I’ve been playing with Google+ for a few days now, and I’ve had some time to experiment and to see how others in my circles are reacting to it.
Most seem to be using it as a substitute for Facebook – posting to a limited audience in their own circles. Many of them like that you can more easily post about specific subjects to specific people, a capability that Facebook has but hides very well.
The more public figures – developers and power-bloggers, for example, are making everything public; it is part of their professional persona. A few of the power users are replacing their blogs altogether, because they are getting more engagement on Google+ than they ever did in their blogs.
Can it be used both ways at once? Does it have to be one or the other?
I use Facebook for sharing with friends and family, and with my broader genealogical circle of friends, many of whom I have never met personally. I use Twitter for the broader genealogical sharing and for the occasional rant during QandA and so on. Twitter is where I go to find out what is going on in the world.
I have been trying to decide how Google+ could replace both Facebook and Twitter, and I can’t make it work. I’ve been thinking a lot (probably too much, given everything I’m supposed to be doing), and here are some reasons I’ve come up with, in a random and possibly confusing order. I’m sure many, if not all, will change as Google+ matures and grows.
- When I want to make public pronouncements, I go to Twitter, and when I want to make more personal ones, I go to Facebook. If I want to do both in Google+ I have to make a few decisions before each post. Google+ defaults the circle you will post your message to depending on what you had last time. Most of us don’t think or check before we post; we just type the message and hit ‘send’. Maybe that will change over time, and maybe we will get more used to it, but as an IT developer I can see that if it’s not immediately obvious people won’t ‘get it’. And they’re not getting it yet.
- There are not many people on Google+ yet, and most of the ones I know are genealogists or techos. (Or both). Mostly they post about genealogical subjects or about Google+, although some are starting to share their photos. There are not many posts, and so not much reason to visit multiple times in a day. Yet. Whereas I have Facebook open all day, and am more likely to comment on my day there. Google+ doesn’t seem like the place where anyone would be interested.
- On that last topic - Google+ posts when someone comments on a photo in an existing Picasa Web album, so we are now seeing a lot of photos posted as though they are new. This is mildly annoying but the people at Google are tweaking this.
- There is not enough integration with other sites. I have already seen many complaints about Google+ not integrating with Blogger, which is Google‘s own blog site. I would also like to be able to post in multiple sites at once, since I am an active member in multiple sites. Again, I’m sure this will change with time, unless some of the sites lock the others out.
- Facebook just feels more casual. I am more likely to use the Like button than the +1 button, because +1 feels like I am recommending something, whereas Like just feels like I like it. There’s a big difference in social terms.
- I use Twitter in a more professional capacity, and that’s where I go when I want to be updated on what’s happening in the world in general and genealogy in particular. Google+ feels more like an expanded Twitter than a friendly sharing space for family and friends.
- I do a lot of my public speaking explaining to people that Facebook is safe, and that it’s worth trying because that’s where their friends and family are likely to be. And they are. They are not in Google+.
- Although it’s easy to put people into circles and post to particular circles, I don’t think the posting is intuitive, and I’m not sure what could be done to avoid problems when you don’t notice that your new message has defaulted to the last circle you posted to. Especially if it was Public.
- I can get around this problem in Twitter by using third-party tools such as Tweetdeck, where I can categorise my contacts into columns and I can easily see which of my multiple Twitter accounts (and Facebook accounts and pages) is posting or replying to a particular message. Maybe something similar will come for Google+. There is already an option for multiple users in Google+ that comes with more warnings than I care to deal with at the moment.
- Google wants us to bring everything we do on the web together in one place. Why leave Google when everything is there? I have not taken these concerns seriously before, but now even I am faintly uneasy. I don’t like that Google+ shows me the people in my Gmail address book to recommend I add them to a circle without me asking for it.
As a Facebook substitute where people share personal stuff Google+ is not working for me, so I’m going to experiment with it as a Twitter substitute, and go Public. You won’t see YouTube videos I find cute, or pictures of my previous holidays (unless someone comments on one of them perhaps, since it’s linked to my personal Google account), but just what I think about things that matter to me as a genealogist and social media fan.