UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Is It Now Time to Embed Use of Google+?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 21 September 2011

Is Google+ Dead?

Is Google+ dead?  Dan Reimold certainly thinks so. In a post entitled “Google+: Social Media Upstart ‘Worse Than a Ghost Town‘” he suggest that Google+ may “simply [be ] a social media step too far” and is now “worse than a ghost town“.  In his conclusions he reflects on his personal experiences as a Google+ user:

As it stands, my Circles are sparse. The stream of updates has basically run dry — reduced to one buddy who regularly writes. My initial excitement about signing on and inviting people to join me has waned. Nowadays, I apparently get tired just thinking about it. 

A similar discussion about the relevance – and perhaps sustainability – took place amongst some of my Twitter followers recently. It seems that some feel Google+ is irrelevant and others are pleased with what they claim is a failed Google service and are waiting for the Diaspora service to be launched. However, as I said in the Twitter discussion, I am not convinced by this argument.

Why Google+ May be a Slow-Burner

Lessons from Growth of Twitter

In January 2011 in a post on Evidence of Personal Usage Of Social Web Services I described how use of the Tweetstats service provided me with evidence of growth of my Twitter usage which contradicted the understanding I had at the time. I had thought that I was an early adopter of Twitter and had used if fairly consistently since my first tweet in January 2007. But the Tweetstats graph (illustrated) shows little use in 2007. It wasn’t until early 2008 that I started to use Twitter on a regular basis.  The gaps in graph in the early part of 12008 puzzled me initially until I came across a blog post in which I described how I had made intensive use of Twitter whilst attending the Museums and the Web 2008 conference.  It seems that, perhaps due to a glitch in Twitter or Tweetstats, no usage had been detected for a period of a couple of months, which included the time when I first start to use Twitter on a regular basis.

Looking back it seems that attending a conference abroad made me aware of the benefits which Twitter can provide during a conference and that I soon became aware of the additional benefits which can be gained by developing links with one’s professional network.

A few days ago Aaron Tay pointed out that:

Some technology rewards getting in early e.g Twitter (early accs get more followers) & some don’t e.g qrcode http://j.mp/mUncdt

The post he cited (on the Seth Godin blog) made the observation that:

Worth considering: The difference between a technology where getting in early pays dividends, and those that don’t. For example, having a website or a blog or a Twitter account early can help, because each day you add new users and fans.

QR codes, on the other hand, don’t reward those that get in the ground floor. You can always start tomorrow.

Seth pointed out a important advantage that early adopters of social networks can have – the ease of gaining the critical mass which may be needed in order for the service to provide value.  There is a danger that this may be construed as a suggestion that the numbers of followers alone is a key factor in having an effective social networking service – and seeking new followers simply to enhance one’s Klout or Peerindex ranking is an example of misunderstanding of the relevance of a critical mass. Rather than simply indiscriminately seeking to grow large numbers of followers it you are looking to use a social network for professional purposes there is a need for to be reach the critical mass across one’s peers.

I recently installed the Social Bros application which provides evidence of personal use of Twitter.  I used this recently to investigate the number of followers the people I follow on Twitter have.  As can be seem most of the people I follow have 100-500 followers, with significant numbers having 1,000-5,000 and 500-1,000 followers. In order to develop a community of this size it can be useful to be an early adopter so that one can stake a claim. The following influx of users will have to search for contacts, and, having spotted and made contact with you, you will be able to reciprocate, if  you so choose.

As described in a Wikipedia entry on the Network Effectsites like Twitter and Facebook [become] more useful the more users join“. But as well as users needing a critical mass and an understanding of the benefits of the service, there will also be a need for east-to-use tools. Initially I used the Twitter Web site but as I discovered from reading my early posts about Twitter,  I was using the Twhirl client around the time my Twitter use became embedded in my daily work routine.  The Tweetstats service I mentioned earlier also provides me with statistics on the Twitter clients I have used.  As can be seen Tweetdeck is now my preferred tool, with the usage statistics of the Web client primarily either reflecting, I suspect, my early use of the Web or use in Internet cafes.

Implications for My Use of Google+

What lessons might we learn from these reflections on how Twitter developed from claiming an id but making little use to finding valuable (and unexpected)  use cases which lead to the service being embedded in my professional life which can be applied to Google+?

Like, I suspect, many others of my peers I have claimed a Google+ account and have established contacts with people I know from both real world and online interactions (there are currently 116 people in my circles and 385 people who have included me in their circle).

Yesterday I found that Google+ accounts are now freely available to everyone, so the comment I have heard that Google+ is exclusive to the early adopters is not longer the case.

I also heard yesterday that Google+ have released APIs which should help in developing a richer environment of tools and services based around Google+ (in this case, use of Huddle) which, I feel, was valuable in Twitter becoming mainstream.

