The result of social media communication depends greatly on the design of the social media product one uses. Just comparing the two most popular social media services Facebook and Twitter we immediately understand how different communication can become. Not only has the underlying social network a different typology and is based on different relationships but the way we post comments is highly different.
Comments on Twitter are limited to a length of 140 characters. This limitation has historical reasons and derives from the character limitation of SMS. In the beginning Twitter was very focused on providing their service via SMS. Still, nowadays this limitation has remained to be very popular. With the enormous amounts of information and content we see ourselves confronted with everyday, attention for every information bit decreases. The limitation to 140 characters forces Twitter users to “make it short”.
Apart from being less intrusive this behavior also forces Twitter users to think about the necessity of their next tweet. Twitter instantly becomes unusable if other users post too many tweets. But also the quality of Twitter comments is very important. Following a Twitter user who writes about topics that are not of interest or simply insignificant is ineffective and deteriorates the personal social media experience.
Facebooks communication culture is quite different. Quantitatively and qualitatively bad comments from a specific user do not necessarily mean the deterioration of ones social media experience. In Facebook, with all its secondary features like as photo and video sharing, text comments are less in the focus of the user. Annoying comments from a specific user can be hidden, without the necessity to break up the relationship. The comments might be annoying but the vacation photos from that user might still be of interest.
Twitter has developed a proper communication culture that is in competition with, but cannot be directly compared to, other social media services. Facebooks product design has also created a unique communication culture (although it is copied by other services), one that is strongly focused on real life relationships and the presentation of those. When investigating social network services the design of the product and its effect on the social medium have to be considered.
These are just two very brief examples of how social media communication is affected by product design. The topic is much more complex and difficult to grasp. In my opinion product design is often disregarded in the comparison of different social media services.