Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Can we be friends? Why Google Plus is different.

We at Content Marketing Wizard use Google+ as one of many Social Media platforms available to us. In my personal life, I am more used to Facebook. Getting used to Google+ took me a while.

Having been an avid Facebook user for years, when Google+ launched I could quickly identify the similarities. I have often mockingly told my business partner, who isn't much of a Facebook user, that Google+ is an almost exact clone of Facebook. And similar to Linkedin a host of other social platforms. Sharing status updates, sharing pictures, sharing links, responding to posts, grouping people into lists or circles, the whole sha-bam, all similar to the Facebooks of this world.

However, as I started using Google+, just to get a feel for it really, I noticed it didn't quite 'fit' me. I did not feel at home at first. It took me some time to figure out why that was.

Google+ has a very simple and elegant way of connecting to other people: you just click and add them to a Circle. Either directly in Google+ or via a button on some page. Things could hardly be more simple.

Still, somehow, I didn't quite 'get' it. Sure, you can click a button on some webpage to 'connect'. Or search for someone and add them to your circles. In fact, Google+ offers a host of ways to find and connect to people. But then what? What happens if you've Circled someone?

Think about that for a minute.

That's right. Nothing happens! At first, anyway. Except that that person will be able to see what you have shared with that Circle *when* they visit your profile. Well, that's great! But that person will have to visit your profile first! Sure, he (or she) can tell that you added them to your Circle. But unless that person acts upon that, nothing happens! It is only after that person has put *you* in one of their circles that they will be able to see you in their stream. Only after both parties have added each other to their circles you are truly connected.

I suppose when you are a seasoned Google+ user, this is all bloody obvious. To me, it wasn't. And still isn't. I get how it works now, but my intuition tells me something isn't quite right.

Why does my brain misfire? Or rather, why does my gut disagree with my brain? It took me a while to realize. It is because there is no introduction! You never introduce yourself to the person you add to your Circles!

My gut tells me that any real-life social interaction starts with an introduction of some sort? But my brain tells me it may not. Now.

Let's consider an analogy. You are in a bar. You introduce yourself to someone and buy him a drink. He buys you one back. From that point on, you are connected. This is similar to the Facebook way of connecting. (I'm ignoring the 'Subscribe' feature here)

Google+ works differently. You are in a bar. You see a person. You simply buy this person a drink. You hope that person will buy you one back. If he does, you are connnected. This is similar to the Twitter way of connecting.

My point is, that Google+ has done away with the introduction part of a 'relationship'. You add someone to your circles and from then on share with them. Only, the other party does not see that until they explicitly  circle you back.

So, in effect, in Google+ you don't make 'friends'. You gather 'followers'. Some of your followers may also be friends. You decide. An intriguing concept, I think.

It makes me very curious about how Google+ will develop as a social platform. Will it move in the Facebook direction? Or will it be more similar to Linkedin? Or will it evolve into something different altogether? Will it take off at all? I don't know, but I intend stick around and find out.

About the Author(s): This article was written by Arno van Boven. Arno is co-founder of Content Marketing Wizard.

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