I believe we’ll need a multitude of social services to satsify the needs and desires of all the users of the web. Google+ fills a void between public and private, it serves what is likely to be an older demo less interested in hooking up or hipstering out and more interested in the social utility it provides. That’s a good thing.
So, Google+? I actually kind of like it.
[UPDATED BELOW WITH SOME SPECIFIC REASONS WHY.]
It’s an intriguing mash-up of Facebook and Twitter, but its use of “circles” does a better job of reflecting and managing the variety of solid and permeable walls that exist in real-life networks, and when it comes to privacy, I trust our robot overlords a slight bit more than the new kids on the virtual block. Among the early adopters in my initial circles are an interesting mix of people I connect with via different interests, including comics, gaming, libraries, marketing, publishing, technology and transmedia. I also have a circle for “creatives,” a fun mix of writers and other smart, talented folk.
Beyond Facebook and Twitter similarities, Google+ also integrates, or has the potential to integrate with a number of Google services I use regularly, including Gmail, Google Reader and my Android phone. And it’s already spurred me to make the switch from Flickr to Picasa, which is allegedly being rebranded as Google Photos.
The web interface includes a “+1″ tab that tracks everything I’ve, um, plussed (?) on the Internet, making it immediately more useful to me (as opposed to marketers) than Facebook’s similar “Like” button, while the mobile app includes a feature called Huddle that will become a great alternative to SMS once more of my network is plugged in. While it’s clearly still in Beta (what isn’t these days?), its potential is a lot clearer than the ill-conceived Buzz and Wave initiatives were, and there’s a huge gap between Facebook and Twitter that Google+ seems to fit in perfectly.
Andy Woodworth, one of the librarians I’m connected with, posted a solid overview last week that’s worth a read, but if you snag an invite before it goes fully public, it’s definitely worth checking out.
FACEBOOK IS SAFE… FOR NOW
While I don’t love Facebook, far too many of my family and close friends are active there for me to bail on it any time soon, but that was also the case a few years back when most of them were on MySpace. And before that, Friendster. Or AOL.
If anything, I can see my Facebook network narrowing even further than it did the last time my social media mix changed, so it will be interesting to see what happens over the next 6-12 months as Google+ goes mainstream. Or, like Friendfeed, doesn’t.
In the meantime, I’ll likely be cross-posting between them occasionally while I shift more of my attention to Google+, and have even downloaded all of my Facebook photos so I can upload them to Picasa.
TWITTER IS BEING MARGINALIZED
Ever since I left Digital Book World back in February, I’ve been significantly less active on Twitter, partly for lack of time, but mostly because I don’t feel the need to be knee-deep in real-time chatter any more. The publishing industry LOVES Twitter almost as much as it loves pundits and anecdata, but I’ve been thrilled to find in my new gig that librarians are a very diverse (and generally more level-headed) lot when it comes to social media, and there’s arguably a lot more interesting library blogs to follow than there were in the publishing world.
A couple of years back I had a few rules of thumb for Twitter, including a 60:30:10 — community:self-promo:conversation mix. I didn’t really participate in many chats back then and would quickly move 1:1 discussions to direct messages and/or email. Nowadays, I’m more likely to participate in a chat or get into prolonged conversations with a few people than I am to be posting 15-20 links/day.
That’s not to say Twitter isn’t a useful source of information, though. Paper.li’s ability to pull links from my News, Transmedia and Libraries lists on Twitter, categorize and present them for me as daily archives to consume at my leisure means Twitter still has a place in my personal social media mix, albeit very different from what it was at its peak.
I still find Goodreads to be a very a useful social network, if only for sharing reviews of books I’ve read, reading reviews of books I’m thinking about reading, and tracking my ever-growing to-read list. Beyond that… there’s not really any other social networks I’m using on a regular basis, at least for personal reasons.
Evaluating the various networks from a professional perspective, both as a marketer and as a writer, will likely lead to very different scenarios, at least in the short-term. That’s fodder for another post, though.
How has your personal social media mix changed over the past couple of years, and how do you manage the potential flood of information?
Now that I’ve been on Google+ for a couple of weekends, a few interesting developments have shifted my thinking a bit, all for the better:
- The rate of adoption (or at least curiosity) among close friends and family has been far faster than I’ve seen with any previous social networking platform. It took about two years for that core group to move from MySpace to Facebook (or to jump on the social networking bandwagon at all), and the majority of those people are still not using Twitter.
- My current use of Twitter — a handful of links/day plus a conversation or two — fits much better on Google+ and I’m already discovering interesting new people via conversations on posts of people I’m already connected to. That’s always been one of the more appealing aspects of Twitter, and it’s happening without the crush of the real-time firehose; eg: next bullet.
- Circles, while extremely intuitive to me, seems to be tripping a lot of people up. Simply put, they’re an option not a requirement, and Salon‘s Karen Templar nails it.
- There’s a great article in Wired that really puts Google+ and the paradigm shift it potentially represents for social networking in perspective: “Networks are for networking. Circles are for the right people.”
As I noted in the comments below, over the past week Google+ has sucked equal time and attention from Facebook and Twitter, but much more so from Facebook, if only because of my already declining usage of Twitter. If the migration rate of my core group of family and friends continues at the current pace, I could realistically be done with Facebook by the end of the summer!
And for Twitter power users who love to claim it’s all about engagement, I think Google+ is already a clearly superior platform with plenty of room to improve. Of course, that’s a personal perspective, not from a marketing angle, but that’s a whole ‘nother thesis for another time.