It’s too early to predict exactly how much of an impact Google+ will have on the social sphere. Right now the site is populated largely by early adopters, and much of the conversation is about Google+ itself. As the most talked-about social networking platform to launch since social media use has become somewhat mature, it’s too soon to tell whether Google+ will attract a broad audience or become a robust marketing platform. But it’s already teaching its users some interesting lessons, such as these:
- The existing tools aren’t perfect. At this point, it’s ludicrous to pronounce that Google+ is a Facebook or Twitter “killer.” But it’s just as ludicrous to insist that Twitter, Facebook, or any other tool can’t be improved. Google+ has already revealed the flaws of other tools and the folly of staying loyal to tools just because they’re what you’ve always used.
- It’s not about the tools–it’s about what the tools make possible. Platforms come and go. Before Facebook there was MySpace, and before MySpace there was Friendster. No one needs another social media site, but we could all use something better than what’s out there right now. If Google+ succeeds, it will be because users recognize it as an improvement over, or as a compliment to, what other sites make possible.
- Sharing everything with everyone is dumb. My favorite thing about Google+ so far is the Circles feature, which allows users to share different content with different groups of users (in fact, that notion was the impetus behind its development, as first revealed in this presentation). The concept isn’t new–Facebook and Twitter both offer the possibility of segmenting your audience–but it’s the first tool that makes it central to the experience (and it’s a hell of a lot easier than using Facebook’s “Groups”). The reason Circles works so well is that it allows us to communicate in a way that’s reflective of how we communicate in the real world–different messages for different audiences. For those like me who use LinkedIn to target messages to professional contacts and use Facebook to communicate primarily with friends and family, Google+ offers some welcome efficiency. And it also provides a better experience from the audience’s standpoint, since they don’t have to wade through nearly as many messages they don’t care about to get to the few that are relevant to their interests. Google+ has exposed the fact that sharing everything with everyone is dumb–and unnecessary.
- We’ve become dependent on efficiency and mobile tools. The initial excitement surrounding the launch of Google+ was quickly followed by disappointment that it wasn’t supported by efficiency tools like HootSuite or optimized for some mobile devices/platforms. It quickly became evident that our dependence on efficiency and mobile tools is a byproduct of our dependence upon social media as a whole.
- We’re all still learning. It’s easy to take knowledge for granted. As many of us have mastered the existing social media tools, we likely have forgotten what it’s like to start at square one. Well, Google+ has provided a reminder, a place where the playing field is a lot more even. It’s another example of the fact that social media “expertise’ is fleeting and that knowledge of any one platform isn’t nearly as valuable as a deep understanding of the underlying concepts behind social media.
So, that’s what I think we’ve learned from Google+ so far. What lessons has it taught you?