Google+: My observations, so far
So, Google+ has been out in the world for about a month now. I picked it up quickly – a friend at Google sent me an invite right away — and I have spent some decent time on it, consistently adding people to my stream and picking up new pieces of interesting material all the time.
Initially I had wondered if this was really something I’d still be looking at a month out. I had dropped both Buzz and Wave rather easily, despite many people calling both of them revolutionary and labeling them as game-changers. There are still the folks who are now declaring Google+ those such things, and although I’m still hesitant to agree with any of them, I don’t think Google+ will die off all that soon.
However, I’m wondering if it’s a little late for Google+. I’m not entirely sure that it can be embraced by people who aren’t “early adopters” of social media and have already established a solid relationship with Facebook. I get it when people tell me that they like how Google+ has achieved many of the things Facebook can’t seem to do — like put the focus back on content and eliminate functions such as games, applications, etc. — but that is coming from the relatively tech-savvy, up-to-date crowd. What about the crowd that just wants to connect with classmates from several decades ago and post photos of their new grandchildren? Will they switch to Google+? Will they even touch it? I mean, my dad’s still using Yahoo even though he has a Gmail account. I’m sure there are instances of the 55+ demographic making headway on Google+, but I have yet to see that appear. Who knows, though – it could be something that comes up a few years from now, as Facebook also started out with a younger demographic.
That younger demographic sets the tone, though. As George G. Smith, Jr., pointed out, Facebook started with college students. I’ll build onto that by saying this: Facebook didn’t necessarily set out to be a competitor of something as big as what it is currently, and that’s one challenge it did not have that Google+ has now. Sure, MySpace and Friendster existed back in ’05, but neither was the behemoth of social networking — a facet of the web not well-defined nor high-profile at the time — that Facebook is now. That said, it’s not like Google+ is really trying to be Facebook; it’s that, for practical purposes, the masses of people who use Facebook certainly define its power and relevancy, which is something Google+ has to compete against, goal or not.
Google+ is limited, but that’s its strength. Whether this remains its strength is something to be seen. Popular social media names such as Robert Scoble have already hit the 5,000-person limit for circles, something which may deter social media power-users but could encourage those like myself who are overwhelmed with Facebook, Twitter, and other services that beg too much attention be paid to too many voices with umpteen different modes. I and many other users — many of whom I subscribe to — seem to be in favor of the more minimal approach Google+ has taken to this new venture, eschewing the interactivity encouraged in Facebook’s wall posts, pokes, messages, etc., and instead adopting a format that breeds sharing but incorporates approval (the +1 function), interaction (commenting), and sharing — but few other stimuli. Instead, there are useful functions that are not singularly useful but multifaceted and complex; the entire concept of circles and how they function could be described with borderline sophisticated logic.
Overall, I feel less of an obligation to Google+ than I do Facebook, Twitter, or even Foursquare. I feel like I don’t need to constantly be posting material to “stay relevant” or be interesting on Google+. I haven’t yet felt the need to axe anyone from my circles, but I’ve found that I would like it to be easier to switch between different streams or hide/show different circles (as opposed to just looking at one circle at a time). But does this lack of obligation translate into less usage and ultimately less attention? Possibly, and that’s something to consider, especially if you’re looking at using Google+ for business. Also, it seems difficult to really pore through tons of comments and conversations, but I’m not so sure anyone has figured that out yet (not even Facebook).
What I do really like is the +1 button becoming more relevant; I’m excited to see if Google+ can take off with it beyond the tab of +1′s. So far it seems that Google+ is becoming a great new community for designers and photographers, perhaps because not all data is stripped from posted photos (that’s what I’ve read?) and because sharing images is rather easy. When it comes to new services, I’m open to trying things the way the creators intend it to be just as much as I’m intent on finding services that fit my needs — I think I need time before I really decide where Google+ fits into my routines.
I could nitpick more, but that’s about all I find significant in my thoughts about Google+. I’ll leave you with this excellent video that George made to help explain this new thing: