Google+ Tip for the day: Stop treating Google+ like Facebook.
When I got my Google+ invitation, I was already itching to shed my Facebook profile. I still feel that way, but I’m starting to realize something really surprising (at least for me): I don’t think Google is my Facebook stand-in. I think Google is far more than a measly “social network,” and that’s why some of my Facebook friends who are migrating over right now seem to be, as they say on the Internet, “doing it wrong.”
I've been a devoted Googlephile for many years, so if Google wanted me to use G+ instead of Facebook, it was gonna happen -- unless they really goofed it up, of course (I'm still not entirely over my breakup with Wave, Google -- but at least I've stopped leaving those creepy voicemails, right?). The push and pull factors were there. They were obvious: Facebook is for “moms” and spam robots -- Google was going to be my new social network.
But something didn't feel quite right about treating my Google+ profile like my Facebook profile, nor treating my Circles like the Facebook social groups I wished I'd always had. There was content everywhere, written by people I’d heard of -- and many I hadn’t. Something about this space was very different than anything Facebook has ever allowed me to experience. It felt like something else, something... bigger, maybe more important. Something collaborative, perhaps. How very Google!
My friends, however, don’t seem to be having the same Google+ experience I am. My tendency so far has been to add as many people with as many interesting views as possible to my Circles, and then to read voraciously and respond all over the place. Meanwhile, my real-life friends are complaining that there’s not enough content to appease them, and I’m the only one dominating their Streams. Why is this happening for them? I think it comes from a fundamental set of expectations about moving from Facebook to Google+. People are treating their Google+ accounts just like Facebook accounts. And I think that’s a doomed approach.
Here is how I think Google+ can be most fully enjoyed and utilized, at this early stage:
Think about what you use Facebook for. If it’s for keeping up with old friends and for keeping up with current, local friends, great. You can use Google+ for that, and it’s definitely got a leg up on Facebook for filtering content.
Interact with content created by users you don’t know personally. If you don’t follow people you don’t already know, you’re going to get bored, and not just because your friends aren’t all here yet. You’ll get bored even after they’ve all arrived. Why do you think Facebook started implementing games and applications? Well, to make money, obviously, but what was the draw for the userbase? I’m willing to bet Facebook figured out that simply reading your friends’ thoughts all day long gets old, and let’s be honest: very few of us have enough friends with enough interesting posts to keep us engaged.
If you like the social games on Facebook, well...you’re not really my target audience. Sorry. For the rest of you -- if you don’t like how Facebook allowed third party junk to start bombarding you with game requests and access to your information, embrace its absence here so far!
I realize that at some point, developers may come up with cool ways to implement games on Google+, but I expect that Google will have learned from the clunky, disorganized, and downright invasive way developers approached this in Facebook. And the best way to keep Google+ rich in content and devoid of lame, invasive apps is to let go of your old ideas about what it means to be on a social network.