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Google+ | The Average Facebook User

I've been on g+ for almost a week now and that has given me enough time to get used to the interface, appeal and application of the next big player in the social media industry.

So far there have been many reviews across the internet covering one, two or all three of these aspects. However, I've noticed that none of these reviews come from the perspective of an average facebook user. All the reviewers so far are understandably the big and influential players in today's social media i.e. they all enjoy a mass following on other social networks by similar social media enthusiasts.

I met quite a few of my friends over the last week and in pretty much every conversation I’ve brought up Google+. Interestingly enough, only about 10% of them knew about g+ to begin with. When I asked the ones that didn’t know as to why that was so, they said it was simply “because they didn’t hear about it over facebook!”
This shows that the bulk of the internet community is not made up of people that are on google+ today with 5k+ followers, rather it’s composed of people that:

- have about 300-500 facebook friends
- do not add unknowns to their friends list
- do not live on the internet
- like to use their facebook account for only staying in touch and sharing media within their small group of friends
- do not like to blog or share pictures publicly
- do not display info on their profile publicly
- if they follow some celebrity on twitter or facebook, it is only because it is cool and everyone else did it
- are very reluctant to switch from facebook because it satisfies their basic social networking needs
- are very reluctant to even create a second facebook profile if the need arises (because building a new social profile, finding and adding friends is pretty much the equivalent of moving from one city to another IRL)
- have friends that think along the same lines as above

Most of the above is true of me and my facebook friends. +Robert Scoble highlighted this problem in his blogs on why “Your Father, Wife and Mom won’t join Google+” but he couldn’t present a solution for it either because he doesn’t use social networks as an average facebook user.

So why am I here on google+ actively using it for the last few days and what do I think of it? In writing this article, I would like to present the much needed perspective of an average facebook user (AFU) on google+. This will hopefully make it easier for the readers to convince their average facebook friends to join google+.

To begin, I think it is important to realize that any social network needs to be analyzed in terms of all three aspects suggested above: interface, appeal, and application.

1. Appeal
When you’ll ask your AFU to join google+, immediately they’ll respond with a “Why?”. It is a very valid question. What does Google+ have that’ll appeal to the AFU and ultimately convince them to join?

> The first thing that caught my attention is the brand name. If there is one thing 750 million facebook users use other than facebook, it’s Google! Google was a part of the AFU’s e-life even before facebook came into existence. So if your AFU friends say why?, tell them because it’s Google!
> G+ takes the best features of facebook and twitter, combines them, and then adds more features on top. So the AFUs can have their private social profiles just like on facebook where they can share pictures, videos, plans with their real life friends. At the same time they can see what their favorite celebrities are up to without their private life ever being exposed to them… just like twitter. And to add the cherry on top, they even get to do free 10 way video calls from within the browser (which in my opinion work much better than Skype group conferences).
> Finally the chance to have everything in ONE place. The AFU hates having to manage too many accounts or too many smartphone apps. G+ offers the AFU the ability to control their e-life all from one black toolbar… mail, social profile, calendar, contacts, sharing, documents, photos, search, maps, youtube, translate, etc.
> If the AFU has an Android, then they get the best social app (in my opinion). Everything that you need on the go is in that app. Besides the standard G+ features, it has Huddle which is better than texting, and it has Instant Upload which makes sharing pictures/videos as easy as taking them!
> The data on google+ will belong to the AFU. With Google Takeout, the AFU can download all of their data whenever they want.
> The AFUs love pictures and like sharing them with their friends. But the AFUs are not happy with the tiny resolution offered to them on facebook that compresses their party/vacation pictures and make them look awful. On google+ the AFU gets unlimited storage on PicasaWeb and can upload and see pictures in a much higher resolution! You can also edit pictures within your album and give them fancy effects to make them look great.

2. Interface
AFUs like simple, clean and gorgeous UIs. AFUs hate adverts. AFUs like fast websites. That is exactly what the Google+ interface gives them. When I logged in to Google+ the first time, I was stunned by the beauty of the UI.

