blogging for a reason.” While social media is indeed evolving, users do not want to read what amounts to a thesis in their news feed. Facebook is not a blog platform, and should not be used like a blog.
That said, Facebook is a great platform for cultivating community and building brand awareness, as is the plethora of other social networks. I’ve made the argument before that brands should be especially keen on discovering which platforms in particular their audience and customers use to share and discover content and ensure they have a social presence on that network. However, if you are creating unique content, it is important that you retain ownership rights to that content. Taking a few minutes to set up a free blog on a site like WordPress.com will ensure that your content remains in your control. You can then use your blog posts as a conversation piece on other social networks and direct your fans and followers back to the blog post. If you really don’t want to take the time to develop an actual blog, consider using Tumblr. It’s one of the few social networks that actually allows users to retain the rights to content shared, and as we wrote earlier, it’s also a great way to generate brand awareness with its viral design.
What do you think about the changes Facebook is making? Would you write a Facebook update with 60,000 characters? (For reference, this post consists of 5,943 characters.) Would you even read an update that long on Facebook? Let us know what you think in the comments.