I did it. I survived without tweeting for a week (it really wasn’t that hard) and invested the equivalent time in Google+. The experiment was called Cold Twerky and this is what I learnt.
Giving up Twitter – could you do it?
When I started Cold Twerky, I discussed the experiment with Kat first, and she thought it was kind of cool, so invited a few social media people I knew to join in, mostly via Twitter. The response was a resounding, “No way! I like the idea though – see you in a week!”
It was a bit of a lukewarm reception from colleagues too, so just Kat and I then…
Where are all the people on Google+?
I’ve heard Google+ described as a Ghost Town, or a void and been asked during the experiment, “did you find anyone?”
What happened was that Google+ evangelist Lee Smallwood (sorry to use the e-word Lee, but you are kind of like the Ben Kenobi of Google+) posted a bunch of his +friends on the Monday of the experiment to introduce us.
It felt like we’d just walked into a society meeting in a pub, where everyone stops to look at you with their pint glass at their lips, mid-sip.
The reality was completely different. Everyone was welcoming, commented on our posts and generally encouraged us. I think it’s fair to say all use Google+ as their main social network. A couple of threads Kat and I posted on ran to more than 20 contributions. It occurred to me that I wouldn’t have had level of response in terms of retweets or Likes on Facebook.
During the week, I found that there were a fair few of my existing contacts using Google+, some regularly, others sporadically.
On the Sunday, while watching the football, I experimented by looking up #Euro2012 (yes, hashtags work on Google+). On Tweetdeck, it looked like a fruit machine whirring away. On Google+, it was the proverbial ghost town.
Is Google+ a Twitter replacement?
No, my opinion on this has changed. When Google+ first came out, people touted it as a Facebook killer, but I thought the functionality was more in line with Twitter and that would be more under threat, hence trying to get people to give Twitter up for a week, rather than another social network.
My view now is that Google+ is an entirely different animal altogether. Sure, it resembles the likes of Twitter and Facebook in certain ways, but it doesn’t have Twitter’s immediacy, nor Facebook’s user history, so dragging people off those networks is no mean feat.
What I was surprised about was the way people used it. For some it’s like Pinterest, sharing photos (although sadly, too few of them were original pieces of work, unlike, say Instagram). For others, it’s effectively a blog platform, as Google+ is well suited to long form posts and opinons – and seems much more likely to generate comments. For example, my last blog post generated zero comments on this blog, but dozens around Google+.
That all said, I won’t be giving up blogging any time soon – as Scot Duke said to me, “your blog is where the magic happens”. And I agree, a blog is still the most effective and permanent place to express yourself.
So, if it’s not a blog platform, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Instagram, what is it?
I’m still not sure I have the answer to this question. It will depend on the community – in other words, who decides to use Google+ and how many there are of them. There’s talk of kids abandoning Facebook because of too much POS action, so maybe Google+ would be more attractive to them?
It also depends on integration with third party networks. I find the likes of Instagram really useful, because it enables me to publish photos in multiple places. Google+ needs a bit of this to attract more users.
So, who does Google+ appeal to?
So, to me, Google+ may end up appealing to two different audiences, both of which will perform in the same ring (stay with me here).
Firstly, there the social media jugglers. These are people like me, that feel they have to have a presence on all the major networks, but will be constantly juggling their ‘social media time’ and potentially just doing a lot of duplicate publishing (not necessarily a good thing).
The second audience are the social media sword swallowers. They’re a bit different – they like to really concentrate on one thing. They are likely to have one or many of the following characteristics.
- Fed up with Facebook for one reason or another (keep changing stuff, screwing up privacy settings etc.)
- Like to have a better relationship with a smaller number of people. Google+ take more time investment than Twitter, so it’s harder to do anything meaningful with thousands of users, unless you dedicate a lot of time to it.
- Big Google application fans, so are likely to have a Gmail account, use Docs/Drive, Groups, Maps, blog on Blogger rather than WordPress and so on. Google+ really brings this stuff together nicely.
- Care about Google search results and where they/their brands feature.
Like swallowing swords
I met quite a few sword swollowers during Cold Twerky. A few tried to encouraged me to take a sword myself, but I’ve not got the faith….yet.
Google+: thoughts on the user interface
So, if you’ve got this far through the blog post, congratulations – I never expected to write this much. To round off, here are a few thoughts on the user interface:
- Unlike Twitter and even Facebook, there’s a temptation to write too much on Google+. Social networks aren’t the place for this (blogs are!) and there’s a risk of getting into bad writing habits.
- I like having much more control who I communicate with. Forget having the Twitter scenario of public tweet and private direct message, with Google+ you can write to one person (which works like an email, in a sense), groups, circles or public.
- If you care about Klout, you are only rewarded for +1s on public posts.
- Despite having circles, which I love, I still end up just looking at my full stream, which means that as soon as I either follow more people or those I do follow use it more, it’ll become information overload and I won’t be able to keep up.
- Google+ needs a better mobile app and some kind of Hootsuite/Tweetadder application – ideally integration with them.
- +1s could easily lose their value. I already feel I’m a bit too free and easy with mine, often pressing the button just to agree with someone. Maybe Google+ should allocate a daily +10 that we could only use sparingly?
- I like hashtags, but I don’t see many people using them. Google needs to find a way of getting people to break news and share it more via hashtags (I’m afraid this is a chicken and egg situation and needs more users to really work).
- I seriously need to get into hangouts. Unfortunately, most of my internet time is at work and, guess what, we use desktop PCs with no web cams (not that it’s especially practical in a busy office).
So, that’s about it. I was going to write a section about the search benefits of Google+, but plenty of other people have covered this already. Suffice to say, from a search engine optimisation perspective, it matters, so get on the Google+ bus now.
In the next Google+ post, I may have a look at brands and publishers using Google+ effectively (the FT now features in over a million circles), but I’ll save that for another day…
- Google Plus: Ghost Town or Company Town in the Making? (readwriteweb.com)
- Are you ready to go Cold Twerky and have a week without Twitter? (theredrocket.co.uk)
- Is Google+ worth it? Views from top users (theredrocket.co.uk)
- Please Follow me on Google+ (sweetlifealacarte.com)