Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 16, 2011 6:50 AM

The Social/Anti-Social Network

Online social networking continues to change and evolve.

The latest news is all about Google + (you can read some of my initial thoughts about the platform right here: Co-dependency In The Age of Facebook). This week, Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page announced that Google + has over 10 million people using it in less than two weeks with over one billion pieces of content shared. That is mind-blowing, impressive and not all that surprising when you consider how popular platforms like Twitter and Facebook are, and how people are looking for newer/cooler social networking experiences.

Google + lets you be selectively social.

In tinkering with Google + and listening to what some of the cool kids have to say about it online, it's very clear that the majority of people see Google + almost like an online social networking "do-over!" Their Facebook profiles are a mess, because they jumped in and wound up either over-sharing or not working with the privacy settings in an optimal way (which was never easy, as Facebook continues to change and evolve those settings over time). When I ask my connections in other online social networking sites what they like about Google + that's currently not happening in places like my Blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc... the most common response is the ability to segment the social graph (Google + calls them, "circles"). The ability to share information and splice it into a more natural flow of your physical life (i.e. personal or professional) or by interest groups (marketers, tech people, etc...) using the "circles" functionality of Google + seems to make top billing. That, and the flow of the stream - which is not limited to 140-characters like Twitter - and it seems to have a better user interface than Facebook (mostly around how conversations are threaded and displayed). The circles are also interesting because those who follow you do not know which circles they are in - this means you can filter and bucket people and their importance in your life. So yes, it's a social network but it mimics your in-person network more accurately (people got frustrated when I first talked about this in 2009: The Dirty Little Secret Of The Twitter Elite).

It's a different kind of "social."

Ultimately, it's four quarters for a dollar, if you know what I mean. All online social networking platforms are created to let you share and connect. If the "big win" with Google + is the fact that it's easy to control who gets your messages and it's easy to share content, then that's great. Personally, none of these areas are of concern to me (and yes, this is me being a market of one). From day one with any online engagement, I make a plan of what I want to share and how I want to share it with the assumption that everyone (both public and private) will see it. The truth is that I have never used Social Media as a channel to stay connected to my closest/inner circle because I don't want any third-party having that kind of data and history on me. It's a personal choice.

Know why you're doing it. 

Will Google + really be a valuable social network if all it really does is help people segment, block and chose who sees what? Probably not. Where Google + could become most interesting is how it connects with the other Google tools that people use daily (Gmail, Google Docs, Google Places, Google Analytics, etc...), how it integrates with Android and then into other mobile platforms. But, here's the big one that Marketers need to pay attention to: advertising.

Google + is a new, massive advertising and marketing opportunity.

Don't ever forget why Google is free: they want your data and they want to target you with more effective advertising. With over ten million people joining in the first week and over one billion items being shared, this is a treasure trove of new advertising and marketing inventory and opportunities. Couple that with the information they can now gather: from how you browse the Web (with Google Chrome), to how you search, to your email, to your mobile and now, to your online social network, and Google starts looking a whole lot more like the media company that all of the traditional mass media companies wish they could be.

Whether or not Google + does become the darling of online social networks, Google continues to look a lot like the future of media.

By Mitch Joel