Google+ – The Elephant in the room or the ugly step child?

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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3 thoughts on “Google+ – The Elephant in the room or the ugly step child?”

  1. G+ comes across to me like an enhanced Twitter and less like FB. The key difference between Twitter and Facebook is how the social interactions work. FB is designed to limit social interactions to those you choose. For this reason, you have to accept a friend request. Twitter is open. Anyone can follow you unless you explicitly block them. Even then, your tweet can be retweeted to someone you have blocked (I think).
    G+ allows you to add someone to a circle who hasn’t given you permission. You can consign them to a circle that you don’t share with but that’s not the default behavior. Judging by the limited activity I’ve seen on G+, people are using it more like twitter than like FB anyway.
    One thing to note, G+ is saying they have already accumulated a large user base. What the haven’t said is how many have been posting and the volume of posting. I see a lot of people who sign up but don’t post anything. Both Twitter and FB have enormous volume. from a revenue point of view, what’s more important is how much time people sit with their eyes glued to a social media site. If I had to guess, I would think that G+ is tiny compared to FB, LInkedIn, or Twitter.

    1. Tom,

      Thank you for your comment. You make some good points. However, our views are a bit different on G+. I find G+’s comment and layered response layout inefficient and find it much harder to find desired content vs Twitter. In short, it is hard to separate the desired content from the noise. To me, this approach is more akin to Facebook where people write on walls and then responses are layered underneath. Neither of these are as good as the short 140 character responses on Twitter, IMO.

      I agree with G+ growing user base growing and think that it is a reflection of shiny new toy syndrome. (I bet that Wave’s user base grew fast too!) The real question is whether people will adopt it and make it part of their lives as many have already done with FB, LI and Twitter or whether usage will decline over time as people move to other platforms.

      1. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that G+ is a better Twitter, quite the contrary. I like how the 140 character limit forces brevity. God knows I benefit from that. I also agree that it’s commenting looks more like FB. It’s the social model that makes it more like Twitter than LinkedIn or FB. The point of FB and LinkedIn is that you share with select people, not the world. It doesn’t always work that way but that is the goal. G+ models the Twitter method of broadcast to the world unless you specifically restrict it.
        In the end, that renders G+ as social publishing ala Twitter rather than social networking like FB and LinkedIn.

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