> Everything is crisp and well laid out.
> The stream updates in real time.
> You can drag and drop pictures from your desktop into the share box to publish them.
> Profile and privacy editing can be done right from the profile page (which as the AFU knows is not the case with facebook.)
> The profile does not look like it contains too much information and is hence easily readable.
> The AFU can look through someone’s profile pictures without having to open the album.
> Adding/editing/deleting your friends or circles is incredibly simple compared to facebook.
> The Photos page is simply gorgeous with much better and larger preview thumbnails.
> Managing your circles is not only easy and smooth, but also fun!
> The text can be made bold or italic.
> There are no adverts!

3. Application
The AFU’s needs from the internet are:

> Stay in touch with friends
> Communicate and share online differently with different friends depending on the real-life relationships
> Stay up to date with interests like movies
> Know what the favorite celebrities are up to
> Chatting
> Do all of the above from a mobile phone using one app only
> Share ideas, links, pictures, videos
> Checking in from a location or finding out what nearby friends are up to

Google+ offers all that and raises the bar by including two more killer features to redefine the application of a social network for an AFU: Hangouts and Huddles - communicating with a bunch of friends at the same time using the same snappy and crisp interface!

Looking forward to your thoughts and comments on the topic. Thank you for reading through.

+Ahmed Zeeshan


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Google Doc version:

This article is also available in the following languages:
French - (translated by +Emilio Boronali)
Italian - (translated by +Andrea Di Prima)
Spanish - (translated by +Resnick Flores)

If you wish to contribute a translation for another language please read this post:

Other Google+ articles from me:
The Etiquettes -
The Early Adopter's Guide -
The Starter's Pack -
The Circles: Dividing, Nesting and Prioritizing -


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Ahmed Zeeshan's profile photoArnav Kalra's profile photoRobert Maimone's profile photoDr. Sanjay Katare's profile photo
Great post! I think the big issue will continue to be "why?". Your points are valid, but:

-- Most celebrities aren't on here yet.
-- Virtually none of their friends are on here yet.

It's going to be slow and steady growth that makes it work. As more of their friends (and celebs) join, then others will join along with them. The great thing about Facebook is that virtually everyone I know is on there. I can think of just two people that aren't. Google+ needs to build a huge following like that, so it'll be fun to watch the growth along the way.
hmm, yes. But the idea is to get people to join/try the network as opposed to switching completely. Once they're inside google+ and have given it a chance, more likely than not they'll fall for it and will become regular users. That is how the community here will grow.
I agree, but most of my IRL friends don't care about "trying networks". They want to see cute photos of their friend's dog, read about mom's latest drama, and move on. Seeing the cool features won't do much for them if their other friends aren't here first. They'll move over when their friends do, but their friends won't until they do. :)

To that end, I've been pushing my semi-geeky friends to try it out. My hope is to get them to stick around, which then might draw in the next layer, and so forth.

Like I said before, it's going to be very interesting to see how this develops (or fails to develop) over the next few years. I'm investing quite heavily in it now, so I'm hoping for the best!
sure thing. I'm looking for critical feedback (much like yours) :)
I had similar conversations this weekend with people -- smart but casual technology users -- who were curious about G+ and both predisposed to try it because of long-standing use of other google products and frustrated enough with FB to want to make the switch. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.
I think the single biggest hurdles for AFU will be the Circles UI and friend importing.
The Circles UI in particular is complicated. Most people don't use friend lists on Facebook (I do) and there is mental work involved in "categorizing" people. Do you put them in circles to share with or to filter by? Should this person be in multiple circles? I want to share funny links with my brother but not my mom. Do I put them both in Family?
It doesn't take very long before the AFU gets frustrated and leaves, because circles is "just to hard".

Google is making a big bet on circles. I don't think there is a way to fix the mentally taxing problems with circles. G+ is built on top of circles from the ground up.

