Google’s new G+ has been making a lot of waves the last few weeks and I’m good with competition and new ideas, but I’m frankly on Social Network overload at this point, how about you? I won’t even list how many I’ve been part of in the past, but right now I have my toe in Facebook (with both a personal and business account), Twitter, and now G+ as well. And I don’t see how anyone who isn’t super-human can be on multiple networks and still actually take part rather than just dump content and run. I have to admit that most of the time that’s Twitter for me. Even having played with Twitter lists and such, I still find it hard to much more than skim the most recent things friends have shared before scampering away with a vague feeling of anxiety.
There’s something I like about each network, though. For instance, I truly love G+’s photo sharing. I think that’s why I’m finding so many photographers there right now. Whatever Facebook does to compress photos you share there truly is awful. There are some photos that after uploaded to Facebook, I’m not entirely proud of the work – I’ve even included links at time just so people can see them elsewhere. You can share links instead but I’ve found by and large that people will click on a photo on Facebook but are less inclined to click or comment on links. This isn’t just a feeling, my website stats have bore this feeling out. Maybe it’s something peculiar to the people I communicate with, but it’s what I’ve experienced. Thus I upload photos on a system that chops them up and spits them out a bit worse for wear. And we won’t even discuss the lightbox viewer that Facebook throws up for an additional place to show advertising. So, G+ gets a win in this category.
Beyond that, so far, I’m underwhelmed. There are a lot of people very excited about Circles on G+. Simply, you can use circles to narrow down the stream of content you are looking at, i.e. I could look at only content shared by people in my close friends circle. Or you can use circles to decide who gets to see what content. I.E, I could share a photo only with people I have put in my photographer circle. And that’s really cool,but it’s nothing new really. Facebook has had Friend Lists for quite some time. I have routinely used them to decide who gets to see what items I share. I have friends from all walks of life and I do, they may be surprised, try to break down what I share somewhat. I don’t use them to narrow down what I read so much, but that’s just me. Friends lists have been around awhile, but I think Facebook has done a poor job of showcasing them. At one point you could see friends lists down the left-hand column to use in filtering content. I’m not sure if people didn’t use them much and Facebook made the feature less center-stage or if they decided to showcase other features and shunted Friend Lists into oblivion, but they are there and serve pretty much the same function as circles, just without the wow graphic factor when editing them.
One more thing I can add to the minus list for Facebook recently is changing the format of the message center. In my opinion it’s truly dreadful and after seeing it, I’d rather move my private conversations with friends back to my own email inbox. I don’t know if others feel the same or not, but I notice this is something more or less absent from G+ so far. You can share with just one person which is similar in concept, but I think the Google Plus team may have intentionally left a full message center out because, well, Google already has Gmail – it’s kind of like re-creating the wheel.
However, for all these things I dislike, you know someone else must like them! If nothing else, the person who created them probably thought they were building the perfect system. The new message box in Facebook must appeal to someone. And the photo functions may work better for the average user who is just trying to share photos from a night out with friends rather than work from their photography business. And that’s the important thing to realize, there’s no perfect system because we all have different wants and needs. I may like Facebook better for some functions, Twitter for others, and G+ for others. I may end up in a blended environment as I’m sure I’ll stay active wherever my close friends are. I’m tempted to be active on G+ just because the photos look so much better there, but right now the network feels saturated by photographers. If you’re looking to find followers who may at some point be interested in buying your work though, I’m not sure that’s a healthy situation! We shall see!
In a way, I wish someone would take social networks a step further, build the frame-work behind the scenes not the experience. Along the same lines as email has been. There’s a protocol that works regardless of the client I choose on the other end. The hard part of making that work is figuring out how to make it financially viable. Of course Facebook, Google, etc. would rather have a walled garden where my activity occurs on their network but I think long-term the chances of anyone entity making the perfect social space is limited by the fact that none of us will agree on the formula.