When I use platforms, I don’t think “what is this platform a replacement for?” I think “what is this platform good at?” Each platform has strengths and weaknesses.
I think Facebook is great. I use it every day. It excels at keeping me in contact with people on a personal level. This post isn’t to criticize Facebook. It’s not Facebook’s fault that some want to look at it as a be-all end all of social interaction on the web.
A perfect example of this, at least in my experience, is when questions are asked. It has reached the point where when I ask questions on Facebook, I feel an uncomfortable urge to qualify the question more than I usually would, just to hopefully mitigate poor answers that I might be able to anticipate.
One of the most challenging parts of asking questions on Facebook is how often people do not fully read the question and proceed to provide an answer that isn’t to the question asked. It happens to me all the time but I also constantly see it happening to Facebook friends that I have. A recent (and hilarious) example was when a friend of mine asked: “Where can I buy curtains for a window?” He explained that he needed them in a short amount of time and wanted somewhere that could meet that timeline.
One of the answers he received was: “You could make curtains.” On its face, this may seem like a well meaning suggestion. Here’s the problem: it’s specifically what he did not ask for and is a waste of his time. The person who answered didn’t read the question or, at least, didn’t feel that the question was worth answering. When you say you want to “buy curtains,” that means you want to buy curtains. Not make them. “Buy” is a qualification. An explanation of your timeline and a desire to have them arrive by a certain time is a qualification. Furthermore, the person who answered the question knew my friend and, as such, should know that he would never make curtains.
Not only did the answerer disregard the question, but where the personal connection should be able to help (in knowing that my friend is not the type to make curtains), it didn’t.
I receive and see other people receiving answers like this frequently.
However, when I post on forums, I am generally more satisfied with the answers that I receive. For me, this is one of the areas where Facebook can’t touch forums. Yes, forums have plenty of off topic banter, but when you ask a question on a forum, I find that people are more likely to actually read it. Especially on focused, well managed communities. I notice it with both on topic and off topic questions.
Why is that? Facebook shares a lot in common with forums and, when you break it down to the core, is like a personal forum in many ways. I think the difference comes with intent, how people choose to view the platform and how they spend their time on it. That impacts how they actually use it.
Certainly, a community on home decorating (including curtains and drapes) will be more focused on a question than your general Facebook friends. It also doesn’t hurt that people have to specifically choose to view the question, rather than being shown the question randomly in their news feed just because they are your Facebook friend. It could also speak to the mindset that people have when visiting forums. When people visit forums, they tend not to just be visiting for a minute or two. This means they are more in the reading and replying mode.
However, many people do visit Facebook with the intent to just pop in, take a quick scan, hit the like button a few times, add a comment or two here and leave. This leads to a lot of hit and run comments and comments where they may not have fully considered what they were responding to.
I believe that Facebook Groups focused on certain topics are better, because people join them with a purpose, but the information is still presented to them as part of their time on Facebook, so that might only partially help the mindset issue.
Your results may be different. There are plenty of variables at play. This is just an observation from spending time asking a lot of questions on different platforms. I don’t see this thought as being startling or surprising, but it serves as a good reminder that different platforms have different strengths.