Using Google+ as an information network

I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot of criticism recently about Google+. Some have talked about it being a ‘ghost town’ or a non-entity, whilst others have been wondering what it even is!

Clearly Google+ hasn’t penetrated the mainstream to the degree in which they’d have hoped to have done at this stage in their development process but negative noises about the platform’s credibility and value are misjudged.

Social network vs. information network

Like many people, I use the many social platforms around in very different ways. For example, I use Facebook as a social network, where I can catch up on what friends are up to, Twitter as a micro RSS feed to consume information from various streams of updates and LinkedIn to connect with others on a professional level.

However, I see Google+ less as a ‘social’ network and more as an ‘information’ network. I use it rarely (if at all) to connect with friends and instead use it to tap into conversations, discussions and analyses on specific topics and subjects that I am interested in.

Follow specific interests

Google+ allows you to follow people who have a passion for a particular subject and follow updates that aren’t restricted to limited number of characters.

The ‘Circles’ function on Google+ allows users to group people they follow into any number of specifically tailored groups. Whilst I have Circles for ‘Social Media’, ‘SEO’ and ‘Marketing’, I’ve also grouped people and companies I follow into ‘Photography’, ‘Comedy’ and ‘Design’ Circles, too.

Although lists are also available on Twitter and Facebook, the intuitive functionality of Google+’s interface makes it fun and easy to dip in and out of the main news feed and into specific Circles to catch up on what it being posted by specific groups of followers.

For me, Google+ is also the only social space where I feel comfortable talking in depth about topics and subjects that I’m passionate about. Because Twitter is limited to 140 character posts, Google+ allows me to enthuse in detail about marketing, social media, films or sport.

Connect on a deeper level

Whilst I get a lot of value from following people with specific interests on Twitter, I’m unable to comment directly on the updates they post unless I Retweet them. And I don’t always follow the same people on Facebook or LinkedIn so it’s difficult to comment and discuss in those spaces.

Google+ is therefore a great place for connecting and engaging with opinion leaders and technical aficionados (i.e. ‘geeks’!) on a level I’m not always able to elsewhere. And because it is still a relatively new social platform, it’s sometimes easier to speak directly to people who are often out of reach on other channels such as Twitter or Facebook because of the sheer amount of followers and ‘noise’.

Understanding Google+’s unique qualities

I’m by no means a Google+ cheerleader and I’m still not 100% sure about where the platform will go and how it will develop over the coming months and years.

However, I do believe it’s important for users to consider Google+’s unique strengths and qualities before making sweeping generalisations and criticisms. Every social platform has it’s own idiosyncrasies and audiences which should be adapted to and respected if they are to be most effective.