Over the weekend I struggled to find out what Google+ actually is and how I can use it. I didn’t even bother to use advanced features where I have to install additional software to use. I don’t want Google Installer to mess with my new computer, and I was unable to delete it from my old one. I couldn’t even stop the process that automatically started with each boot. So I don’t trust Google software anymore.
I was just using Circles to organise my friends and followers from other social sites like Twitter. It seems Google suggests all your connections from other social networks you have connected to your Google Profile. Trying to sort several hundred people into circles is not an easy task, so I added a few dozen to three main circles called SEO, blogging and social media and did what I could to add the right people to the matching circles. It’s not that easy, as dragging and dropping them into circles is quite tedious.
Then I tried to use Google+ as it was intended, or at least discover the way it was intended to be used.
I’m used to Twitter but I fail at Facebook partly because I don’t like the concept and partly because I don’t spend enough time there to matter it seems.
Google+ in a way combines features we know from Facebook and Twitter.
It’s like having Twitter lists over on Facebook. It’s also similar to Google Buzz, in that it encourages discussion. On Facebook, people tend to like and agree. They then comment and express their agreement. It’s a way of showing your peers that you are still there and you notice and respect them.
I’m not that good at it as I don’t like to disclose too much private information. Anyway on Google Buzz and Google+ the comments get used for discussions quite frequently. People use them like blog comments have been used before – the big ”thank you great post” wave to get backlinks by often automated flattering.
On Google+ it seems everybody wants to discuss.
You also see comments by those you don’t follow and you can react to them as well. So you will disagree also because you meet people you don’t even know. You can see comments by strangers on Facebook as well, so maybe other people lead discussions over there too. I haven’t noticed much of it over there though.
Anyway, even one to one conversations on Google+ tend to become discussions where two people want to convince each other that each one of them is right. I haven’t seen such discussions on Google Buzz much either, but it may be due to the fact that Google+ is still new and everybody is mainly discussing the social network itself.
Unlike a traditional forum, Google+ does not show a discussion thread to everybody but only to certain people – those you have in your circles. Also, you have to actively share a message with particular circles. Sounds good in theory, but in practice it means that you get flooded by lively discussions by Robert Scoble, Danny Sullivan or someone else much more popular than you when you follow them.
While my own questions, posts or remarks get a few comments, if at all, replying to a celebrity user means that you get notifications from this thread for days.
I’ve seen that happening with a non-celebrity user as well, but my timeline is mostly filled with the popular people. A post I shared on G+ with approx. 150 people got 3 visits and one “+1″ vote in contrast. None of the stories I shared got re-shared, and only one I re-shared from someone else got comments.
Apparently the best use is to ask a question directly on Google+ and then collect the answers. I’ve witnessed one such thread that started as a crowdsourced post by a search marketing blogger. I may use G+ for crowdsourcing in the future as well, to follow this example.
So in a sense Google+ is the greatest discussion forum in human history; you can potentially discuss with millions of people on any topic you like.
Also you can discuss with people you might otherwise be unable to speak to or exchange opinions with. Google+ seems not to be as good for sharing links; you might want to stick with Twitter for that purpose. Facebook might be the better place for conversations with people you know and appreciate. Of course this is just my personal impression after a few days but discussing opinions with influencers seems to be the best way to use Google+ as of now.
* Image by Frederic Poirot