What’s all The Fuss With Google+?

Jul 16

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“Ho-Hum, it’s another social media platform.
It’ll suck. I’ll suck at it. My friends will suck at it.
And I don’t need another Facebook-Twitter-MySpace-Plurk-WTFever sucking my time away!
I’m too busy for this + shit.”

Well, my happy ray of social sunshine, you might want to rethink your apathy – and not because I un-cleverly rhymed a headline, either.

Like it or not, G+ isn’t going away. How do I know? According to Google CEO Larry Page, the service now boasts 10 million users, who have shared 1 billion items in a single day.

That’s some serious traction for a 3 week old beta service.

No, it’s not a Facebook or Twitter killer – not because it doesn’t rock, but because it rocks differently. It has a different feel, a different intent, different purpose, different assumptions – and that’s why it’s already successful.

What makes G+ different?

The interface is intuitive, clean and easy to use – so clean, in fact, if you’re used to navigating Facebook’s complex settings, you’ll feel like you’re missing something important.

Privacy options are built in (instead of being tacked on afterthoughts). You can change them on the fly, and using them doesn’t cripple the service.

The levels of sharing are pretty cool, too.  Google+   organizes contacts into “circles” , groups that you define and name. You can put people into multiple groups, and choose to share your information with one, two, or all of those groups (or the world) on a case by case basis. That means that with each update, you get to choose who sees it …  so your boss never again has to see that update about how drunk you got lastnight, before you called in sick today.

But the real difference is the intent behind the service.

Facebook was built for college students, more as a dating and party tool than anything else. Honestly? It still sort of feels that way.  Twitter was created as a very simple group text chat service (remember “What are you doing?”) Both have outgrown those original concepts, but Facebook is still essentially a walled garden for friends, and Twitter is still about broadcasting what you’re doing to the world in a text message format.

Circles of TrustGoogle brings it’s own agenda to the game. They’ve always been about better ways to sort, find, and share information, and G+ is set up around that idea. So the underlying goal (so far as I can tell) is to make it simpler for you to share whatever information you’d like to share, with whoever you want to share it with. You can use G+ to share with your inner circle, with your business contacts, or even with people not signed up for G+.  You can broadcast to the world, or just send a private photo to your mother, choosing with a click or two.

There are some really intriguing features, too.

There’s something about the layout design that encourages actual discussion, rather than just “Me too!” or “Love ya, Bro!”  commentary.  And the “Hangout” section has  real promise… it’s a web-cam chat service that aims for casual get-togethers with whoever is online.

There’s potential for using G+ as a blog, a portfolio, a music library. Users have already discovered how to use a circle as a bookmarking tool, a way to store drafts, a private note taking service.  How well these uses work in the long run depends a lot on which aspects Google decides to develop, but it’s got great potential for creatives of all sorts, both for workflow, and audience/brand building.

And I’m really eager to see what they come up with for businesses. They’ve been snagging some major corporate clients as Google Apps customers, so they have real incentive to get it right.

Personally?

Google+ looks very much like something I’ve wanted for a long time… a home base on the web that lets me comfortably, intuitively and privately integrate services and share information on my terms.

The social stream lets me reach out to the world to discover new people, and allows them to discover me, too.  It lets me not only control who can see which bits of information I’m sharing, but even how far recipients can spread any one post.

And maybe this is petty of me, but…   words have meaning.  I really appreciate that on G+, I don’t have to declare strangers my “friends” to share info with them, call myself a company’s “fan” in order to follow their business page, or “like/favorite” something if I want to acknowledge it has value.

I also appreciate that I don’t have a wall to write on.  My G+ home page does not invite graffiti… yay!

What needs improvement?

As of now, you have a lot of control over what you send out, but very limited control over what you see in your incoming stream… either you circle (follow) someone, or you don’t, so if someone is being a chatty cathy, there’s no way to hush them in your main stream without removing them from your circles.  (You can mute an individual post, but not a person or a circle).  I’d also like to prevent comments from being visible in my main stream, and just expand them on posts I’m interested in.

There’s no real etiquette in place yet, which is both fun and a little nerve-wracking.  Business accounts have been promised, but aren’t yet available.

The emailed notifications defaults are pretty annoying.

This Is A Displaced MySpace Unicorn

Oh, and it would be nice if there was a way to ask people which of my interest circles they’d like to be put in… though I can’t imagine how that would work.

Who won’t like it?

People who want a high level of visual customization with apps, games, colors, fonts and sparkly unicorns? They wont be pleased, because there’s none of that. And given Google’s longstanding approach to simple, clean design, I don’t see that as likely to change.

And if you love collecting status tokens, or public displays of popularity drama? The setup doesn’t encourage the un-friending, un-following, listing bruhaha that’s prevalent elsewhere. You’ll know you’re in someone’s circles, but you can’t see exactly which of their circles you’re in, or even the names of the circles. You can even prevent anyone from seeing who you’ve circled, or who circles you, if that sort of privacy suits your fancy.

