Google Plus, six years on

Why Google+ Is Still My Favorite Social Network

(And maybe it should be yours, too)

As you’re reading this your reaction will, predictably, fall into one of two camps: Those who flocked to Google+ when it started and became almost fanatical about it (and are now busy telling everyone who’ll listen how Google doesn’t believe in its own product and how everything that has been done to G+ has taken a little of the magic away) or those who go “Huh?” and will say that they are too busy keeping up with their friends on Facebook or Instagramming their lunch or Tweeting about their latest peeve to join yet another social network.

Marketers will tell you that G+ doesn’t give enough Return on their Investment (yeah that ROI thingy) in time and effort. As a classic example the Getty Museum recently announced they’re leaving the platform for that reason (ironically, the discussion that ensued around that decision did make them say they could reconsider) and companies who have staked their digital space in G+ barely use it because they say they get no engagement.

This isn’t the time for me to tell you what I think about marketers who fail to grasp the importance of G+ to Google search or why companies that are selling in the 21st century continue to believe that if they broadcast some canned message about their merchandise everyone who comes across it must drop to their knees in awe, immediately plus one it and then share it with all their friends. Instead I will focus on what G+ is all about and why the connections it makes possible make it worth getting into.

Discover New Things & Meet New People

Whether you remember the halcyon early days when integrated Hangouts and the trend for more text and smaller pictures turned the platform into the digital equivalent of a 17th century London Coffeehouse or came to it much later and have only known its mobile-friendly version and its shared Collections the magic has always been in the wonder of discovery.

On Twitter, with a little luck, you might come across a Tweet that’s clever enough to capture your attention and make you follow a person but it’s unlikely that you will ever get to interact with them beyond following their Tweets. On Facebook you will find your friends and maybe their friends (and possibly some of their friends too) but as birds of a feather roost together, the possibility of coming across someone who’ll challenge the way you think and make you reconsider your view of the world is about as remote as the proverbial snowflake’s chance in hell.

It’s not the functionality. Facebook very quickly copied the capacity for posting massive amounts of text that can be input in the introduction to a post. Nor is it the way links can be placed within body text anywhere, or pictures and video can be added or even in the way other people can be tagged so they can be called to read the post, look at the comments and take part in the conversation. All of this exists on the Facebook platform and some of it exists on Twitter and LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat.

It is the culture and the expectations of those who come into G+ that make it truly different.

“I’ve spent time talking to British Olympic Gold Medal winner, Peter Wilson … and I was in a Hangout with Hulk Hogan”

Increase Your Knowledge

When strangers connect with strangers the value that arises comes from what the connection has to offer:

  • Exchange of information
  • Breaking down of barriers
  • A sense of wonder at the connection itself
  • The discovery of fresh knowledge, perspectives and insights
  • A sometimes lengthy conversation that can go really deep
  • The sense of empowerment that comes with interacting with people from all over the world
  • A satisfaction of curiosity

It is a thoroughly modern, 21st century experience that creates a unique setting that also:

  • Is resistant to overt marketing
  • Requires time and effort to understand its tropes
  • Values knowledge and insights above advertising and marketing messages
  • Disrupts the usual approach to social networking by being counter-intuitive in the effort needed to learn to use it

All of these make it harder to dive into and become familiar with G+ than any other social network out there, plus the extrinsic motivating factors (the ROI thingy again) that drive that initial social network usage for marketers and other digital natives is not quite there in the way most marketers expect.

Maybe Google over-reached when it first created it, thinking we were all ready to abandon everything else and leap in there, spending lots of time and effort to learn it all. Maybe, as critics suggest, it didn’t know what it was setting up which is why it redesigned it and realigned it several times. Or maybe, when it comes to social networks most of us take the easy way out, share pics of our lunch and tap “hey” and “lol” to friends we already have.

“G+ remains, for me, unrivalled in its ability to act as a catalyst, quicken the spread of knowledge but also break down barriers between people and allow for the real world to exist as an extension of the digital one”

But that’s not what expands our horizons, it’s not what allows us to change our mind about how we behave in the real as well as the digital world. These things require authentic contact. They require a medium through which connections feel real, even though they may only be digital. In my time there I’ve spent time talking to British Olympic Gold Medal winner, Peter Wilson (see video below), and I was in a Hangout with Hulk Hogan where we discussed marketing.

Six years on, since it was first launched and still in a process of defining itself G+ remains, for me, unrivalled in its ability to act as a catalyst, quicken the spread of knowledge but also break down barriers between people and allow for the real world to exist as an extension of the digital one (instead of the other way around). If you’re not there yet, give it a try. Hit me up. It’ll be fun.

My latest book: The Sniper Mind: Eliminate Fear, Deal with Uncertainty, and Make Better Decisions is a neuroscientific study into how to apply practical steps for better decision making.

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