The Google+ service itself is becoming richer in functionality, with recent tweets from Aaron Tay alerting me to articles which describe how “Google+ Hangouts Go Mobile & Get More Collaborative” and explain “Why Google Plus Hangouts is the Killer App: Docs“.

It seems to me that it is now timely to explore ways in which Google+ may deliver benefits and also to gain an understanding of best practices including personal work flow processes.  Earlier this year I set up a daily blog which I used to keep notes and ideas.  I spotted using it after six months, partly because I felt I was getting little new from using a second WordPress blog.  However I’ve now made a decision to use Google+ as a middle ground between the (sometimes, as in this case, long) posts I publish on this blog and the conversations and  announcements which take place on Twitter.

Anyone else planning to make greater use of Google+? Or, like Dan Reimold, do you feel it’s a ghost town and is unlike to have a significant role to play?

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9 Responses to “Is It Now Time to Embed Use of Google+?”

  1. I am currently moving our network (~600 students) from friendfeed to google+. Now is the time.

  2. For me the big whole in Google+ so far is the lack of a client on the desktop. A web tab in and of itself doesn’t bring me back in to interact and a lot of actual conversation still takes place on Twitter so that’s where I return to. But it does seem another case of pundits seeing different things in their own stream and assuming their experience maps on to everyone elses.

  3. I’m still feeling my way with G+ and using it alongside Twitter. I think G+ is showing signs of finding it’s own style and maturing rapidly so I expect to use it more and more. As the gaps in it’s use case fill it’s getting quicker an more interesting to use too.

    New huddle features are very interesting, though I’m now waiting for being able to start a huddle in the mobile app.

    Like you I think innovation with the the APIS is going to drive adoption and also G+ define itself better.

  4. niamhpage said

    Major problem with Google+ is the fact that they’re still being awkward about organisations joining it. Until I can use it properly it’s just not worth the effort!

  5. Mia said

    It’s just YASN (yet another social network) but one that comes with bonus privacy and data issues. But far worse, Google’s attitude to pseudonyms vs real names has really damaged my opinion of them. For instance, see http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Who_is_harmed_by_a_%22Real_Names%22_policy%3F or http://m.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/08/why-facebook-and-googles-concept-of-real-names-is-revolutionary/243171/ and finally https://plus.google.com/117903011098040166012/posts/asuDWWmaFcq

  6. Twitter is untouched by Google Plus because of its 140 characters and simplicity. That hooks everyone in. It’s public, its fast, its easy, its anarchic. Its great. And as a tool for quick and easy global penetration of snappy thoughts, its unrivalled.

    However Google Plus is (a) much richer and (b) could reach within and between enterprises, including universities. The real loser to Google Plus may be Yammer, Jive and others like that. Google Plus had a genesis as an internal communications tool within Google, and it shows. It works best with nice people having intelligent conversations. Not so good when flamers beat each other up. I think Google Plus rolling out to Apps users could be a breakthrough step forward in allowing institutions to talk amongst themselves, as well as reaching out beyond boundaries. G+ supports ensconced conversations in private circles that can still be reshared outside them – which is often how academics and support staff actually talk to each other – as well as public enlightened discourse. All this is provided with a myriad of access points (web, iOS, Android, APIs) and rich extension points like Hangouts (now with screensharing) that keep users coming back, and which other similar networks (Yammer etc) will struggle to match.

    With the recent Windows 8 and iOS changes its becoming clear that the need to “share” at the touch of a button, wherever you are, whether in a document or an email or a calendar entry an eBook or a web page, is becoming so fundamentally useful that it’s supported at OS level right on the device, not by each application separately. This can be seen on the new Google black bar atop of all its web services – the share dialog is right there. Wherever you go, sharing should always be easy. Imagine if Google Plus sharing was integrated into iOS and Windows 8 (as a “charm”) and integrated into the top bar of your institutional web site?

    The same goes for alerts and search by the way, which G+ nails too. (Search is tricker of course as your institutions search box at the top of the website needs to search way more than just shared posts, but wouldn’t it be nice…?)

  7. PeteJ said

    I’ve been concerned for some time about Google’s extending its services into new areas, bringing with it the twin problems of their accumulating more personal information about me and me becoming more dependent on them as a service provider.

    So I’ve tried to reduce – not eliminate, but reduce – my use of Google services and products generally. While I was initially curious about Google Plus, I recognise it is another centralised service operated by a single powerful company, and I saw little in the functionality to persuade me I needed it.

    I also share Mia’s concerns about Google’s narrow, “hard line” policy on identity/pseudonymity, and the negative impact of that policy for many people. I also think there are broader concerns about Google’s seeking to strengthen its role as an “identity provider service”.

    Taken together, these factors make me reluctant to use Google Plus, and I don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future.

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