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:

Twitter

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.

LinkedIn

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.

Facebook

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?

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