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Social Networks: Compatible or Competitive?

I was in Las Vegas, but it wasn't all just spending quality time with blogging buddies.  There was work to do - we were there for the Social Health track (sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, MedPage Today, Alliance Health, Campaign for Nursing, and WEGO Health) to help inform others about the discussions taking place in the medical blogosphere, and the power of these communities. 

The panel that I was participating on was Social Networks & The Medical Blogosphere:  Compatible or Competitive, with fellow panelists Kevin Pho and Bryan Vartabedian, moderated by the fabulous Kim McAllister.  The big question was "Are these social networking technologies helping or hurting the blogosphere?" 

The BlogWorld Panel - Kerri Sparling, Kevin Pho, and Bryan Vartabedian
Our BlogWorld panel:  Kerri Sparling, Kevin Pho, and Bryan Vartabedian

We, as a panel, gave this a lot of thought as we prepared for our discussion, and we ultimately settled on the answer of "Well … both." 

Blogging was the first online venture I participated in.  Back in 2005, I started my blog to help me connect with and participate in inspiring a community of other people with diabetes.  At first, I started posting several times a month, then once a week or so, until I realized that I've been posting every weekday for the last three years.  The posts are written by me, for the most part, and the comments are from the readers I have been blessed enough to have over the years.

So I blogged for a few years, but then there was this whole crop of different social networking tools that came on the scene with prevalence and relevance, with Facebook and Twitter leading the pack.  Our panel was trying to figure out whether or not these new tools were helping move the blogosphere forward or assisting in clipping its wings.

For me, the blog is my online home.  It's public-facing, open to any reader (whether they comment or not - I love the lurkers), and it's where I write daily about my life with diabetes.  While I do have a Facebook page (two, actually - one for my family only and then one for everyone else) and an active Twitter account, I would delete both of those profiles if it came down to choosing between them and my blog.  I like having "home base."  It makes me feel safe.

But my blog is almost always a once-a-day post, with comment moderation and responses.  I don't have a running, real-time discussion on my blog, like I do on networks like Twitter and Facebook.  (Maybe because "social networks" have mobile apps?  Is it true that online adventures are going more mobile, and anything that's not easily accessible from a mobile device will be left behind?) 

One of the questions was about whether or not participating in social networks impedes content creation and participation on your blog.  While I do agree that lots of comments take place on Twitter and Facebook, instead of in the formal comments section of my site, I don't think this detracts from my site.  Actually, I think it helps extend its reach, in a controlled way.  Links are reTweeted all over the place and Facebook friends often leave comments on the Six Until Me page, so the discussion is taking place in a lot more venues, giving the chance for diabetes-related commentary to reach outside the confines of our little (but powerful!) blogosphere.

Sites like Twitter and Facebook help to drive traffic back to blog content.  Also, Facebook helps provide a more "shielded" area for health care discussions.  Twitter helps flesh out the patient personality behind the blog, giving real-time access to disease management strategies.  Twitter and Facebook also offer a place to share links that might not inspire a full blog post (or ones that don't have any diabetes relevance at all). Posting pictures and thoughts that I'd prefer to have either in short-form or "behind the wall."  Each different posting venue (i.e. blogging, Tweeting, or Facebook) has its own set of pros and cons.  But, without a doubt, all three can be time-consuming.

But there can be waaaaay too much naval-gazing on fast-paced sites - Twitter in particular - ("I just ate a croissant and am now covered in flaky bits.")  and it can be challenging to make a discussion point within the 140 character limit.  Also, applications like Foursquare can be very dangerous if people are givingThe battle of what tool will conquer the medical online community! too much information about their regular day's business.  Sharing information like that opens Tweeters up to stalking issues. 

What's the future?  I think blogs will remain in the mix, and a big part of the discussion. If a blogger can retain their editorial integrity and keep their online presence consistent, blogging and social media can and will go hand-in-hand.  I believe that people will phase out of the "Oooh, how many 'likes' do I have today?" and will move away from the popularity contest aspect of social media.  Instead, good content will rise to the top.  As it always does, regardless of the newest and shiniest tool.

Do you think Facebook and Twitter are going to kill the blogosphere? (Is a "blog" become like a rotary phone?) Or will dedicated bloggers stand the test of time and new technology?  

Comments

Personally, Twitter and Facebook -- in addition to the whole blog thing -- help lead me to online burnout.

It's just too much, too scattered.

Excellent article, and I agree with you - I think FB and Twitter are very different media to blogs. I use FB to see what people I know are up to and twitter mostly to find links to interesting blogs! They all complement each other :)

Video killed the radio star.

I don't think that Twitter and Facebook detract from my blog at all. Nor will they replace it.

In fact, there are quite a few of my readers who aren't themselves bloggers. But they are fans on Facebook and when they see a headline they like, they click over. Then they return to leave a comment on Facebook because that is where they are comfortable.

Blogs are a great source on information and insight, but I also LOVE Twitter because you do get to know people on a different level and can have conversations about things that you wouldn't necessarily write about on your blog.

Plus Twitter is a great source of "get an answer right now." I don't know how many times we've been out and about and I need a carb count that the restaurant doesn't have available for me.

I agree with Jacquie. I haven't ventured into the world of Twitter out of fear of sensory overload. I see the blogs as my home base also.

I believe all are useful "tools"; they have their place and audience. I don't believe blogs will leave anytime soon, due to their ability to tell more of the story compared to FB and Twitter.

