PUNCTUATION USED TO SHOW EMPHASIS — A BREAK IN THOUGHT — AND A BLOG BY EMILY HAGEDORN

Not gaga for Google+

In apps, blogs, branding, commentary, Facebook, Foursquare, Google+, iPhone, journalism, Skype, social media, technology, Twitter on July 28, 2011 at 9:00 am

OK. I’ll bite. The siren song of a new social media fad beckons, and I can’t avoid its call.

So … I now have a Google+ account.

I signed up last week and have tried to use it more over the last couple of days.

And I respect what Google is going for. It’s like Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Foursquare and probably some other applications I haven’t yet realized all wrapped up into one.

And from a marketing and development standpoint, this seems like a solid idea: Why would anyone use five different sites when they could use just one?

Still, I have my doubts that it will reach the popularity of any of these individual sites, but I’ll save my this-upstart-will-never-make-it-in-the-wide-world-of-social-media rant for the end of this post.

(If you haven’t yet gone cuckoo for Google+ and have no idea what I’m talking about, Lifehacker and Business Insider have put together some helpful guides.)

First, here are some of my initial likes and dislikes about Google+.

Likes:

  • You can edit posts after you already have published them. As a grammar, spelling and punctuation perfectionist, it bugs me to no end when I have a typo in a post on Facebook or Twitter that I can’t fix without erasing the entire update and reposting. What’s worse is when I realize the error hours or days after I first put up the post.
  • You can filter your “stream,” which is like your news feed. The “circles” function works much like the lists on Twitter, in that you can assign people to one or more circles and then filter your stream to only show what people are saying in each group. Right now I have circles for friends, family, acquaintances, work and journalism. Plus you can put people in more than one circle.
  • The circles go both ways, in that they also allow you to control who sees what parts of your profile and posts. Once you get in the habit of choosing the circles of people who you’d like to see your information, you can really take advantage of this function. Drunken updates at 3 a.m. going out to everyone you work with can be avoided — as long as you’re sober enough to leave them out of the post.
  • And just to make sure you’re not sharing something with the public that you’d like to keep private, there’s a “view profile as” button on your profile page that allows you to easily see what the public sees.
  • The task bar, which shows up at the top of any Google page that you’re on when you’re signed into Google+, has a “share” box on the far right that’s easy to use and allows you to post without pulling up the Google+ page every time.
  • “Sparks” is useful, in that it brings news to you as oppose to you having to find it elsewhere on the web and link to it on your page.
  • While friending someone you don’t know has become a faux pas on Facebook, that etiquette doesn’t seem to exist with Google+ … or at least not yet. In this way, Google+ is more like Twitter in that you can follow anyone.
  • The “hangout” function has promise, especially for journalists talking directly with readers, though I haven’t had the chance to use it much yet. Several people have written about this potential use, including Mashable.
  • And as clean and intuitive as the Google+ web site is, the Google+ iPhone app seems to be as well. You can easily post photos from your phone. This includes posting more than one photo at once. It also has a “nearby” page where you can see what strangers are writing about near you. I’ve always felt that applications like this and Foursquare teeter on creepy, but I can see the possible uses.

Dislikes:

  • I wish I could write a status update — or whatever the posts will be called in Google+ — on my profile page along with the stream page. (But I suppose since I have the task bar at the top of the page, this isn’t a huge deal.)
  • Having a separate tab on my profile page for +1’s, which are much like “likes” in Facebook, is a good idea, but I don’t like that the +1’s I hit on people’s updates on Google+ don’t show up on my +1’s tab as well. Only the +1’s that I click on other web pages, such as news stories and blog posts, show up. This can be as confusing as writing +1’s five times in one bullet point. Google+ should have named the +1’s — six times! — under people’s posts something different to avoid confusion.
  • There seems to be a delay between when I write an update and when it shows up on my profile page. I’ve seen the same with the +1’s. This may be a bug Google is working on.
  • Google+ doesn’t yet offer vanity URLs, so I’m stuck with https://plus.google.com/u/0/110445942340686840165 for my profile. (Gplus.to, an outside site, does, though.)
  • Until I got the hang of designating who sees what, I had a lot of items designated private that I wanted public and visa versa.
  • And much like with the Facebook iPhone app, I wish the Google+ app allowed you to embed links in updates as easy as you can on each of their sites.

Clearly my likes (nine bullet points) outnumber my dislikes (six bullets).

But I’m still not sold. I’ve been on Google+’s biggest competitor, Facebook, since at least 2005 — that’s like 40 years in web years — and it will take a lot to get me to switch over.

As much as the ever-present threat of Mark Zuckerberg taking over the world scares me, Facebook and I have a history. It’s been there for me in the good times (New job!) and bad times (Massive layoffs!).

And as depressing as this sounds, I would feel horribly disconnected from a lot of people if I didn’t have Facebook. Those connections took time to find and build — time I don’t know I want to devote to Google+ if I’ve already done this someplace else.

Twitter, Skype and foursquare have survived because they’ve filled niches that Facebook hasn’t entirely conquered. I know what I should post and do differently on each of these. One idea, though, could be to make a work-only Google+ page, since Google+ seems more applicable to journalists reaching out to readers than Facebook does. But at the same time, if readers aren’t on Google+, how helpful would Google+ be?

One last point: While the fact that Google+ is a one-stop shop for lots of applications looks good on paper, the audience who uses these tools the most isn’t as impressed by this. Cybergeeks and social media mavens flaunt the fact that they have accounts on 20 different sites. They want to appear to be early adopters, to know the ins of all that’s out there. You’re not connected unless you have Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn and YouTube accounts and can boast that you were a part of MySpace and Friendster back in the day.

I doubt that they are going to drop all of these other commitments to become Google+ addicts.

But who knows? Maybe I’ll be wrong. Maybe Google+ will rise up and take a big bite out of the social media pie, just like Google has with the rest of the web.

And in that case, please circle me on Google+ at gplus.to/emilyhagedorn.

Do you have additional likes and dislikes to add to my list or other comments about Google+ to share? Please let me know in the comments section below. 

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  1. [...] As I’ve discussed in a previous blog post, I like a lot of Google+’s improvements over Facebook, but they’re not enough to make [...]

  2. [...] a warm and fuzzy feeling that even beats out my own doubts about Google+ (which you can read about here and [...]

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