Posting Facebook updates to Twitter: a double-edged sword.

Cross-posting between social networks has come in for much criticism; Facebook's plans for users to post their public updates to Twitter re-opens the argument. The potential effects could be a blessing or a curse for the smaller network.

SwordNot content with introducing a mixed friending environment with Subscriptions, Facebook is now aligning itself further towards the unilateral experience by promising cross-posting of public items to Twitter.

This functionality has previously been available for just Facebook Pages but, now that we have a follower model and everyone's stream can effectively become a fan page, it would seem to make sense to bring the feature to our personal feeds.

At the flick of a switch Facebook has the potential to become by far the biggest Twitter client but is this a good thing for the smaller service or, indeed, for us?

Growth is key

Whether or not it is in response to the rise of Google+, Facebook is obviously keen to further extend it's influence and keep growing.

By enabling public posts to be published to Twitter in this way Facebook greatly increases its exposure in what could be seen as a competing service and, as tweets are indexed by search engines, this exposure extends beyond the confines of Twitter. Ironically, this indexing also gives Google access (by the back door) to some Facebook content but whether it is useful remains to be seen.

The advantages for Facebook are instantly apparent but what does Twitter gain from this?

The most obvious benefit is content; millions of Facebook users could be pumping their updates into the service giving an instant boost to the number of tweets and depth of content.

Does the move mean Twitter could potentially gain millions more users? Will the ability to stream your updates to Twitter prompt Facebook users to create accounts? Probably not.

IncentivesThere would need to be some incentive for those who do not have accounts to sign up at Twitter (there is presumably a reason they have not already done so) but it may not be in Facebook's interests for this to happen.

Any time spent away from the mothership is potentially lost advertising opportunity and in-game purchases - this would have to be weighed up against the possible increase in traffic resulting from the shared updates. It, therefore, becomes an easier way for Facebook users to achieve what they may already be doing without ever needing to leave the site.

Twitter's main boost would consequently appear to be the additional content from those who already have accounts. The additional volumes can only be guessed at but, unfortunately, they may not be as high as originally envisaged - some users already use third-party clients to post to multiple networks.

We must also remember that, just as with Subscriptions, the majority of Facebook users will most likely never enable this feature even if they have a Twitter account.

Facebook stands to gain far more from this move - it would not be considered if there was the slightest doubt that it could be at all damaging to the social behemoth.

Double edged sword

While any influx in content will be welcomed by Twitter could such a move potentially put it at risk? If users see that conversations are happening elsewhere will they be tempted to follow the white rabbit and have that conversation at Facebook instead?

Twitter is anxious to grow; there is the potential for some Facebook users to create accounts and Twitter certainly needs the traffic but at the same time it doesn't want to lose the resulting discourse: a double-edged sword.

Would Twitter run the gauntlet and block updates from Facebook if they were found to be having a negative impact? Could it afford to and would that be a battle Twitter would even want to fight?

Opening your service via an API can have enormous benefits but this is an instance where being open could potentially backfire and should serve as a warning to Google as they continue to develop the API for Google+.

Cross-posting

The topic again raises the spectre of cross-posting and whether it is a blessing or a curse.

Whether on Facebook, FriendFeed or Buzz, users have generally been unhappy about having a Twitter feed automatically pumped into their stream but, as the content of Twitter is generally isolated remarks, many without context, often coupled with external links streaming public Facebook data to Twitter may not feel out-of-place.

We have often heard the argument "I'd follow you on x network if I wanted to see this" so will users turn against those posting their Facebook updates to Twitter? That users would also need to create a Facebook account in order to see or interact with these items may be an additional stumbling block but, based on the numbers involved, Twitter users are far more likely to have a Facebook account than the other way round.

Changes

There are big changes happening at Facebook and, whether you believe the service is losing its way or its identity, flooding a rival network with links may cause those who have neglected their accounts - or even resisted the siren's call - to think again.

Images by Candice Linkie Photography and Simon Blackley

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