Inside out or outside in?


I’ve recently started using Twitter again, primarily because I wanted to find out what was going on in the world of people I admire and know, but who mostly, don’t (yet) know me.   My motivation – trying to find out when and where a Russell Brand work in progress show was going to happen, that’ I’d read about on his website.    I followed ol’ Rus and found out that he had tweeted the link to it 2 hours earlier.    All tickets were sold out in minutes, naturally.

Previously I had thought Twitter a fairly useless parody of Facebook for people who loved the sound of their own witticism so much that they had to double up and use Twitter as well to constantly twerp their thoughts on this topic or other.   A pale image of the real thing for so called ‘social gurus’ with nothing better to do than update the world on their latest bowel movement.

Now I’m a Twitter convert, I’ve come to realise there are two types of social sphere out there – the inner world of people who you have met (family, friends, work colleagues) and the outer sphere of people who you meet more infrequently, or never, but share the same world view, walk of life or interest as you.

The type of message put out on Facebook therefore tends to be inward looking, towards your inner life, how you’re feeling, the small and large tit-bits of incident that have happened to you or about to happen.   It’s not massively time sensitive and therefore invites fewer, longer posts and invites small acknowledgements, the obligarotory ‘likes’, LOLs and comments.   The content created is an intimate reflection of real life activities and conversations, however banal.

The type of message on Twitter is very different.   It is outward looking, and therefore people take care to put out the version of yourself that the wider world is going to see.    Unless you’re a celebrity (and therefore it becomes even more important to constructing your brand version of yourself) tweets concern the workings of the wider world, whether tv programmes, events or interesting articles that provoke comment and debate.   Messages are much more time sensitive and (necessarily) instanteous.   Even though it is a ‘personal’ channel the context is very much a presentation of yourself to the world at large, and people dip in and out of this world as they see fit.

This all sounds bleeding obvious I suppose, but it got me thinking about the way brands come to the social sphere.   Often they press the need to ‘do something social’, meaning a Facebook fan page and a smattering of tweets to a world that doesn’t care.

Unless you work in advertising, there much more interesting things going on than brands in most people’s personal and macro world, whether it’s talking about booking their next holiday or talking about the latest episode of Corrie.

Rather than just doing social, and chucking out another Facebook competition, we need to work out whether the brand has something to offer that connects with the inner of outer life of a person.   It’s very unlikely to be both.   Of course most brands want to be there at the pulse of the personal life of their consumers but the reality is they almost always will start on the outside looking in.   So what sphere of life can brands leverage, and how can they start to conversations with individuals and their connections?  

Inner life                                   

Helps me connect with those I know best

Makes me look good to my friends   

Less time sensitive

 Sharing experiences and feelings   

Intimate and relaxed


Outer life

Helps me connect with those I know least

Makes me look good to the world

Highly time sensitive

Sharing knowledge and interests

On the stage


Of course Facebook hasn’t got the monopoly on inner life musings and Twitter on outer life.   Most people don’t have both a Facebook and Twitter profile, and Facebook has the scale and audience brands crave.   

Just this week, Facebook launched a new product where users can ‘subscribe’ to follow updates from people who are beyond their immediate friends, and follow them in a model akin to Twitter or Google+.   Different privacy settings are available as lists for those connected to your public or private life so you can control what kind of update you receive and from whom, and what they see from you.   Which just goes to show that for everyone who wants a ‘meaningful conversation’ with friends, there are others who want a quick slice of something else entirely.

Brands are of course a means of defining people’s identity online, just as they are in the offline world.    But just as there are two types of self-identity; the private person relaxed down the pub with their closest mates, and the public persona with work colleagues; there are different ways of behaving in order to build identity in social media.   Both act as a banner of what you want people around you to perceive, but the rules of engagement are very different.

If we start from identifying which sphere of influence our brand is best placed to serve, and act accordingly, we just might have half a chance of being noticed next time we stick our head over the social parapet.  

POSTED BY : Simon Harwood


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