I feel like I’ve committed a social media sin.
I need to go into the church of Facebook, find the confessional, and confess my sins to the priest. He will then give me a penance of ten Facebook posts and ten Twitter updates, and I will be absolved of my wrong doing.
My sin? I’ve been constantly using and engaging on Google+.
Forgive me father for I have sinned.
Over the past two or three weeks I have had great engagement and conversations on Google+. I have talked with like-minded people, I have talked with people that don’t agree with me, and I have found the discussions to be well-rounded and meaty.
Yes, this is the same platform that I have made fun of over the past year. I laughed at their smoke and mirrors user count, I made fun of people that claimed the engagement and conversations were great, and I even complained about the massive white space newly minted on the right hand side of the screen. But I’ve gotten over all of that. In many ways, I think Google+ has replaced Twitter for me.
Before you all roll your eyes and scoff at that notion hear me out. I’m not leaving Twitter, it is too populated for me to just pack up and leave. But I’ve found myself using it less. Here’s why.
I categorize the purpose of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ like so…
Facebook – It is a walled garden where people are apprehensive about who sees their content and what content they see. It is very much so a personal social network, you connect and interact with people you know. That is to say, there is little discovery on Facebook. You can subscribe to famous people, but there’s so much going on in the Facebook interface, discovering content and people is not an easy task. Furthermore, I don’t believe that’s the purpose of Facebook. It has been, and probably always will be, a tool to stay connected with people who you have previously connected with. Therefore, when I’m posting content that interests me, I rarely post it to Facebook. I want to have discussions about this content, and Facebook is more personal and private for me.
Twitter – It is Texas; wide open. The ability to discover is rather high, the site will recommend people to follow, sharing other people’s content is easy, and the ability for content to go “viral” is high. However, the discussions are lack luster. I’ve found that having conversations on Twitter is an exercise in futility. Sometimes it is downright frustrating. It is great for sharing and receiving links and articles, but if I want to have an actual discussion I’ll probably have it on Google+ and publicize it on Twitter.
Google+ – It is the best of both worlds. The ability to discover is high and the ability to converse is high. I can follow very influential people in the technology space, and have really good discussions will the other people that follow them. I can even use the platform for short form blogging. Google makes it easy to see what is “hot” on the platform with the “Explore” tab, and that gives me the ability to find people that I might be interested in. Furthermore, those great discussions I’m having in the comments on posts give me the ability to find average everyday people that I might be interested in following. Therefore Google+ can expand my reach and consumption to levels that I rarely get on Twitter or Facebook.
Yesterday I had Google+ opened at work. I usually open my three social networks; G+, Twitter, and Facebook. I routinely check all of them for the latest information. However yesterday was different, I forgot to open Tweekdeck. And ya know what? I didn’t even notice. I have sufficiently supplemented my Twitter consumption with Google+ and it was more enjoyable because there wasn’t as much noise. I have to do so much mental filtering when reading my Twitter stream it is maddening. On Twitter it might take four tweets to complete a full thought or conversation. On Google+ it all goes into one post. It makes it so much easier to consume the same information.
People who find no value in Google+ are using it incorrectly. I’m sorry, it is the truth. You cannot be a watcher on Google+. On Twitter it is perfectly fine to sit back and watch the tweets go by. Pick up some information here and there and get your fill. You probably aren’t getting the most out of it, but it works because there’s so much information. If you are just watching Twitter, you will not find the same experience on Google+, mainly because there is information overlap, but also because Google+ users have oriented their posts and their experience towards conversations.
I learned this by diving in and commenting, sharing, and +1ing people’s posts. I discovered a more gratifying service that was actually worth my time. It fills a gap in my social media. I was having conversations on Facebook, but they were mainly with friends and family and they were mostly shallow. Twitter, I was retweeting, posting, and engaging, but it was hard to convey my thoughts in 140 characters, often less if I included a link. Google+ gives me the opportunity to no only express my thoughts, but to also find new people that have similar thoughts or opposing thoughts. In other words, the chance of someone seeing my comment on Google+ is higher than someone seeing my tweet on Twitter. Furthermore, there’s a greater chance they’ll respond and engage on Google+. Even better, because that comment is attached to a particular person and post (i.e. topic), it is even more targeted than Twitter.
So to the social media gods I may have sinned. I like Google+ and I shouldn’t. I should hate it and think it is a wasteland. I should believe there are no conversations and no people.
But even the gods know that’s not true.
UPDATE: Well good morning to me! I woke up this morning and my phone was blowing up with feedback from this post, thank you all! Special thanks to Mike Elgan on Google+ who originally shared this with his followers. I wanted to post a little update to expand on this Google+ topic because already I’ve seen some awesome additions to the original post.
Kavit Trivedi in the comments below wrote, “See, +1s are more than Facebook Shares.” Which is absolutely true, and I think this post proves the value of Google+ shares and +1′s and the value of Facebook shares and likes. Again, this all depends on how you are using Facebook, some people have a huge following on Facebook, and sharing content on that platform starts good discussions and conversations. But again, you are just sharing it with your group of friends, and even big names on Facebook like Robert Scoble have commenting turned off unless you are a friend of a friend.
Google+ is more open, allowing people to comment on anything and share anything. On Facebook your post navigates a maze, hitting walls and stalling from time to time. On Google+ it’s like a dog in an open field, running in any direction and rolling around in the dirt. Things can spread faster and get more discussion going, this post proves that.
Also in the comments of this post, Suannlim21 made a great point about the deepening of conversations on Google+, “…conversations deepen/expand from posts, to chats (voice/video) to real time video hangouts with many regardless of their multiple geographical locations. Oh yes, and how posts are archived for future easy search/reference and that you can edit them anytime.”
This is also an important point. Oftentimes it seems like Twitter is hurting conversations by limiting them to 140 characters each. I understand the market they’re going after, and it works for some people, but it has almost forced Twitter into amplification only, instead of meaningful conversations. Google+ has taken the opposite approach, open up the opportunity to communicate, and provide new avenues for communication. This is an important part of social media – a part that Google+ is doing right.
Iain McFadyen on Google+ likened the platform to the old message boards, “I think Google+ has bought the old Message Board ethos to social networking, that is, it doesn’t matter who, what or where you are…valid input is always welcome here…and it’s a brilliant thing.?”
I’m not sure how many of you were active on message boards in the early 2000′s but I certainly see his point. Back then people were very loyal to their board of choice and would actively sift through content and add their two cents. This was welcomed and encouraged. You got very little out of a message board by simply looking at the content. I remember getting in Mac vs. PC debates on the old TechTV message boards. Good times. There are similarities between those boards and Google+. The openness, interactivity being more important than passive reading, and the community. I sense more loyalty among Google+ users than users of any other social network. That is important when fostering discussion.
Keep the feedback coming, I’m loving hearing how everyone uses Google+ and their thoughts about how it compares to other social networks.