The Social/Anti-Social Network

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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.


  1. Also keep in mind that (a) Circles lets people selectively filter you or selected messages from out, so the more egregious you are about spamming and broadcast advertising, the less chance you may have to reach your targets, and (b) Google is still developing pages for business in Google+ so jumping right in now by confusing Google+ as an advertising opportunity with Twitter or Facebook might be premature.

  2. I have 2 thoughts, after playing a little with Google+:
    – I can use multiple languages easily, without setting up separate blogs/profiles and without annoying people by posting stuff they don’t understand … I can simply segment people by language.
    – On Twitter, people mainly seem to talk in the public stream, or via @replies. Which means I get to hear a lot of interesting ideas and debates, even if I don’t feel like joining in/taking sides. I get the feeling people are being more private on Google+, or perhaps there aren’t enough people with similar interests on there yet…

  3. Do you think that the conversation tracking ease in Google+ will really hurt Twitter?

  4. I agree with you Mitch. Google can seriously now provide social network, email, voice for mobile, data/mobile OS , search, docs, gps/maps, photo hosting, App store, News. pretty impressive. Plus the Ad networks they can use to highly target their user base.
    Even more is people trust Google much more than they do Facebook. Will see if that trust proves validated in the end.

  5. G+ is filled with marketers and advertising industry professionals at the moment. We are all ready to pounce….will that scare away the very people that usually fill up the social nets first? It could all be for not to be honest. I would say that people will take one look when it opens as say “Wow an entire ecosystem of marketers, thanks but no thanks.” Anecdotally I have been offering up G+ invites to my 500 plus friends on Facebook and the only ones interested are social media, marketing and advertising professionals. Most of the every day folks could give a flying fig about G+ from what I can tell. I think there is going to be a rush of early adopters and then and another rush of regular folks, less the teens and youth marketers crave, then a giant flatline. It’ll be interesting to see how it evolves over time. The key there is over time.

  6. The nut graf (for me): “Don’t ever forget why Google is free: they want your data and they want to target you with more effective advertising.”
    That’s right. Facebook is, at best, a second-rate marketing medium. For example, they don’t play nice with search and their inability to accomodate mobile devices in a meaningful way, are both frustrating, to say the least. Google is far from perfect, but at least the opportunities for marketers will increase with G+.

  7. Realised after reading your post, that for me the Circles in Google+ are maybe not so much to choose for whom I wish to speak to, but from whom I wish to hear from.
    Ginevra’s comment above about how circles help to communicate in different languages sounded good at first, but then I realized I’d rather have that the other way round. I’d like to be in control as a message receiver, not so much as a sender.
    As a sender, I’ll probably post in Google+ mostly in public, just like I’m used to do in Twitter and leave it up to readers to filter their stream as they feel fit.
    As a receiver, if I’d like to brush up my Chinese, I could check my Chinese circle. But I wouldn’t like to be left out of range just because the writer didn’t know that I can Zulu and left me out of his Zulu circle.

  8. Thanks for the info Mitch. Really concise content which I appreciate. Also went back and read your 2009 post on Twitter. Opened my eyes to filtering. I’m new at the Twitter game.

  9. Mitch, thanks for the insight. I am also intrigued by the fact that you create all these circles and categorize relationships without making that aspect public. And the flexibility is very welcomed. Google+ will most assuredly evolve into things that we have not yet imagined and drive both twitter and facebook to innovate faster; competition is good. I still like the ease in which twitter presents a short 140 char blurb for me to scan for quick evaluation. As Google+ membership grows we might become more appreciative of the 140 char concisely written headlines in twitter. I suspect that all of us will become less tolerant of folks filling up our Google+ streams with long posts, and that we will find ways to reduce the clutter.
    And Twitter does have circle-like functionality with their private lists. I expect that they will make it easier to manage lists and segment streams, which would be welcomed.

  10. I think that G+ addresses some of our issue of focus and signal. On Twitter it seems people have a hard time focusing their follower list – there’s an inclination to ‘follow when followed’ and some of that is carry over from Tw’s early days. But this is unsustainable. Circles force us to think about who we’re listening to and why. Our personal focus is discreet.
    What we gain in signal we lose in serendipity, however. There’s something about the big eclectic stream that’s Twitter.
    We’ll see how it all pans out. Amazing to watch.

  11. This is my first thought too. I really think you need a true “grass roots” user base first to make a social network successful. But we shall see…

  12. Google+ is going to seriously compete with Facebook.
    I will probably shut down my Facebook account to create a G+ new one!
    The rules of confidentiality are more respectful.

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