THE INTERNET HAS BEEN ABUZZ with the recent entry to the social networking race: Google+. When I first heard about it, I wrestled a (teeny-tiny) bit with whether or not to try to get an invite for it. (Like most of its products, Google worked the roll-out of Google+ as invite-only. As one article I read put it, Facebook had a better strategy of rolling out campus by campus, thus ensuring that groups at a time and not just random strangers would sign up for the service.) The geek side of me wanted to be in on the latest new thing, which was just like how I felt when I got an invite for Google Wave. (Didn’t know what to do with it, but man, that thing was cool.) At the same time, I didn’t want to add another thing to learn and take up time. But when a friend offered me a Google+ invite, I threw caution to the wind and accepted.
I think I’ve posted an update three times since I got on.
The point is, I haven’t figured out where Google+ fits into my life. How do I use it? I have two—no, three friends on it right now. It’d be ridiculous to quit Facebook and use Google+ exclusively, because I don’t know anyone on it. And that brings me to today. Iain Broome, writer of the fantastic blog Write for Your Life, tweeted:
Here I am on Google+ if you want to head over and become my bestest friend in the whole world: http://goo.gl/W7tsL.
My first thought was, “Oh! Someone I can add on Google+!” My second thought was, “What will I say to him? Will I post my personal activities, like what I’m eating for lunch? Or will I restrict my posts to professional stuff, like videos I’m working on or things I’m writing?”
And that made me think of how I use the current social networks. I use Facebook for friends and family, and I post things like “LUNCH TIME!!” or links to Lord of the Rings in LEGOS. You know, personal silly stuff. I use Twitter, on the other hand, in a decidedly professional manner. I follow writers, editors, and people who relate to my creative interests. Yes, I also follow a handful of friends and family, but everything I tweet is geared toward the professional arena. Updates on a video I’m working on, things I’m writing, links to articles, that sort of thing. I strive to maintain a professional presence on Twitter, and every tweet passes through the lens of, “How will this sound to working professional whom I don’t know?”
Then along comes Google+. Which sphere will it replace—or supplement? If I’m starting from scratch with the friends I accept and the people I follow, with which “audience” will I surround myself?
It’s this dilemma that leaves Google+ undecided for me. I love the design of it, and the Circles are a brilliant idea, as everyone has said. And as another article I read pointed out, even if Google+ doesn’t succeed, at least it will be competition for Facebook, the reigning champ. But will I stay on it? I don’t know. It may be too much trouble to switch everything from Facebook. Now that I have my profile and name saved, maybe I’ll just sit back and see if people I know join it. At the same time, people will only join if someone like me says, “Hey guys, come on over to Google+!”
So the big question for me is, “What am I going to use this tool for?” Because at the end of the day, all these things are tools. They are there to help me work more efficiently and productively in order to achieve my relational and creative goals. Some work better than others, and I need to learn how to use the tools I have and actually produce things instead of spending all of my time looking for the latest and greatest.
Bottom line is, I don’t need Google+ to become another professional connecting and resource environment, because I already have that in Twitter. And there aren’t enough people on Google+ yet to make it a replacement for Facebook.
Maybe Circles are the answer. I could have both personal and professional Circles, thus allowing me to communicate with both audiences through one platform. When I go to post something, I can choose whether I send it to my friends and family or to the professional creatives with whom I interact. One issue is that, as Ben Brooks said in the latest B&B Podcast, it takes a few extra clicks to specify with which Circles you want to share. But it also takes a few clicks to go from Facebook to Twitter and back, so if I could use Google+ to cover the functions of both Facebook and Twitter, it might help simplify my workflow.
Now that’s an interesting concept. If Circles could actually work like that, there may be a possibility there.
Google might be brilliant after all.