What’s Google Plus for?

Yes, what is Google+ for?

Is it going to do to Facebook what Facebook did to MySpace?

Is it going to silence those tweets from Twitter?

“Oh no, it’s another social network!” cry those who don’t quite get it.

“I can’t understand all these constant changes on Facebook, so I’m off to Google+,” whimper the disenchanted who never actually ever leave Facebook, because with Facebook you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave…!

Look, I am seeing a lot of people thinking it’s an either/or situation with Google+ and Facebook, or maybe even Twitter, but I really don’t believe it is.

Already Google+ has attracted a particular kind of ‘social poster’, and I don’t think Facebook has anything to worry about.  Nor Twitter for that matter.

Those who are probably already starting to panic are places like tumblr and posterous.  I suspect G+ will wipe them and platforms of their ilk off the map.  In lots of ways, G+ is like a merged tumblr and posterous. Tumblr is a big hit with the photographers and graphic gurus showing off their wares. G+ can do all that tumblr does but make it bigger, clearer and easier.  Posterous is a big hit for those who are producing words, maybe random words, maybe words for other people to add words to. G+ can do all that posterous can do but, again, it makes it bigger, clearer and easier.

So, the thinking goes, with G+, why bother having either of the others?

G+ mainly attracts those who actually generate their own content.  Publishing away on it are the geeks and net techies, probably the elite, the movers and shakers, of the Web 3.0 social media movement, mobile communications designers and those deciding the way forward, as always, for the internet sheep.  Some of these are so confident about G+ that they have lapsed from running their own blogs, now hosting all they want to say via G+.

Now, this is also where I see G+ developing.  The blogosphere is huge.  A lot of people want to ‘blog’ but soon tire of it and when they look at their visitor stats and realise that nobody is coming to see anything they’ve written anyway.  So, this is where G+ is ideal.  In many ways it may well become the future of blogging.

Facebook is not a blogging platform, neither is Twitter.  Facebook is not the place for hosting complex graphics, nor for writing long rants about this or that, neither is Twitter.  G+ is.

I don’t fully understand why there’s a kind of mob mentality that believes that there is a war on between G+ and Facebook.  As I mentioned, people threaten to ‘leave’ Facebook when it dares to change and upgrade itself, albeit in a hugely over-complex and confusing manner, and see G+ as their salvation.  They arrive at G+ and then moan because it isn’t.

They expect all their ‘mates’ or ‘Friends’ to come across to G+ and for everything to carry-on as it was on Facebook, but now on G+.  It can’t.  It’s a different place with different functionalities and abilities.  It’s not really a chatting forum.  It’s like trying to convince everybody to leave the pub and meet-up in an art gallery instead.  It’s not the same thing.

Facebook has traditionally tended to be groups of people (‘Friends’) who know or once knew each other all chatting like they are in a pub.  It’s loads of closed little groups of people who don’t really expand their horizons to new blood.  Most of their time is spent sharing snapshots of themselves doing stuff, usually very drunk, or sharing other people’s content, like videos on Youtube, etc.  Facebook users are not content generators.  Even if they were, the only people who’d see their content are those ‘Friends’ they’ve allowed to see it, which is usually only a few hundred at best.  Even then, most content is lost in the confusion of inane re-sharing of Youtube videos and other noise, so gets unseen by over 90% of ‘Friends’.  The reality is also that, regardless of the amount of ‘Friends’ a person has, they only really keep in constant communication with about 10 of them.

So, the problem is that G+ doesn’t mimic this style of usage.  It can do, sorta, but it’s more about generating content than it is about inane chatter.  That’s not to say it can’t have inane chatter on it.  It does.  It also has all the re-sharing of Youbube videos.  It’s just that Facebook does all of that a lot better and cosier.

Twitter has mutated over the years to become the ‘broadcast’ platform.  It’s ideal for making announcements, ideal for ‘crowdsourcing’ and is best read not by following a certain number of people but by searching for keywords, and not really caring who the authors might be.  This way of using Twitter confuses traditional Facebook users, so the disgruntled Facebookers annoyed at changes there won’t even consider Twitter as an alternative. It certainly isn’t. Twitter is extremely crap when it comes to ‘conversations’.

My own use of Twitter is for news gathering.  For example, when Libya was in full revolution it would carry so much more information and hours before mainstream news media reported it.  Plus, if you can sort it out from in-between the considerable level of ‘noise’ and outright trolling and false data, you get to see what’s really going on before it becomes homogenised and biased by the news organisations.

I also use Twitter to ‘broadcast’ to the billions of other users, by sharing links or other ‘hooks’ to content I’ve generated elsewhere (like on this very fine blog, for example).  Used conservatively, it is a brilliant marketing tool, and certainly exposes one to far beyond the few hundred ‘Friends’ on Facebook.

So, again, G+ doesn’t really mimic this style of usage.  Again, it can do, sorta, and probably will become a crowdsourcing medium, but, heck you seriously need only 140 characters to do proper crowdsourcing or you’re there all day!

As for me, well, here’s how I use everything.  Mainly, I’m a blogger, producing reasonably long pieces here, publishing one a day, every day.  A feed auto-publishes a link on Twitter every time a new article or comment to an article appears here.  Everything that appears on Twitter also auto-publishes to Facebook.  I rarely use Facebook in any other way, myself, maybe having a quick look around if I’m killing time.  Meanwhile, I’m a great ‘surfer’ and speed reader of Twitter.  I use it a lot to read the ‘broadcasts’ to external to Twitter content, and also read what various celebs think of this or that. Oh, and of course, I make sure I never miss the constant slanging match between socialist millionaires Piers Morgan and Lord Alan Sugar.

I publish smaller content via G+, including the odd joke and stuff with lesser words than the articles I publish here on my main blog, and like to think I generate G+ content in a relaxed and ‘speakeasy’ stylee.  This is what I think G+ is perfect for.  If I wasn’t producing this ‘blog a day’, I would probably only release content via G+.  So, in that sense it’s ideal for me and my kind of use.  In the end, it’s horses for courses, and it’s really going to depend on what an individual uses and wants social media to be for them which decides how they use which platform.

So to conclude, G+ kinda does all the main bits of Facebook, but it is very different.  It does all the main bits of Twitter, but it is very different.  It won’t really affect those other ‘main’ players, but hopefully it will encourage those who wish to easily ‘publish’ content they are originating to feel they can do it without the complexity of running a blog.  Now that G+ is fully searchable, you can spend hours looking at some pretty amazing content from people who aren’t the same few hundred stale Facebook Friends.

That’s the Google+ future.