This is a guest post from Nathan Statz aka @Sephyre.
There has been a lot of people throwing around ‘Google+ doesn’t seem to be happening’ or ‘I don’t see Google+ taking off’ of late. Usually this will be a Facebook junkie who thought Google+ was going to be this magical land that replicated Zuckerberg’s playground with a different logo at the top.
A no-talent hack writer over at Forbes went so far as to write a eulogy for Google’s upstart social network. There’s no need to point out what is wrong with the author wondering why nothing was happening on his Google+ stream, because he was smacked down by such a large collection of G+ users that he already wrote a retraction of sorts.
The thing is Google+ isn’t Facebook, and it’s not trying to be. Do you remember way back when you first started out with Facebook? You might have been one of the millions (myself included) that had a MySpace account, but your eyes started bleeding from all the animated gifs and bright colours. By comparison, Facebook was a grown up, clutter-free, and simple paradise to do all the things you could do on MySpace. It also didn’t have the stigma of being ‘for teenagers’. Suddenly being on a social network wasn’t just something kids do, it was starting to become mainstream.
When you started building your Facebook up, likely you added your real life friends, imported a few contacts from Hotmail or Yahoo, and used the feature to find other people that went to the same high school you did, or were in that university club you liked so much. Not only were you connecting with your mates, you were reconnecting with those you hadn’t seen for ages. It was like going to your school reunion, only without the awkward small-talk and forced smiles.
Now that almost everyone is established on Facebook, it’s always going to be tough for a new social network to lure people to it. LinkedIn did it by focusing on building professional relationships, and Twitter did it by focusing on small amounts of information and nothing else.
Even with Twitter’s popularity, it’s nothing compared to Facebook. There is still that reluctance for a lot of people to embrace Twitter, I myself took a while before I ‘got’ what all the fuss was about.
When Google+ first opened the floodgates and throngs of people poured in, there was thundering herd of Facebook fanatics that expected everything to be the same. They no doubt make up a large chunk of that ’25 million’ figure that is floated around all the time, but they also never really tried Google+.
It’s kind of like logging onto Facebook for the first time, wondering why all of your MySpace friends aren’t there telling you how great their background update is, and then never logging in again because ‘it’s not happening’.
You have to put a sliver of effort into populating your Google+ stream, but once it’s up and going, it’s so much cleaner, bloat-free, and just generally better than Facebook.
A lot of the confusion comes from the Google+ ‘circles’. I never quite understood what was so hard to get with that. I only have two circles. I have ‘Friends’ which is basically a copy of my Facebook contacts, and ‘Acquaintances’, which is for all the folks that have come across from Twitter, or I have found posting interesting things on Google+.
To be honest I just post everything to ‘All Circles’, but if I got around to putting up holiday photos, which I have to Facebook in the past, I would send that out to my ‘Friends’ circle.
In effect Google+’s circles let you use the network however you want. It gives you all the functionality of Facebook without random updates about how ‘Soandso needs 50 magical beans for ‘ or how ‘Otherguy got a high score on ‘.
When I first signed up to Google+ I wasn’t expecting much. I usually sign up to whatever social media network is getting hyped, grab my username, and then never log into it again. It took me a couple of years to start getting into Twitter, even longer for LinkedIn, but something about Google+ reached past my social media fatigue to motivate me to actually post and interact.
Maybe it’s the lack of bloat, maybe it’s the fact that it posts all the information anyone posts without an edgerank, or maybe it’s just the fact that it isn’t Facebook.