If the AFU has a hard time understanding Twitter than G+ is hopeless.
+Ahmed Zeeshan Nice write-up, and it's good that an 'everyuser' took the chance to write it. Thank you!

+Mickey Mellen This is something I was concerned with a little (and I was doing the Buzz/FB two-step before this) but the plus apps are a lot easier to use with friends on other sites (FB, Orkut, Yachoo, etc) than Buzz seemed to be. And I mean now, in the test environment where not everything is even installed yet.

If they're curious at all, you might show them this vid, if they haven't already seen it...
Great post. Enjoyed reading it and the comments. I think a huge factor which touched on is the moving process. You compared moving social networks to moving house which as many know is a huge ordeal. The easier it is to move the more likely you are too. If you could export your your friends to gmail from facebook rather than having to go through yahoo or hotmail it would be a huge benefit. Also if their was some simple way to transfer all your photos and videos it would also help. I mean incredibly easy simple to do transfers not some tutorial with 10-12 steps where you need a 3 years of online experience.

I think this is something developers could help out with when the API becomes available which will be key in helping people convert.
+David Shellabarger I was talking this morning with another Buzzer about circles - I went in and immediately started grouping by topics, to read (like newsgroups) which is OK but kind of overdoing it. You won't miss a whole lot if you have just a few circles for sending items:
a circle for family
a circle for regulars you talk and/or share with ('Friends')
a circle for all the other folks you know ('following')
and a circle for those you don't want poking around ('blocked')
And that's it. You never have to mess with circles again, if you don't want to. Want to share with the world? No problem; send a 'Public' item.

Personally I really hope the AFU has a chance to come in and kick the tires. Not to become a convert, just to come in and see what's going on and maybe add G+ to the list of cool places to visit. The group here is not 100% mainstream, but neither is it 100% anything else. Just like FB.
Ahmed, that is one of the best writeups I've ever seen for anything, ever. I'm hoping against hope that the AFU has enough moderately techy friends to be persuaded into giving G+ a shot, at which point I think they'll get hooked if they have any semblance of sense or desire for privacy.

It's really depressing to think though that Circles, one of the easiest and most intuitive interfaces around, might be "too complicated" for AFUs because they won't want to take the time to set anything up. Never mind that their FB profile was carefully built and modified over the course of years; if G+ doesn't immediately offer the same or greater benefits, I think AFUs will be extremely reluctant to switch. Hopefully they'd at least use G+ and FB in tandem instead of abandoning it entirely, though.
@Clare, true that. However, not many people are fully satisfied with facebook. At the same time they're very reluctant to change too. The point is to show people that there is potentially a better alternative that they might like and find more satisfying. I don't wish to drag my friends here, but I do want to share the experience with them. A good analogy would a new movie coming out in the theaters: I wouldn't want to go alone and keep the fun to myself; rather I'd invite my friends along too.

+Melina M Thank you :) and yes as +Mickey Mellen said above, he is relying on other g+ adopters in his social circle to put the word out. G+ can only grow through us, the early-adopters. Google sort of initialized everything and it all went viral on twitter etc. but until the AFU sees it in their Facebook News Feed, they will not consider it. And as I said in a comment in another thread for this article, I personally am very unorganized with my contacts and lists on facebook, but seeing the circles here inspired me to spend some time to set them up properly. I think this will probably be true of many other AFUs if they gave g+ a try.
+Ahmed Zeeshan The circles are indeed great.

I've mentioned g+ a few times on Facebook, particularly when I had invites to give away, but I'm trying to not mention it too much since those users can't even try it yet anyhow. Once it opens up, so will I.
When I look at my friends here they mostly are on Hyves, Twitter and Facebook, all at the same time. I believe everyone looks for a balance with social media
As an Average Facebook User (albeit with a bit of a penchant for technology), I have to say that only some of what you said rings true. What follows is a summary of my experience in addition to 10 family and friend members who are much less tech savvy than I:

-The reason I signed up is because it is google, and I have a gmail account, and use gchat and youtube. Anything that integrates into products I already use and love is always a first choice. Additionally, the bottom-up approach to friends (Circles) I find very appealing, as I use facebook as a communication and sharing tool, and it gets less and less effective with the more friends you have (I use lists but they are only rly effective at hiding people from fbchat).

