Google+ and What It Needs to Survive

Circle_Me_Google_Plus_Logo

Image by The Daring Librarian via Flickr

Ladies and gentlemen, I like Google+.

There.

I said it.

Wow, I just got the strongest feeling of déjà vu… weird.

Anyway, I find myself really liking Google+ lately. I still know practically no one on it, but that’s kind of the point. Thanks to a retweet, I’ve found myself being added to the circles of strangers. I add them right back. There was a time, however long ago it might have been, that your best friend was a stranger to you. You met somehow, hit if off, and you’ve been friends ever since, right? That’s what I’m hoping for from Google+. Not to mention that it’s infinitely easier to look at than Facebook is. Ultimately, that’s what this is. A fight between two titans that I think can be summed up in two links.

On one hand, you have Google.

On the other, Facebook.

To quote a great imaginary American, that’s all I have to say about that.

What I would like to discuss are the things that Google needs to do to come out on top.

Out of the gate, I think they’re more ahead than people realize. Who doesn’t have a Gmail address these days? Well as of yesterday, you’ve got a Google+ account, too. All you have to do is activate it, and away you go. People are looking for something new… something that isn’t Facebook. Google can offer that, while still maintaining a similar (and thankfully trimmed down) user interface.  It will be easy for people who want to use Google+ to do so. Google has achieved metonymy… we don’t search, we Google. So they’re a well-establish brand that reaches absolutely everywhere, offering a service that’s similar to its main competitor while still feeling fresh. What do they need to do?

Despite Google’s proliferation of the internet at large, they’ve got an uphill battle as far as the like button goes. I’ve noticed more and more +1 buttons showing up (on this very blog, for example) and I think that’s a tremendously good thing. Saying that you “like” something is natural and ingrained into us almost as soon as we learn to speak. You don’t see many kids running around saying that they “plus one” cookies, after all. Google has an ace up their sleeve in this area, though. Once you Like something on Facebook, you’re done. Button clicked, interaction complete. With Google+, if you +1 something you then have the option of adding it to your stream with comments about why you +1’d it. It’s so painfully simple in its execution that it becomes elegant. “I enjoyed this. I want to support it and share it with people I know. Oh, I can do that all from one button? Thanks, Google!” When we see the +1 button being spread a little further, I truly believe it will start to gain ground. For now, they’ve still got a way to go.

Another thing that Facebook has on Google is saturation. Practically everyone has a Facebook page. I mean, for crying out loud, Sears has one. Sears. You can log into a bajillion (rough estimate) services using your Facebook account. Google needs to develop that type of market saturation. If I take a cool picture with Instagram, for example, I can share it straight to Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter… but not Google+. That’s simply got to change. Google has to develop the same level of connectivity and interaction with these services that Facebook has to stand a chance. They’ve got to make it simple and easy to get content to them, and they’ve got to connect with other social networking sites like Twitter. If Google+ can become a hub for sharing social media, they’ll be on the right track.

It took a while to grow on me, but I like Google+. I really do. I hope that ultimately, it gets down to a bare-knuckle brawl with Facebook and emerges victorious. If you’d like to add me to your circles, and I’d love it if you did, you can find me here.

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Why I Didn’t “Like” Facebook

Where's the "Meh" button?

Ladies and gentlemen, I didn’t like Facebook.

There.

I said it.

While that might make me a social networking pariah, it’s the truth, and now that I’ve spent a few days with a Facebook account I can say it with a clear conscience. I’ll admit that before, when I said I didn’t like Facebook, it was because I have a tendency to reject what most people are flocking to. Justin Beiber, for example. Now that I’ve gotten a little experience with the service, I have concrete reasons to dislike it; much like hearing 15 seconds of any given Justin Beiber song will give you a clear indication of why it’s horrible.

I digress.

The main reason I dislike Facebook is probably due to the fact that I prefer to remain anonymous. Actually, “prefer” isn’t the right word… “will” is more like it. I am a different person online than I am in real life, to a certain extent. We all are. I choose to keep this persona, this rtik13 guy, online. I keep the real me in the real world. We’re a lot alike, but in several ways the layer of anonymity provided to me online allows me to be more like I wish I could be. rtik13 is free in ways that I am not. He’s my Tyler Durden, if you will. The first thing that Facebook wanted from me was my name. “Well, tough”, I thought. “I’m not giving it to you.” I made up a name (I was actually Rtik Johnson for a brief time) and scurried in, eager to Like the shit out of everything in sight, hoping to make some new connections.

Turns out it’s easy to Like things, but not so easy to anonymously make a Friend.

When I put it that way it sounds creepy, too.

Sorry.

The infamous Like button quickly (and I mean quickly) grew tedious and compulsory. I was amazed at how little fulfillment I got from Liking various things that I really do like. For a service that has blah blah blah millions of people on it, it actually feels pretty hollow. I Liked and Liked and Liked some more; filling my (now deactivated) profile with various interests. Looking into connecting with other people who found the things I like interesting, I found that most of them couldn’t spell.

Of course, I looked up some of my old “friends” while I was there. I use that word in quotation marks because it’s actually what most people would call a lie. This brings me to another reason that I don’t care for Facebook… “I didn’t like you then, and I don’t like you now.” I didn’t enjoy my school experience much at all; I don’t want to know what anyone I went to school with is doing, and I don’t want them to know what I’m doing. Without that desire to reconnect with the past, Facebook loses about 98% of its usefulness. The other 2% (keeping up with bands, movies, other forms of entertainment) is easily accomplished via Twitter and RSS.

I’m not saying that Facebook is a bad service; I’ve already done that. I’m saying that, for me at least, it’s not a particularly useful service. If you have friends old and new to keep up with, then Facebook is great. It’s another way that people can stay in touch and pretend to be best pals. If you don’t have that, and you’re looking for new people to interact with online, prepare to be more than a little disappointed.

In summation… well, David Spira was right.