The Twittersphere was abuzz when Google announced their new Google + social networking functionality. For me it was déjà vu as I remembered similar enthusiasm over Google’s ill-fated Wave service. Thanks to Greg Knierieman I have been playing with G+, and at this point, I am undecided about its usefulness and here’s why.
There are a myriad of Social Media tools and networks and as a potential user you need to rationalize the innumerable options. I have found it simplest to categorize my primary social networking tools into buckets which define when to use what. Here is my categorization:
A great real time interaction tool that has a massive audience and is based on relatively mature technology. I really enjoy Twitter and the many conversations on a variety of topics. The service is very eclectic which is a good thing. The content varies from personal to business with the only commonality being the near real-time interactions. This is the network that I frequent and you can find Tweetdeck (or the equivalent) on all my personal computers and smartphones. You can view my Twitter stream here: @jlivens.
This service is business-centric with an emphasis on work experience and broad content expertise. I find it extremely useful to keep track of past colleagues and friends and their current work endeavors. It was particularly invaluable when I was job hunting a year ago because it provided a method to leverage my network of friends and past co-workers. LinkedIn also maintains consistent contact information so you can reach past colleagues whose email or phone numbers may have changed.
This is where I connect with past classmates, family members and friends. The content is personal and is not geared towards business or career. I like the idea of Facebook, but I am not entirely convinced of its value and often ask myself whether I would really miss connecting with some of these people. Of course, I cannot mention Facebook without highlighting the security issues that many have complained about. My opinion is that Facebook is a nice-to-have and not a must-have. However, I know plenty of people who swear by it.
What about Google+?
I have clearly defined mental models for each of the above services which allows me to cleanly separate the streams, and I am struggling with Google +. Is it a real time communication medium like Twitter, a professional medium like LinkedIn, a medium to talk about your dog like Facebook or something complete different? Truthfully, I have not decided and this limits the service’s usefulness to me. If I had to categorize G+ now, I would suggest that it replaces Facebook in my mental model, but the newness of the product and limited subscriber base makes it a poor substitute.
In summary, I am in a quandary about Google +. I really want to like the service, but am not certain how to use it. This situation reminds me of Google Wave. Wave was a shiny new toy that was fun to use but users rapidly lost interest since it provided limited value. I think that G+ has a far better chance of succeeding, but that it must find a personality that resonates with its users for it to maintain relevance. Which brings the final question: is G+ a significant contender to the other other networks or is it a Wave-like attempt to usurp the competition? Time will tell…
What do you think?