The Pluses of the Google Plus public house

Yes, I know I am a Google obsessive, ok.  But, surely you’ve just got to love a company with bouncy balls, slides and playrooms in their offices?  I mean, there they are, the cradle of everything creative and fun, so what’s not to love?

One of their many products that I use is Google+.  Now, this is a social networking facility like Facebook.  I use the phrase ‘like Facebook’ but it’s actually nothing like Facebook at all.

Over the years I’ve been an early adopter of most new social networking sites.  Heck I remember ‘anoraking’ about Twitter to somebody who said it sounded like just a re-hashed version of ‘Instant Relay Chat’ and how it would never catch on!

I have fond memories of the now ‘rested’ Jaiku, and I was a lover and great user of Plurk even though their ‘Karma’ facility used to wind me up.  (The more you write, or the more friends you get, or the more people click to ‘like’ your posts, the more Karma you get.  Cool!  The more Karma you get, the more things you can do, and the more you’re a big fish in a small pond.  However, spend a day not posting or being inactive and your Karma starts to drop.  Not cool!)

Despite feeling like a man out to groom teenagers as sex slaves, I’ve also enjoyed Habo Hotel, completely not managed to gel with Second Life or Linked-in (although that was more when it was just a CV on line, rather than having a proper social element), quite liked Quora, flirted with and tried out many different services that have come and gone along the way, and then I have this love-hate relationship with Facebook.

The point that’s missed by people is that each social network is different.  Each has a different set of users.  Each has a different usp.

Safe and familiar pub

I guess you could visualise social networking platforms as pubs.  It would be absolutely horrible if every single pub was exactly the same.  Spooky if every single pub had exactly the same people in it.  Knowing that a pub up the road looked the same, smelt the same, had an identical layout, served exactly the same beers, as the one round the corner, gives no incentive to head to it.

The reason people go on a pub crawl is so that they can visit different places, maybe with different beers, and different entertainment, different decor, different people, and different experiences.

It’s the same with social media.  You don’t want all the same people following you to other places.  You want new experiences, new people, new ideas, freshness and differences.  That is usually what you get, yet with some crossing over and maybe appearing in more than one place.  Again, this is not unlike going to new pubs.

Some pubs do contain the same people night after night.  They fall in through the door as soon as it opens and they sit there supping the same beer, with the same closed group of people, either staring straight ahead or drunkenly exchanging exactly the same stories they’ve exchanged for the last 30 years, puffing and panting about whatever is in the paper, or staring zombie-like at the TV that’s blaring away the latest sporting action.  These folk don’t want or need anything else.  They are perfectly happy being stuck in their closed group day after day, never venturing out to pastures new, sitting there until death do them part.  These people are like the majority of folk using Facebook.

Just as, short of pulling a pub down, getting these folk to move ‘en bloc’ to a different pub is impossible, and arguably totally pointless, so too is it daft to think that the majority of Facebook users will suddenly start using other platforms, ‘en bloc’.  And why should they?  If they are happy where they are, why is it thought of as an either/or situation?

New social media really isn’t for them, they are comfortable where they are.  So be it.  Not everybody wants to explore brave new worlds, most are happy just about keeping in touch with the tried and trusted closed world they know and love.

Sadly though, they justify their not moving from their current pub with statements like, “That pub up the road is shit.  I went in there t’other day and there was nobody I knew in there, so it’s shit. It’s not as good as this pub.” They then become very protective of ‘their’ pub, even though in reality it might be more expensive, have unclean and broken toilets, and worse decor than ‘up the road’.  It’s all they know and it’s good enough for them.

They like the familiar.  That’s when they start the rumours about how the pub up the road is closing down or failing compared to this pub.  Their heads can’t deal with different pubs being for different people.  Theirs is the only pub, and that’s it.

Scary unfamiliar pub

Yep, these are the people on Facebook.  The latest ‘pub up the road’ is of course Google+.  Google+ does everything Facebook does, and does it better.  It is seamlessly integrated into all the other Google products, and so is just a natural bonding extension of the Google experience.  It isn’t Facebook.  And thank goodness it isn’t!

It is ideal for those who are mentally integrated into using Google’s approach to, well, everything.  If you like, it’s a pub for Google users.  It’s not a pub for Facebook users.

That’s why it will seem uncomfortable and alien to those who are not extensive Google users.  There are those to whom Google is only a search engine you go to when looking for something.  Maybe their life is based around Bing or Yahoo.  There is now a whole generation that live breath and consume Facebook. For them there is nothing outside of it, Facebook is the internet.  These are the people entrenched in their local pub and not likely to move whatever happens.

On the whole, Facebook users do seem to have accepted that there is this other social media platform called Twitter.  They don’t understand it, but they accept it’s there rather than slag it off with one voice.  I suspect that eventually they’ll do this with Google+.  Facebook users, like those stuck in their local pub, fear change and it takes them out of their comfort zone, so when a new pub opens ‘up the road’ they will start rumours and hate campaigns before eventually just accepting it exists but just isn’t for them.