I went on a rant against Google+ (via Twitter and Facebook, of course) last week, and I won’t do that here. For the record, I don’t actually have anything against Google+ itself. My only issue with Google+ personally is that people are abandoning other social media in favor of the new kid on the block for reasons that don’t make much sense to me. (To learn about those reasons, you’ll need to see my Twitter rant.)
Tonight, Jeremiah Owyang, internationally recognized social media guru with Altimeter Group, tweeted that it might be time for a change:
All: The Google+ is richer, easier embedding of media, longer comments, less fragmented and easier to find. Google+ is threat to Twitter
I’m sure he’s right. Google+ is a threat to Twitter. He’s not the only one who has said that, and he’s not the only one who is voting with his digital feet, so to speak. But Owyang’s comment brought to mind one very real complaint about Google+ as a social media platform from my perspective as a former Community Manager at Omniture/Adobe. Here it is:
I don’t understand how Google+ at present allows the creation and growth of community.
Jeremiah is right that Google+ is less fragmented. But at the same time, it has no concept of free-flowing conversation organized around a topic. You can say something about, say, web analytics. Anyone who has added you to his/her circles can see your thoughts and comment on them. But unless your post is “reshared” by others, it ends there.
One of the great benefits of Twitter is that any of the service’s millions of users can see the world’s stream of consciousness on a topic. I don’t necessarily need to be following @usujason or @vabeachkevin there to see and respond to something interesting that they say. At least a handful of real-world friendships have developed out of the #omniture and #measure communities on Twitter among people who may never have found one another via a “less fragmented” service such as Facebook or Google+.
When I wake up in the morning, I check out #measure to see which new blog posts are causing a stir, and to read the conversation among a huge variety of practitioners, vendors, agencies, etc. I can’t do that on Google+. I can see what Eric Peterson is saying, and I can see what Keith Burtis is saying, but their reach only extends to those who have explicitly added them.
That’s a key element to community building, in my experience; you need a platform that crosses all lines and allows people to interact around a topic of shared interest—not simply because they happen to already be in one another’s circles.
Similarly, as a community manager I needed a way to follow the conversation about my brand. My angle was one of technical support. How could I have reached out and engaged with frustrated users unless I could see their complaints? For example, Rudi Shumpert (@rudishumpert) is a web analytics superstar. Three years ago, he was brand new and was struggling to understand some Omniture documentation. He complained. I was there. I didn’t see him because I knew who @RRS_ATL (his former handle) was. I saw him because he mentioned my brand and I had a Twitter search running all day long. Brand detractor became brand advocate within a matter of minutes.
Also, why I hate Hootsuite
This is actually a tangent. I hate Hootsuite. I tried it a few times, but the idea of keeping a browser window open all day so I could monitor the conversation has always been abhorrent. It’s too easy to close a browser window to work on some other task and then realize four hours later that you’ve been sitting out of the conversation. In my particular role, I could never do this.
But that really isn’t my point. Google+ apparently has a rudimentary API, but nothing that developers have used to build their own apps for organizing Google+ content in a way that is conducive to community-building. This is, of course, related to the previous points. (In fact, maybe I only have one point, but, by Jove, I’m going to stretch this thing out.) With a solid API and some additional ways to organize conversations, developers can churn out enterprise-ready social media management tools and integrate Google+ into existing social media management tools. Until that happens, Twitter’s API still rules. It remains, by far, the easiest source of raw social media to work with.
Longer comments = more windbags
Look, this is a blog. It’s the ultimate celebration of windbaggery. But at least you know what you’re getting with blogs. Jeremiah seems to think that the ability to pontificate at length in the comments on Google+ is a good thing. I think it has its place. (Blogs? Facebook? Google+? Probably all of the above.) But I really feel that—at least in the communities where I participate on Twitter—the 140-character limit is a good thing.
It’s not that I don’t want to hear more from my friends in the community, but the exercise of whittling down a thought into 140 (or 280, or 420, etc.) characters forces you to be succinct and straightforward. This often makes it easier for community members to process conversations with minimal distraction. I can read a tweet in about three seconds. I can read a four-paragraph response to an Avinash posting in, what, two minutes? Too often, the three second investment provides equal or greater returns than the two minute investment because the author has been forced to say in 40 words what he could have drawn out into 500.
(Of course there are crappy tweets, too, but at least they’re short.)
He’s 100% right about the ease of sharing on Google+
Yep. No argument from me there.
Conclusion: In defense of Google+
Later (still on Twitter, somewhat amusingly), Jeremiah pointed out (correctly, I’m sure—after all, this is what he does) that Google+ will undoubtedly add the missing community elements in the near future:
I’m sure those features, APIs and hash tags will come.
I’m not opposed to this at all. I will embrace Google+ for community when it is ready, but it certainly isn’t there yet. So what am I saying?
I’m saying that, right now, in my opinion, Twitter still has tons of value for business.
I’m saying that, right now, in my opinion, the best place to connect with brands and get help or provide feedback is still Twitter.
I’m saying that, right now, in my opinion, the best place to build communities around topics that matter to you is likely still Twitter.
As for what the future holds, I’ll defer to Jeremiah and other thought leaders. And I’m certainly playing around with Google+ so I’m ready if/when the shift happens.
So am I “doing it wrong?” Am I missing some feature that makes Google+ a boon to communities? What else do you think Google+ needs to do before communities are possible there?