I’m six days in to Cold Twerky – an experiment that has seen me spend a week without Twitter and investing the equivalent time in Google+. I’m almost at the end of the exercise and for every question answered about Google+, I’ve found lots of others.
The fundamental question is this: is Google+ worth the time investment?
And the answer, at the moment, is yes… sort of. These past few days I’ve discovered that it’s certainly not a straight Twitter replacement, as I first thought, but something different. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions, such as ‘is there space in our brains for another social network or does something else have to give?’ I don’t have the answers to these just yet, so I’ve enlisted the help of some Google+ users who have spent a longer amount of time than me to really get under the skin of it.
Is there a finite limit to the number of social networks people can engage in?
This one’s always been an issue with me. When everyone else was getting excited about Pinterest, I was thinking ‘I really don’t have time for this and I have already got Delicious’. Ruth Arnold – aka Cheshire-based blogger Geek Mummy – agrees:
“Yes, I think there is a finite limit, but I think it’s limited by two things – available time, and presence of friends. People will make extra effort to participate in social networks where their friends and family are also engaged. This is why Facebook has such a strong foothold – even people like my Mum are on Facebook, and her primary reason for being there is to see photos posted by other family members. For me, with the amount of available time that I have, I can manage to keep on top of Twitter and Facebook, anything more than that is a stretch.”
How do you focus your social media energy?
While Ruth is, like me at the moment, more focused on Twitter and Facebook, Germany-based British blogger Clare Cosgrove has a different take on Google+:
“I spend the majority of my time on G+ everyday doing something different. I think of G+ as being a busy town. Museums and galleries, cafés and rallies… someone’s living room… a stroll in the park… classroom… business meetings… news updates… camp fire stories… and late night concerts… wonderful food… comedy club.”
Scot Duke, a Texas based social media expert, is another Google+ user who is concentrating his energy on one platform, rather than spread himself around. And for Scot, this decision is largely business-based:
“My business is not immune to the recession in the economy so I have pulled back to rebuild and rethink my next steps and keep my options open to even joining a new team or company as an employee. So this has resulted in me focusing on one social platform. I have been on all the social spaces and continue to venture in to see the new ones that keep popping up, but I focus most of my energy to Google Plus.”
What do you get out of Google+ that you can’t/don’t get from other social networks?
For Clare it’s all about access to a broader community. On a previous post reviewing Google+, she writes:
“At Facebook I have people that I love and cherish..but I don’t always have people who share my interests… at Google+ I have been enjoying art, design, philosophy, music, television, cooking, travel, marketing, journalism, entertainment and have had access to some of the best IT minds ever and I have spent hours of fun enjoying the most amazing photography.”
What is Google+ the biggest threat to: Facebook, Twitter, Blogging or none of the above?
My former colleague in the PR world, Pete Marcus, says, “I’m not sure it’s a threat to any of them. I started off assuming it was a threat to Twitter but as I used it I think it might be more of a rival to Facebook as a place where people display their personality with images/quotations etc.”
According to Clare, Facebook will adapt, but, “I think, Twitter will ultimately lose out – imo it’s too limited. I think social media is changing. I think marketing is changing and I think television and music media are having to change the way they communicate their products. Talking AT people isn’t working and hasn’t been for some time. You only have to read the latest reports about disappointing results from advertisers, using Facebook’s method of in your face marketing.
Like Clare, Scot agrees that Twitter is under thread from Google+, largely because of spam and trolls, but Facebook also needs to watch out: “Facebook naturally is the platform most threatened primarily due to it being the platform that is solely basing its survival on the data it can sap out of the users. Blogging however is still, and will remain so, the center of social networking and is the strongest component of all the Social Media. Google+ strengthens the blog by allowing G+ to boost the blog to gain more presence in the Google Search Engine.”
It’s interesting that Scot still feels that blogging still has an important role to play. I have to say, having spent more time on Google+ this week, I’m starting to think that Google+ could pose more of a risk to blogging than Twitter, largely because it’s a longer form way of communicating and combines other media, such as pictures and video well. When I spoke to Ruth about this, she said her husband, John, a photography lecturer agrees and could see Google+ replacing blogging and was better than Facebook because it contained less irrelevant rubbish.
Another thought has occurred to me this past week: I don’t know about being a threat to Facebook et al., I can see Google+ becoming a threat to email. OK, I’m a bit anti-email – I think it’s the biggest time drain in busy offices. But with Google+, it’s really easy to send a message to an individual, group or circle, that you wonder why you’d want to send an email in the first place.
What’s your #1 tip to get more out of Google+?
The top tip most people I asked came back with was to be more social, which pretty much applies across the field of all social networks. But it does seem that the active community on Google+ does expect more quality interaction, especially compared to the ‘dip in and out’ style of Twitter.
For newbies, there’s a plethora of user guides and tips out there. One of the best guides I’ve spotted is from Rahul Roy, which focuses a lot on the styling and content of updates – for example, using visuals and hashtags, formatting text and so on.
London music blogger and organiser of Walthamstow Scene, Nick Bason, echoes the thoughts I’ve heard from a few people who are in the same situation as me and just exploring Google+, by saying that it needs a bigger community:
“Getting more out of G+ means having more active users of the site in your circles. My main problem is that it’s quite quiet, I’ve added quite a few people to my ‘Friends’ and ‘Acquaintances’ circles but only a few regularly post content or interact. When they do, it works well, but you really need to seek out active users.”
Building a Google+ community isn’t necessarily that straightforward. Lots of the people I interact with on Twitter, for example, only dabble in Google+, so it’s a case of finding new people. Luckily I was introduced to a bunch by Lee Smallwood (some of those are contributing to this blog post), but London PR Max Tatton-Brown has more advice:
“Follow a ton of people then don’t be afraid to cull until you end up with a strong core left over. Once it becomes interesting and useful, that’s the only time you’ll start coming back. People forget they had to do this on Twitter too (and some never even bothered to get that right.)
Finally, a tip from my colleague Katerina Hejralova, who I’ve been running the Cold Twerky experiment with: “Share good content, something you’re passionate about and see what happens. And stop thinking that G+ is like Twitter, because it’s not.”
So, there you have it. Tomorrow is the last day of Cold Twerky and, who knows, maybe I’ll extend my Twitter sabbatical and spend longer on Google+ – I’m just starting to get used to it.
- How to Use Google+ to Update All Major Social Networks (problogger.net)
- Google+: Is the new social media tool working for you? (epicagear.com)