-The interface might be crisper, but it is not necessarily any easier to use. Terms and a new lingo are somewhat confusing because I am used to Facebook. What is a +1, and why are the aggregated on my profile page? Why is video chat called a hangout, and WTF is a huddle? How do I write on someone's wall? Why cant I see all the people in my circles in chat? Why arent posts in the stream listed in chronological order? Also, the lack of divisions between bodies of text might lend to a 'clean look' but they hurt your eyes after a while.

Some of these things will be dealt with in time, some of them are a new approach and Ill get used to in the learning curve. But especially as a social network is only as good as the people on it, I dont see myself being able to switch over from FB for a long while.
Lest we forget, Facebook has had similar issues with users not understanding features. This has been especially true with security features. They have also added features, changed them around, and people have adjusted. If my real friends (people I actually communicated with on Facebook) were to move to G+ as their primary social network, I would be left in the cold if I refused to join. In fact, for several years I refused to join FB because I simply did not want to conform and wanted to avoid the clutter in my life. I did, my friends were overjoyed. A while back I deleted my personal fb account, much to the dismay of my friends who now either stopped contact or call/email me as before. Those that stayed in contact always felt that personal conversations were not kept that way on FB so they were accustomed to using other means. When I sent emails this weekend to announce that I was trying this new Google+ network, about 90% were completely unaware. The others want a report on how it goes before they decide to switch.

Those that were unaware are not techies or news junkies and will be surprised to find out that Casey Anthony was found not guilty today...when I tell them in three days. Those that want to know more are at least aware of the threat to FB and are waiting with frustration for an alternative.

Recent news has pointed that FB has been losing millions per month. This has been disputed by FB as inaccurate. Regardless, I think there is a larger number than reported that have serious FB fatigue for one reason or another.

The question I have is, "Will Google be able to avoid this same cluttered feel when they open the gates?" I also agree that though there is a learning curve, the "neat" features may end up being too complicated for AFUs. They want to log in, have it work, then log out. Maybe not even that much. In any case, there will be a large number of users that simply will not get the concept of circles and huddles. This may very well end up being a geeks dream come true, rather than a new massively used social network.
This is a great article - but I think one of the main hurdles you're going to have is getting AFUs to even read something that long. I hate to say it, but that's just too much a "wall of text" for your Average Joe internet user to bother with. :(
I am going to add all my Facebook Friends to a Circle called "Facebook Friends," then share this post and check the box to also Share via email. :)
Kudos To You Brother!
I'm Sharing This With My Facebook Friends Immediately!
My points about AFU
- They won't leave fb unless they find any BIG problem in it and most them don't know/care about privacy.
- G+ is easier to understand for a twitter user than a fb user and most of the AFUs are not twitter user.
- In G+, it is easier to create an interest graph than a relationship graph for now (as not all of our friends are not here yet). AFUs don't understand interest graph.
- They already have a social graph in fb. They don't want to recreate that here. Same goes for the resources (photos, videos) they uploaded in fb.
- AFUs are always afraid of change.
- I heard few AFUs say that, G+ interface is not easy for them (I've no idea why). Many of them don't get the idea of dragging and dropping a contact card into a circle. They tend to right click on the contact card and wonder what to do next.
- FB defines social network for AFUs. They don't understand the concept of adding people without sending a request.
- AFUs wont be here unless all of their friends (other AFUs) are here. Which creates a paradox :)

I know you covered most of the points but this is what I think.
You laid out a great argument and I look forward to presenting to to some of my AFU's in the future.
Ahmed, with your Interface point, Facebook while evolving overtime is now information overload. While I'm at the landing page I have content on the left margin, content on the right margin and then of course the new feed with multiple views offering even more content. It may be inevitable, but with G+ most if your content is just the stream until you enter another content zone.

