Social Media Overload! What to Unplug?

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rotary dial by lilszeto

rotary dial by lilszeto, via Flickr

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.

-Fred Wilson, A VC

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.

[Check out some good library blogs here and here.]

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 NewsTransmedia 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.

WHAT ELSE?

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?

UPDATE: 7/11/11

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.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

As in guillotine. Old/new media pragmatist. Sometimes loud, sometimes poet, always opinionated. Beer, bourbon, books, games, running.

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6 thoughts on “Social Media Overload! What to Unplug?

  1. Devon

    Good review of the current landscape and your approach to using all these sites.

    As an author/writer, if you had to pick between only using one of the above (not including Good Reads) which would you chose?

    I know you hint at moving to google+ but doesnt that detract from all the hard work youve dine to build your existing online brand?

    I’m looking forward to trying google+ but will most likely continue to focus on Facebook (personal) and twitter (business). Also going to hit linkedin hard in the coming months!

    Reply
    1. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Post author

      I think Twitter is the stronger platform for really engaged writers, while superstars and more casual networkers are probably better off with Facebook. LinkedIn has more value for non-fiction writers, but is more complementary to the others.

      It’s way too early to judge Google+ in this context, though, as the ultimate value of any social network is the audience it attracts. Depending on your niche, there are likely old school message boards and forums that are better than any of the major networks because they’re more targeted.

      Reply
  2. Patrick Boegel

    Just on a quick cursory view, twitter has A LOT to be concerned with in regards to Google+.

    Twitter’s greatest shortcoming is its weak desktop interface. Relying on apps and mobile, the latter being important the former creating just another “thing” and password you need to remember.

    Reply
    1. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Post author

      A week into G+ and it’s 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. For Twitter power users who love to claim it’s all about engagement, I think G+ is already a clearly superior platform with plenty of room to improve.

      Reply
  3. ClaudiaPutnam

    I haven’t seen G+ yet and don’t trust Google with my personal data any more (probably less) than FB. But I do have my lists fairly well organized in Twitter, and a good app like TweetDeck can keep it all pretty visible. I just hate the idea having to reorganize everything and figure out who’s who again. Photos, schmotos, since the card reader in my laptop doesn’t work with my camera anyway, and I have to go through a couple of steps–I only upload pictures occasionally anyhow and don’t think everyone cares that much about looking at each other’s pictures no matter what we tell ourselves. But overall, it sounds like you wouldn’t move the same people from FB or Twitter to G+ exactly, so now you will probably have to maintain three networks unless you want to lose some people. If you are not only trying to follow a conversation but keep your own brand out there, you will need to stay present everywhere. That’s a lot of work if you are an author or artist of some kind also trying to produce. Regardless of whether it’s an improvement or we like it better, it’s hard to see how any of this does us any favors. <>

    Reply
    1. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Post author

      I use Hootsuite and a handful of lists to manage my Twitter account and, having been there since 2008, one of the more appealing aspects of Google+ is the opportunity to reorganize my network(s) in a more intuitive way right at the beginning without any hurt feelings. As a result, I have a much better signal:noise ratio and have already surfaced interesting, new-to-me people whom I likely would not have encountered on Twitter. It’s kind of a “If I knew then what I know now…” thing.

      At the end of the day, the most valuable network(s) will be the one(s) where the people I most want to connect with migrate to, no matter how much I might like one over the other. From a marketing perspective, it’s a short-term “crisitunity,” and in the long-term, it’s just another ripple in the ever-evolving world wide web.

      Reply

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