I enjoy reading the D-OC blogs for their personal stories, diabetes-related information, and conference updates. :)

I am quite new to the blog world, but I have to say I really hope it doesn't become obsolete. While it isn't my "home base," it has made me feel more empowered, knowledgeable and responsible in the world of diabetes. I joined facebook in 2005 when it was just for colleges and was about staying in contact with friends (which is how I still use it). In the facebook world, I like to present myself as a person who is really busy with lots of different activities, and every so often diabetes pops up. In the blog world, it feels good to talk about diabetes nearly every day. It is every day, and if I pay attention to it every day I am being a better person with diabetes. Not every day is easy, but that is why my blog world of diabetes is much more supportive, because it is more real life. It handles the easy days, the hard days, the days when I just want to throw in the towel. And maybe the rest of the blog world will turn into a rotary phone, but I don't think medical blog communities will, because where else can we be this real about living our lives with something "extra?"

I often wonder if my growing up blogging leads me to have blinders on to the rest of what's happening.

I think they all serve different purposes, and much of it can at least bring more people back to a blog post. A blog post, to me, is a little more polished (usually) and has very high quality content. High quality content has a lot of pull in my opinion.

Are you making fun of me and my boundless love of chocolate croissants? :^)

As a weblog author, Twitter user, and sometimes Facebook guy, I agree with you that it's just another channel. FB and Twitter -- or web video for that matter -- haven't killed off good content yet. Like you, I think they help publicize and expand access to it.

I do think long-form content is already suffering a bit. If you have a blog, you must make sure that you write for the way that people want to read these days. And kudos to you for doing that!

I see FB, Twitter and my blog coming together as e musketeers who fight for what's right. Something like that. While I think a social media cocktail of the three is awesome, I consider my blog my homebase as well!

I hope that the blog world does not go away. I really do not understand the twitter, facebook thing. I do not want to know if your BS 43 or 120...Some of it is just TMI.....

Every morning I go to your blog as if I am opening a newspaper or magazine. A story is told. A story that I can relate too. I would be disappointed if it was something differant.

I am from the rotary phone age and realize that change is coming. I just hope that the facebook tweet thing will be the same quality of your writing in your blog.

My blog is my 3rd child...I just said that to my running partner today as we headed out on our training run.

I could totally throw Twitter out the window - hate it. And I only keep FB around for making plans with locals and communicating with some of my D Mamas - I too am getting "burned out" on too much on-line social media crap.

Blogging is such therapy for me that I would continue even if I didn't have internet access.

LONG LIVE BLOGS!

I like all three (blogs, Faceplace, Tweet Fleet as I call them!), but for different reasons.

I like how blogs are up-close and personal. Twitter and Facebook I use for "fun" and not so much diabetes stuff. Maybe because Twitter is too 'fast paced' in terms of communication? I dunno. But I like all three, and they all can serve a purpose. I love blogs because I give them undivided attention, if that makes any sense!

Blogs, all the way. I can sneak in and read a blog any time I want. And if I miss a day, I can go back and catch up. Not to easy to do with Twitter. And Facebook? I'll click a link here and there, but if I'm online anyway, I'd rather go straight to the blogs I like to read.

Facebook is attached to my family, friends, and the on line D community, but I don't feel my family and friends get my D, so I hardly ever say anything D related there. Twitter I love because I am only attached to the D community and it is real time and everyone gets it. I love reading the blogs especially after a meetup. :)

Facebook is attached to my family, friends, and the on line D community, but I don't feel my family and friends get my D, so I hardly ever say anything D related there. Twitter I love because I am only attached to the D community and it is real time and everyone gets it. I love reading the blogs especially after a meetup. :)

I'm a blogger at heart! Facebook follows and Twitter just hasn't been able to keep my attention.

Sometimes I feel like there's so much, though. Too many places to check in on line and so much life to live outside of the computer.

I LOVE the pals I've made via my blog. I'd prefer sitting down to read a few blogs over a new book. I like connecting and would definitely say my blog is HOME BASE :)

Well said Kerri. It was a great session overall. What struck me is that each of the panel members had a definite strategy for what they blog, tweet and post on FB. I think one of you said it best (and the other two agreed... I can't remember who said it):

Blog to create value
Use Social Networking sites to develop relationships

Very insightful and well stated! There are so many people out there trying to figure out the right mix of blog/Twitter/Facebook, how to use them effectively, how they're different, and which channel to head to for different types of information push/pull - this is a great overview of all of that in very practical terms.

I agree with you that good content is going to rise to the top, and I personally think that's going to happen in concert with consolidation of channels...we're already seeing it happen as different sites start copycatting each other (Facebook adopting the Twitter-like newsfeed, etc.)...and they'll eventually start swallowing each other and becoming new animals. The info overload we're all managing is certainly leading to more and more burn-out once the novelty wears off, and also to a desire for an integrated, one-stop "home base" as you put it.

Anyway - great stuff, Kerri - keep on fighting the good fight!

I enjoy reading your blog when I can -- I see and maybe even click on your sponsered ads -- I am trying to learn about living with Type 1 Diabetes -- I may not comment much, if at all, but I am pretty sure I dont like the term "lurker". Can't I just be a reader?

I believe it is essential to have your own blog or website that you have complete control over and not just FB or Twitter. It is YOUR content and YOU control and "own" the content in a way that your stuff on FB and Twitter can't compete with. I think Social Media is great--you can connect with so many more people and drive more folks to the appropriate sources or blog articles--retweeting, etc etc. While I think I have to modify how I write a bit even when blogging, I do not see these Social Media sites as competition, but as tools to help your blog or site thrive--so long as it isn't just a brochure-type-blog online. My two cents...

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