I wouldn’t be me without being a little contrary, would I?
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being one of the select few (million) people who were invited (read: had a friend who used the invite workaround) to Google’s new-fangled social media network, Google+.
I had a play. And have continued to play with it for the last few weeks. And, despite being initially impressed, joining the chorus of “DEATH TO FACEBOOK! AND TWITTER!”, I dunno. I am now a little bit “meh”.
Sure, the circles interface is pretty. And the Hangout feature is really, really impressive. And, the integration with my Google and Youtube accounts… handy. But, I am still using Facebook. And am no longer in that anti-Facebook chorus… and you know why?
Facebook has evolved. And, besides some UI improvements and the really excellent Hangout feature, Google+ does little that Facebook doesn’t already do. Most people just aren’t aware of it.
Now, I am not merely dissing Google+ for the fun of it. After all, I am an avid user of social media and am thrilled to see the innovations and “game changers” go at it… because ultimately it is better for all users to have them competing.
But… you know…
As I say to all of my clients, social media is not about gadgets, or technology, or tools. It is about reaching people on their terms, and applying traditional communication & marketing techniques in a new space. They are just tools. And getting your average person to switch their whole communication over to a new platform… well… that’s tricky.
I hear you say “ohhhh but what about MySpace, huh? Facebook killed that when people were saying it wouldn’t!”
There’s a reason for that. MySpace sucked balls. Facebook added something new: minimalism and hyper-connectivity like never seen before. And Facebook evolved over time into what it is today. They removed graffiti walls (oh how I miss drawing penises on my friends walls), refined the UI gradually, added applications, and now has a unified inbox that I actually love, and use every day.
Facebook has had some pretty severe problems with regards to default user settings and privacy, but… I don’t think anyone can underestimate that Google has a fight on its hands if it is going to get the 750 million (!) or so people to move over.
On “Circles” (and why it is not all that innovative really)
One feature that got everyone in a tizzy was “Circles”. The ability to add people to circles and follow people, filter feeds etc based on groups. Well, you may not be aware, but Facebook already does this. Facebook lists are very powerful, and I have been using them for some time. You can opt to share status updates with networks, friends of friends, and “Everyone”. You can filter your chat to only appear online to certain groups.
Let me show you.
Facebook has the ability to create lists, so you can control who sees what, who has access to you on chat, who can message you, add you, stalk you, see photos… in fact, the granular Facebook settings are tremendously powerful.
See? Go into your Friends list and you can create a list. You can put people into said lists, and then control the features. For example, I set it so that clients cannot contact me after hours on Facebook chat. Similarly, so that family cannot contact me during work hours. And… other settings depending on what sort of chat mood I am in.
I also have a default setting that allows any underaged or… more… wowsery people on my friend lists, not see my statuses by default. Which is good for the ol’ drunk Facebooking! But also has powerful utility. You may notice that I have lists that are for different “voices”. Professional me, Candid me, Anything goes me, a list for those that truly “get” what I am about (for the weirder bits!), family… it’s all there and easy to control.
Like I have said a hundred times… switching tools will not necessarily “fix” your problems if you aren’t using the tools correctly. Whether Google+ gains ground beyond the geek crowd remains to be seen, but we shouldn’t overestimate the innovation that has occurred either.
Facebook already supplies these sorts of features. These are just tools. And there are already mumblings about concerns about Google+ privacy… whether you do have true control over your content (for example having your statuses shared), and a plethora of other teething problems that Facebook are slowly ironing out over time.
I will continue to use both, but whether Google+ is truly innovative, or just another Google attempt at showing geeks shiny things, remains to be seen.