If you let your alter egos out on social media, you should know that Google strongly discourages participating as your Second Life avatar, posting as your pet, fake celebrities, or pretty much anyone other than who you actually are.  (People trying to use  SL names have had their profiles locked)

Oh, and Anyone afraid of Google’s ever-growing power will probably be having fits over G+. Google already controls most search engine traffic, and the idea of them strongly influencing social media driven-traffic is a bit intimidating.

If you’re looking for a quick way to build your network from scratch? This isn’t going to do it. You’ll still have to participate in conversations and build your own following, person by person, just like on any other service.

Bottom line, I see a lot to like about G+

But, no, it’s not earthshaking… yet.

Essentially, it really is just another social network, and if all you want is to share status updates, occasional photos, YouTube links and your Friday night plans with friends, one service is probably as good as another.

But if you’re looking for more than just a way to keep up with friends & family…  if you’re looking for a sense of community, to collaborate with peers, build your brand, create relationships or build an audience of fans?

Do yourself a favor and give G+ a serious trial run.

You don’t have to commit, or move everything over from FB.
You don’t have to give up your other networks, spend huge amounts of time building your Google+ network, or even know what you’d use it for, yet… but it’s worth taking the time to get your profile set up, check out the possibilities, and think of how you might be able to use it in the future, so you can watch as new features are released.

For most of us quirky creative entrepreneurs, social media is far more important than SEO ranking.  Don’t ignore Google+ because of social media fatigue. Get your feet wet.  See if it fits you and your particular quirks.

I mean, seriously. How much quirkier does it get than circling your friends?

It's Another Flourish!

PS: Oh, you probably need the URL, huh? http://plus.google.com As of this post, the beta version is now open to anyone with a gmail account, so you don’t need an invite.

PPS: Feel you can find me there, too, of course. I’m +ToriDeaux.

PPPS: Still feeling grumpy? Go ahead and complain in the comment section here.  Just don’t insult the poor unicorn, he feels bad enough already.

Update: For those of you still feeling a little lost, here’s Mashable’s Google+ guide & another being created by 120 user collaborators: Google+ Tips & Tricks

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7 comments

  1. on Twitter

    It infuriates me that you have to sign up with these services blindly. I want to look at it and see how it works before I commit. I’m tired of this blind dating with the social media service itself. And they all do it, so I’m not picking on G+.

    I can’t visualize how I would ever find people on G+. You would be the only one I know. But *sigh* I may have to sign up just to keep up with you! It sounds like you have a new love in your life.

    • Tori Deaux /

      on Twitter

      Actually, you can poke around a bit, even without a G+ account. Here’s the link to my profile http://ow.ly/5GgS3 – it’s currently set to public, and you can see at least some of my circles (many of the members you’ll recognize) and the public updates I’ve shared. There are also some video tours available, for example: http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/

      But don’t let my enthusiasm pressure you, Christy… I <3 Twitter, and I have no plans to abandon that format or this one. I just enjoy being enthusiastic.

  2. on Twitter

    You almost had me convinced to give it a try. I even clicked the link…and it said “Google+ has exceeded it’s capacity. Try again later.”

    Wow! I’ve often been rejected socially, but I’ve never been rejected by a social media platform. That’s a new social lowpoint. (That’s like being rejected by the dating service, not the date.)

    Can I get a t-shirt that says, “Social Misfit Rejected by Google+”?

  3. on Twitter

    Wow thanks Tori for that in-depth review! I’ve been struggling with FB for a while because I don’t want my business me to be the same as private me with the way it works. I certainly don’t want absolute strangers being my ‘friend’ and cluttering my friends feed with private updates that mean nothing to me, just because I followed their page. That feels really sleazy and false, and certainly not what I want to do to my ‘followers’ either!
    Circles may be the way around this because in the end I want my business me to be ‘me’, too!
    Meg

  4. on Twitter

    Torri, you cover my feelings about G+ quite well – I’m having a great time with it!

    and I LOVE the unicorn!

    Andy

  5. I found you on G+ and I have to agree…it does seem to encourage actual discussion. I’d take a unicorn if they offered one up though :)

  6. Tori Deaux /

    on Twitter

    @Heather: Yay! We’re networking, we’re actually networking! And with bonus unicorns!

    @ACDolph: And the unicorn loves you too! 😉

    @Meg: You’re so welcome. And funny thing.. so far, I’m not much using the circles to determine who gets what — but I really like having the *option*

    And I understand that @ChristyBower is starting to maybe, kinda, sorta not hate G+ quite so much. Maybe. (I get it, though.. because I feel that way about Facebook. “You can’t make me like it!” )

Speak up!