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Reasons we shouldn't count Google+ out yet

Donovan Colbert thinks Google+ encourages us to wear our public face, meet strangers, and interact with them, which is why it is not dead yet.

In his recent TechRepublic article "The Beginning of the End for Google+", Adam Metz predicts that the acquisition of Kevin Rose's startup, "Milk" will mark the rapid decline and eventual shuttering of Google+.

Adam illustrates some pretty stark numbers that indicate that Google+ hasn't found enough traction to compete with Facebook or Twitter.

On the other hand, Jason Hiner recently posted this link on Google+, which states that Google+ is not the ghost town it has been portrayed as.

A different point of view

In the forum on Adam's post, I argue that Google+ has actually evolved to operate more like a radically enhanced version of Twitter than Facebook.

There are a number of reasons for this. During the invite-only Google+ beta, Google cultivated a user-base of content creators - people that would want to write about things related to technology and news.

Google+ premiered during a time of concern about Facebook's constantly shifting privacy settings. Many saw the Google model of "circles" empowering users to filter content. If you set up your circles right, you could say those bad things about your employer, and it would be less likely to ever get back to them.

Facebook is a social site that works best for close connections. Facebook users mutually follow each other. The design of Facebook's connections is more like LinkedIn. Friend requests are approved before content is accessible. Content is focused on communication and feedback. Facebook encourages posts based on positive feedback from friends. Without positive feedback, there is little incentive to participate on Facebook.

Comparing Google+ to Facebook isn't accurate. It compares better to Twitter. Twitter and Google+ are far more public. The default settings allow anyone to follow anyone else, and there is no expectation for them to reciprocate. Following is immediate; the person followed does not need to approve the connection.

Active Twitter users are aggregators of links, stories, and quotes or are promoting their own content to a group of followers who primarily consume. The most accurate indication that your followers on Twitter are listening is that they don't unfollow you. Although positive feedback on Twitter exists it happens less than on Facebook.

Jason's outlook matches my experience on Google+. I've been spending much more time at Google+ lately. If Google+ has stolen my time from anywhere, it is from Twitter. This is because Google+ is like a richer Twitter experience. Google+ recently revealed a new layout and early reaction is that the new layout looks a lot like Twitter. I'm not surprised at all.

More like Twitter

On Twitter I have more followers than I follow, and I post links to content I've created or I want to recommend. Occasionally a small conversation will start around a post - but at 140 characters, they die quickly. I do not interact with the majority of the users who follow me. There is a regular group of people who retweet my posts, but the majority of my followers are silent. Likewise, I consume the content of a number of people I follow, but we rarely interact. However, there is a small group of people who I engage with more frequently.

My Google+ experience is the same, but enhanced. I follow strangers because I see their posts on the streams of people I follow and I find them interesting. The culture of Google+ encourages me to add someone interesting into my circles. On Facebook, an unknown "friend of a friend" sending a friend request can be creepy. On Google+, it is by design. Those interactions frequently evolve into more elaborate two-way conversations. The conversations on Google+ are more like the discussions in forums like TechRepublic's - back and forth conversations that span many messages, developing deeper interactions.

My earliest experiences with online communities were local dial-up BBS sites. In the early days of the Internet, Usenet and The Well replaced those bulletin boards. All of these communities threw strangers together and allowed them to form bonds around topic based discussions. However, because of the intimate and immediate nature of Facebook, your friend with strong opinions becomes a pain when he irritates your other friends. When I "talk shop" my non-technical friends constantly tell me to "stop speaking geek".

But on Google+, the people who follow you are generally strangers who want to discuss these topics, either because they agree, disagree, or simply want to know more about your view.

Public face

This kind of community building and interaction drives the Internet. Facebook has their own niche as the "Internet Friends and Family" portal - but we behave in a more personal way there. This means we're more guarded - we wear the face for those closest to us: husband, father, son, or friend. We're less comfortable letting strangers see these sides.

But Google+ encourages us to wear our public face, to meet strangers and interact with them. It actually seems more likely that a new Google+ follower would cross over to become a Facebook friend than the other way. Facebook offers us the comfortable and well known, Google+ the new and exciting. For that reason, I don't think we should count Google+ out just yet. I think it is just getting started.

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About

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

9 comments
dcolbert
dcolbert

This post got 48 Facebook likes and 34 G+ +1s, but only 27 tweets. Tweets are still the guide by which I measure how popular an article is as far as social network sharing.

mainvision
mainvision

I actually like G+, it's less crowded and, as Colbert says, a better place for general, public interaction than Facebook. I tend to post more tech stories on G+ and more general news or other personal interest things in Facebook. However, I don't like Google shoehorning everything into G+. I pay for additional storage on Picasa and I should have the choice of posting pictures by e-mail only or to G+. Yes, the choice still exists, but the option "e-mail only" has become excruciatingly slow, probably to discourage the e-mail only option, so I usually click "e-mail only" and go away to do something else. 5 minutes or so later, I can start using the feature.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Google continues to pump in money into Google+ [such as the latest interface upgrade] but will it really help? Since they went out of their faked "beta" stage, they haven't made much inroads. I know almost no one on Google+ but many on FB. At the current rate FB will hit a billion before Google+ hits 125 million.

jfuller05
jfuller05

and that is it. A lot of my friends on FB are in the IT biz, so I network with those guys. I keep my FB to close friends and close family and no one else. I only have about 130 friends on FB. I don't have my employer or co-workers on FB because I like to keep my work life separate from my personal life. I keep up with the IT industry on FB by "liking" things like TR, Microsoft, Packet Pushers, etc, so I can't imagine there being any actual benefits to my creating a twitter or G+ account.

phil_simon
phil_simon

Whether Google+ surpasses Facebook or Twitter to me is besides the point. Google needed a viable social plank in its platform. I don't expect Google to be identified with Plus any more than I expect Amazon to be primarily known for award-winning design. Phil Simon www.theageoftheplatform.com

technomom_z
technomom_z

Facebook is for fluffy chat with friends. Google+ is for discovering people with common interests and for discussions on topics which interest you. The Search mechanism and Shared Circles are really the secret sauce of Google+. It's much more network building than Facebook. Still, they are both likely to stick around for a while.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you prefer Google+ to Facebook? Or is it vice versa? Is Twitter better for you? How important is social media to your work life?

dcolbert
dcolbert

That is the other thing. They're still ironing things out. Figuring out direction and atmosphere and direction. They're doing pretty good for being the new kid on the block in social networking. I'm seeing a lot of promise. Basically, I don't see it flat-lining. I see it gaining momentum. Activity has picked up radically. I can't keep track of how many followers I get there - far more than Twitter, I'm pretty sure. It could stall, it is in a precarious position of its life-cycle right now - but I think it is premature to call it dead or in danger of dying. Especially if you're looking at Facebook as the benchmark to judge G+ by.

dcolbert
dcolbert

i don't think my point was that Google+ will surpass Facebook or Twitter - simply that it seems to be developing good momentum. Yesterday G+ had insane traffic - today it is much slower. So the question is, can G+ develop and maintain sustained momentum that makes it a viable social plank - or will it become a ghost-town without enough content to attract viewers and posters? I think your statement should be "Google NEEDS a viable social plank in its platform". Can G+ be that plank? Am I right, is it too early to count G+ out, or is Adam right that G+ is withering on the vine?

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