As for the arguments of everyone is already on Facebook and Facebook is such a monolith. At one point "everyone" (not really) was on Myspace and Facebook appeared and slowly started to tear membership away. Facebook didn't open overnight with 750+ million users and Google will likely be the same way. It will grow and it may take years to really take Facebook on head first but with a good product such as this Google certainly has a chance.
Absolutely brilliant post...thanks!
+Francesco Schwarz, the characteristics list certainly apply to myself, and the majority of my FB friends that were all convinced by a mutual friend to try it out (mainly because we all use gmail/gchat as it is), and while none of us are in love with FB, we are rely on it because we dont have an alternative all-in-one communication tool that lets us share pictures, organize events, message, and chat, and 'stalk' our friends staying up to date on their lives...

Google+ has a lot of killer features and its interface is quite nice and shiny, and I definitely like the premise behind it, but the way its being marketed now seems more like a Twitter with some communication tools built in - not that this is necessarily bad, but the only time we ever go near twitter is when there is some sort of breaking news item and we (used to) use Google Realtime to figure out whats flying.
Very valid point, but I think its more of a 'food for thought' piece, on how to sell Google + without all the techy arguments that are primarily being used to sell it now. No one is setting anything in stone.
Hi +Ahmed Zeeshan Those are some solid points to convince AFUs to become AG+Us. But it would be really helpful if you came up with a Video Tutorial. My friends(any AFU) are lazy, lazy to read and learn.... I know there are some video tutorials out but none of the videos are good enough,they are either in too detail or too short.
After reading your precise points I'm sure your video tutorial can help hundreds.
helpful.... still I must tell the truth I find g+ boring and dull most of the time. there is something missing. It seems like there is nothing happening at times.... I come every day trying to find a good reason to stay connected but after a few posts, i move back to my blog( or to twitter. It is agreat tool, specially for photos, but as i say I get the same feeling when I am eating a good spaghetti dish and there is no salt in it.
i agree with +pio dal cin , but maybe its bcoz we got very few ppl on g+ till now & all we got is human profiles nothing else as fan page , pics, friends,family, brand pages etc etc
I love it -- they only follow celebrities because everyone else is doing it. Yeah, that's the kind of people you wanna invite. This reminds me of the people who asked why should they create a MySpace page, since they already had a personal web page, or why get an e-mail address, when the were already on a BBS. (not making this up) This may not be a popular opinion, but those Facebook people who ask "Why?" when asked to come to Google+, I would rather just stay there. That way I know the people who are here are the ones that would do so without being asked or told or coerced or evangelized to. I want a enjoy the people who are here now -- the first wave of pioneers. The masses will eventually arrive after everyone else is already doing it.
Most of my friends (university students) can't escape facebook purely as every party and society event is organised through a fb event. Until G+ mimics that feature, which surely isn't hard due to google calendars existing, no student will fully abandon facebook.
I would never try to convince anyone who uses Facebook to join Google+. They'd gain nothing by it, and neither would I.
I'm a huge Google fan and I joined g+ at the first opportunity. I like it because it is a quality product, the only drawback for me is that the people I know (family, friends, co-workers) all use Facebook and are not likely to sign on to G+.
Looks like facebook's timline is going to beat G+'s circles.
+Ahmed Zeeshan Do you mind if I post the spanish version with a little bit of editing for the Americas reading?
+Ahmed Zeeshan Great article. Probably not needed now as i have seen lots of non tech people on here just saying good morning, posting pics, music and using it like facebook with the added advantage of no geographical restrictions.
I started using gplus back in may and it has come a long way since then. I learnt a lot from people living all around the world. It truly is an awesome place. :)

BTW what is huddle? never seen/ heard of it.
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