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I started writing a blog post a few weeks back entitled “so why would I sign up to Google+”, but with limited time to finish it and other pressing matters I cut the rant short. Now it’s come around to blog writing time again and I did for a moment consider finishing it. However since then I think my views have changed slightly as has the question.
Initial Perception of Google+
Originally the reason I signed up was purely professional interest. Being in the digital marketing game, it is important to keep up with developments in social networking, as well as search. When Google change the colour of paid ads from light pink to slightly lighter pink, I notice, and when destination URLs move from underneath to on top of the headlines… I notice. So when Google launch another attempt at a Social Networking site I was paying attention.
My initial problem or scepticism of Google+ was that it didn’t seem to offer anything that Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn didn’t already provide. It seemed like if you ever had a conversation with an overambitious client, customer or a deluded friend who has said those incredible words “it’s going to be like the Facebook of…”. Google were trying to create the next Facebook which was the next MySpace and for me it needed to provide something which no other platform did, and in enough abundance for it to catch on.
Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Social Networking
After having used Google+ for some time now I have started to appreciate its subtle mix of symmetric and asymmetric social networking models. Facebook epitomises the symmetric social network; friendships / connections must be reciprocated rather than say Twitter which is asymmetrical social networking. Twitter enables its users to follow people who do not follow back, hence the asymmetry. Google+ with its clever use of Circles has managed to breach the gap with a simple yet effective compromise between these diametrically opposing prototypical models.
Being able to segment people into Circles means it is very easy to ‘Twitter style’ follow people and ‘Facebook style’ friend people. It also means that you can share information, posts, links, and have conversations with different sets of people, essentially targeting your social networking. This is a valuable feature if you wish to be connected to your work colleagues, family and friends but do not want everyone to see everything you get up to. More than protecting some secret underworld life, this has practical advantages in that, for example, I can share SEO news with work mates without looking to geeky in front of my friends.
Who’s Using Google+
Despite this useful functionality as well as other great features like integrating Skype and being able to play gifs in your feed, I find myself not really needing to fragment my social circles into separate groups… The reason is because none of my friends have signed up to Google+, with the exception of the most geeky. As a result I have no incriminating photos on Google+, I don’t post updates about hangovers or share my thoughts on lol cats… Primarily because not one non-geek friend has joined.
The problem as I see it was personified when a friend asked me what Google+ is, my response was “it’s a social network”, they asked if it was like Facebook, I said “yes” and they lost interest. This is because Facebook is integrated intrinsically with many people’s lives; they share their photos and moods with all their friends. Everyone’s friend’s are already on Facebook and this is what gives it such gravity. Google seems to be offering features which appeal in general to a more niche target audience and as a result appear to have acquired a large technical / geeky / online marketing user base.
Google are certainly providing in the areas that Facebook and Twitter are not, but will it be enough to reach critical mass where upon the masses will convert. Or will Google+ be just for geeks?