Why I ate my hat when it came to Google Plus

So my pal Roberto Kussabi wrote an article in The Guardian’s Voluntary Sector Network a year ago outlining why he thought Google Plus was important, but was no match for Facebook or Twitter just yet. I said in the comments that I couldn’t see the point of G+ until it had the kind of user numbers that Facebook enjoyed – and that I’d eat my hat should I change my mind.

A year later another third sector sounding board and pal, Jennifer Begg, exulted on what Google Plus means for business and why we should all be using it. And a further commentator and practitioner I admire, Sylwia Presley has been evangelistic about G+ for a heck of a long time, and regularly shares her thoughts about new changes and developments to the network.

Hat-tips too to Sam Sparrow, Keith Emmerson and Julio Romo for their early adoption and cheerleading of G+.

Well, pass me the seasoning, because I am tucking into my headwear.

I am a matter of days away from Facebook deleting my account for good, after I deactivated it a fortnight ago – and I haven’t looked back. There are some great blogs on why people make the decision to leave the networking behemoth; my favourite (and one I most concur with) being this one by Jessica Taylor in Forbes. I made my own brief list on why Facebook and I drifted apart in my last post.

I’m not going to repeat verbatim the sage advice of Roberto, Jennifer or Sylwia on why Google Plus is now a serious contender as your social network, particularly if you do the comms for a business or charity – but here is a rundown of why Google Plus ticks some major boxes for me:

1. Circles. An intuitive way of adding connections, and entirely straightforward process of sharing your thoughts with one, some or all of your contacts. Why Facebook grapples so much with this is symptomatic of how complicated and inflated it is.

2. +1. Facebook Likes with SEO and bookmarking pumped into its bloodstream. Like something on the web, or in Google Plus itself? +1 it, and find everything you ever liked sitting in your own +1 tab. And if your friends are logged into Google when they search, they’ll see your recommendations in their results: friend referrals as a way of discovering new content. Superb.

3. Open. Facebook is hardly private, but it was more likely that you ended up talking in a bit of an echo chamber. Friends and friends of friends all chewing the fat – and that was typically around a photo of someone on  a night out or an inconsequential status update. By (optionally) sharing your thoughts and comments with the public and using Twitter-style hashtags, you open up and invite debate from a much wider pool of people. In this way, Google Plus is like Twitter with bells on. Yes, you get this in Facebook Groups and Pages, but opening up everything you share in this way, just enriches your experience. And to be honest, there are less douches on Google Plus…for now.

And I haven’t even tried Hangouts yet.

4. Ground zero. This one is personal. Facebook had, for me, got dense and bloated. While I liked the concept and storytelling potential of Timeline for organisations (particularly for charities), it was a little bit creepy for individual profiles. Starting afresh from G+ allows me to be more cautious about who I connect to, what I share with them; and I don’t have to worry about business mixing with pleasure. And for that read: all and sundry seeing everything my friends decide to tag me in.

So I invite you to join me – let’s connect on Google Plus and see how we go. I’d love to see the cool things you find out while using it.

My name is Rob and I am a Google Plus convert. Now…I’m taking a gulp of water to ease this hat down my gullet.

6 thoughts on “Why I ate my hat when it came to Google Plus

  1. Hi Rob.

    I agree with the sentiment – subjectively I find G+ a better social network, but objectively I would struggle to come up with practical reasons why.

    Your point 2 is valid, but points 1 and 3 are things that Facebook does allow you to do, through friend groups and subscriptions. I would even dare to suggest that friend lists and posting to friend lists is actually as easy on Facebook as it is to use circles on G+.

    So why do these things *feel* so much harder on Facebook?

    I think it’s because:
    a) Facebook didn’t have these features from the start so people aren’t familiar with using them.
    b) Facebook has many more users who are less digitally literate/confident who probably struggle to use Facebook in basic form let alone have the confidence to learn new things like friend groups and subscriptions. And because they’re not commonly used features, they feel ‘scary’ somehow.

    My opinion anyway. I wonder what others think?

    I agree that G+ has some serious potential that is mostly untapped. I think it has benefits over Twitter (e.g. Longer messages), blogs (easier to engage with others), and Facebook (mostly by virtue of not being Facebook).

    I need to remain on Facebook for various reasons (being developer, group/app admin, friend of people who aren’t anywhere else), but I’m certainly considering taking all my data away and not posing there in future.

    I’ll watch your change with interest.

    Ross

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments Ross. I think your points re Facebook are, of course, spot on. Agree that it does share some facets but in my opinion just isn’t as intuitive, and users probably don’t care quite as much to use them anyway – as you suggest. As per my other post about quitting Facebook, I *am* prone to somewhat obsessive decision-making sometimes (!), so I am putting a lot of eggs in the G+ basket.

      And one small part of me remains in Facebook to administrate my charity PR networking group (oh, the irony) and charity page. Like they say in Brokeback Mountain ‘I wish there was a way to quit you [Facebook]!’

      But, I’m in Google Plus for the long haul…Unless Path really takes off 😉

      Cheers for tuning in, and for the RT on Twitter. Rob

  2. Thank you for kind mentioning, Rob. Is it really all about the tools or about people? Does it matter if we use Facebook or Google+ only? Why not to use both if our networks are there?

  3. Hi Sywia, of course. As comms professionals we should use the networks our audiences are hanging out in. Perhaps I’ve injected too much of my own emotional hostility towards FB into my post. Full transparency: I am still keeping a minimum (friendless) profile on Facebook in order to maintain my charity page and third sector PR network. It would be churlish of me to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    I’d just like to see more charities and marketers using G+, as I know you do too.

  4. Hi Rob,

    Great post! I am a big fan of G+. Personally though, I mostly stick to facebook because that’s where my friends are! They haven’t (and aren’t likely to) make the switch just yet.

    I think you left out one major positive too – the mobile apps. The iPad app is everything Facebook should have been, and takes half the time to load!

    You also might be interested to know that the Foreign Office recently trialled Google Hangouts with the British Ambassador to Lebanon – I think it worked really well. However the FCO G+ page is a bit of a strange one. More people have added it to their circles than follow the FCO on twitter and facebook combined, yet the engagement is really low… One for me to ponder over!

    1. Hi Alex, thanks for your comment 🙂 The argument for keeping Facebook because of friends / family abroad is, of course, very sensible. For me, I was using it in lieu of real conversations and it’s already made hanging out with friends more interesting as I haven’t read everything they’re up to in their status already!

      Good points re apps – I never fully got on with the FB app – or rather I checked it way too much. I think the G+ iPhone app is really attractively presented, with a very smooth UI.

      That is a really interesting case study re the FO and the Lebanese Ambassador – fantastic to hear it being employed in this way. Would love to hear of more uses of Hangouts like this.

      I think at the moment everyone kind of follows on every platform – to ensure they’re not missing out. It is, of course, up to the orgs to put their energies into the portals their users are most active in and engaging with. I just hope that more people consider G+, but as the adage goes you have to be in it to win it. And I know currently that is Facebook for a lot of people.

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