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Guest Post: On The Usefulness Of Google+

This is a guest post by Bill Riley.

I recently had someone comment on one of my Facebook posts, saying:

“So I have a Google Plus account and really like the ease of use. However, either there are not a lot of people using it or I just don’t have enough friends. What’s your take on it?”

Google is incredibly smart (we’ve heard this before). What they lack in a user base, they make up for in what they offer, and how they create those services/platforms. They offer a lot of things that just aren’t present on Facebook.

Now, in that regard, Facebook is just as smart. One thing they understand is that their user base isn’t going to leave, period. No matter what improvements they add, or functions they change, or elements they remove, people will keep using the service because Facebook. Is. Everywhere. Because of this, I’m not using Google+ as much as I’d like; my friends are simply still all on Facebook.

However, all hope is not lost in the Google camp. Google+ is at a young place in development; it launched June 28, 2011. Now take look — The +1 button is literally everywhere on the net — and it’s much easier to set up on a website than the Like button (if you’re using code). Facebook’s like button has been around for a very long time, and it certainly doesn’t have the social graph that the +1 button has.

I think G+ is going to come around as a solid “contender” to Facebook, even though that’s certainly not the goal they’re going for. Pitting Facebook and G+ against each other wouldn’t be fair. Google is creating an easy operating system for people, and that can be confirmed by taking a look at their Chromebooks. Google+, Google Hangouts, Google Chat, Gmail; these are all “programs“ “installed” that help with communication between you and your organization, your family; your circles.

Ever since I received my Chromebook, I’ve had an incredible shift in what I do online; How I share, and what tools I use. Google+, when it’s finally come full circle, it will be an incredible, and always seamlessly evolving part of the Google Operating System.

With all of that being said, let’s visit the comment again:

“Either there are not a lot of people using it or I just don’t have enough friends”

Here’s the awesome thing about G+ — It’s very similar to Twitter.

On Twitter, you find friends or people to follow much easier than on Facebook. You can easily get on Twitter, type something into the search bar like “#developers”, and discover people who will write information which pertains to your interests. That’s awesome!! I would have never known about a couple of the Netflix changes (although Qwikster never happened), changes to Twitter, and tidbits of UI design info (harsh as it may have been) if it wasn’t for the Graphic Designer @Mantia, who, many months back, I followed because I discovered he did work on a great load of Apple’s icons (e.g. iTunes). I found him through another user who was a developer I found by searching “#developers” like I mentioned.

So, bearing that in mind, the answer is yes to both questions – but it doesn’t matter.

  1. There aren’t enough people you know on Google+ because it’s tough to break old habits (like Facebook). To many people, there’s no discernable difference between the two networks. However, when you look closely, the differences are substantial.
  2. You don’t have any friends on the service because it’s not based around friends. You might feel like it’s Facebook. It may be what you’re used to, so you’re using it like it’s a Facebook. It is not Facebook.

While “Adding Bill Riley as a friend” could be considered weird, “Adding Bill Riley to the circle `Social Developers`” is completely okay.

Why? Because you are looking for explicit information. There’s an exact reason you’re adding me, and it’s certainly not because we are “Friends”, but because you might value the type of stuff I post, and that’s what you want to hear. Being a friend with someone means you know a great deal about them. Following them because of some information they create — that’s much different.

My suggestion is if you are on Google+:

  1. Use Google+ Search; it’s really useful for finding things relevant to your interests.
  2. Set up an intelligent structure of circles that has a place for each of your connections.
  3. Don’t be afraid to add people to your circles. Also, don’t be afraid to remove them. It’s just a connection in a database, after all.
  4. Use the +1 buttons, as they’ll be more prominent in the future.

Finally, the Chromebook was the greatest investment into the future I have ever bought. We’re going to see a massive shift to online in the coming year, and in two years I know damn well I will be surprised to see the incredible growth the internet creates.

Now, if our financial system gets back on track, and these damn lobbyists/congressmen stop trying to eliminate Net Neutrality, I think we’d live in a much more sustainable future. But, that’s an opinion article for another time…