Social Enterprise

Twitter vs Google+: Why one of these is way more interesting than a social network

Information networks and social networks don't sit in the same circle...

...highly dynamic, whereas social networks are organic. They grow, but much more slowly and with fewer, but perhaps sturdier, connections.

Now Google has tried to combine elements of both types of networks in its social offering, Google+. It has imitated Twitter's following/followers feature by making G+ profiles public and thereby enabling anyone to follow anyone else, or at least to see any public posts they make. Its Circles feature is also designed to let users slice their social graph into distinct rings, or circles, dropping particular groups of friends and acquaintances into each - and thus allowing the sharing of distinct content to different contacts.

It is certainly possible to use Google+ as an information network by following users you don't know whose posts have perhaps been +1ed - similar to a Twitter retweet - by other users who you are already following. But it's a lumbering information network at best. These wheels turn slowly. There are various reasons for this sluggishness, not least the social network baggage it also requires its users to lug around.

For instance, Google+ wants its members to use their real name, rather than allowing them to create pseudonyms or alter egos and, by implication, it is discouraging the creation of multiple G+ accounts per user. There is no shortage of alter egos on Twitter, of course. Why should this matter? It forces Google+ users to ground themselves.

Sure, they can layer this persona via the Circles feature but a lot of forethought is required before each post to decide which circle it is targeting. And indeed, in creating the circle in the first place. How would you slice your social graph? Who sits alongside whom in each circle? What information is relevant to which circle? And how do you categorise people you've never met?

Laborious process of creating circles

Cataloguing friends and acquaintances - and indeed people you have never met before and know nothing about - is not the work of an instant. It's more like a full-time job.

Google+ Circles

Sorting contacts into Circles on Google+ is a laborious task compared to Twitter's instant follow featureImage: Google

Twitter, by contrast, allows users to create multiple versions of their social selves, should they wish, and start broadcasting from each immediately. This is a simpler way of approaching the same problem: getting the right information to the right people.

Each Twitter account can attract its own circle of interested followers, whether it's Fake Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga or an anonymous whistleblower. And the currency of this network - information - is then effectively and quickly disseminated to the users who want it most. Simple.

But perhaps Twitter's biggest and most easily overlooked advantage as an information network is a small thing: posts are limited to 140 characters.

Never underestimate the power of brevity as a means to convey information. Think of the power and stickiness of the telegraph and the text message. Information in such a lean form allows the user to scan and filter it effortlessly because waste and waffle are eliminated ruthlessly.

Robert Scoble appears blind to the power of the tweet - seeing only "page after page of mind-numbing 140-character items". There's nothing mind-numbing about relevant data or interesting data. Robert's problem might be the 32,000 Twitter users he is apparently following.

A lot can be said with a handful of characters - and a lot of waffle is happily left unsaid. In an information network, there simply isn't room for all that hot air. Sorry Robert.

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