Our Take on Google+
Are you using Google+ yet? It’s launching to the general public soon and after a few weeks of using Google+, Diane Elkins and Judy Unrein got together to share impressions.
What were your initial opinions?
DE: My initial thought was – “Just what I need – one more thing.” But after using it for just a few days, I must say that I like it – a lot!
If I were to start over, I could see using Google+ over Facebook or Twitter. But the problem is, I’m NOT starting over. And neither is the rest of the world. Even if Google+ does have its advantages, it is only useful if the people you want to connect with are there. Otherwise, it’s about as useful as being the first and only person to have a fax machine. (That first one must have been a hard sell!)
JU: And soon Google+ will open up publicly, so a lot more people will be there. For many people, it’s not going to be a matter of joining a new service. Everyone who uses Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs, or any of their other services already has a Google account. It will just be a matter of completing their profiles. So adoption could be quite fast.
What are the main advantages you’ve seen in Google+ over other networks?
JU: I think it’s the best of Twitter plus the best of Facebook. It lets you establish casual connections with no expectation that a follow means someone will follow you back (which is one of the strengths of Twitter). But Google+ also encourages deeper communication by having no character limit and keeping the whole conversation in one place (one strength of Facebook). It facilitates the conversion of relationships from weak ties to strong ones.
DE: Compared to LinkedIn… I love LinkedIn as a way to stay connected (if someone changes jobs, they may not update me, but they’ll update LinkedIn), as a way to make new contacts (if I can find someone with a friend in common, I can arrange an introduction), and as a way to stay current (groups and discussions). For now, I see these as advantages that Google+ doesn’t have (yet), so I still plan to use LinkedIn just as much now as before. But I do see one advantage Google+ has over LinkedIn for professional relationship building, and that’s the status updates. They never really took off with LinkedIn. Not many people post them, and not many people “hang out” on LinkedIn to read them. But so far, those status updates and related conversations seem to be flowing in professional circles on Google+. For that reason, I think it is worth it to build a professional network on Google+ as well as LinkedIn.
The comparison to Facebook is tougher. For me, the biggest difference between Facebook and Google+ is really a mindset, not a specific feature. I’ve never been a fan of adding professional contacts in Facebook. I don’t necessarily want to share my adventures on vacation or the cute thing my nephew did with everyone I’ve met professionally. But with circles, I can share that information with family and friends, while I share work (and limited personal information) with my professional circles or the public. In reality, there’s no reason I CAN’T do the same thing in Facebook. But, I don’t. And neither do most people in this industry. So why do professional networks seem to be flourishing so early on Google+? Maybe that’s just because e-learning professionals are drawn first to the new technology, and the old friends from high school haven’t caught up yet. Maybe it’s just suggestive selling – because Google+ is really “selling” the concept of circles, we are more likely to take advantage of them. In the end, if I had to choose between Facebook and Google+, I’d pick Google+ because I can connect well with both of my worlds – but only if enough other people do, too.
JU: I agree that sharing and privacy controls are much easier in Google+ than in Facebook. I think privacy concerns are a major reason people are hesitant to mix business and personal on Facebook — and rightly so — and it presents an opportunity that Google seems to be taking advantage of quite well.
What are the annoyances you’ve seen on Google+ so far?
DE: People posting the same thing to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. First of all, I don’t want to read it four places. Secondly, these posts have to meet the lowest common denominator, which is 140 characters. I find cryptic Twitter-speak annoying enough on Twitter – I certainly don’t want to see it on Google+.
JU: And when it’s a blog post announcement, it’s going to show up in my RSS reader or email as well. I think (and hope) we’re going to see more thought put into which things people put on which networks. Some people do already get it; some people won’t get it ever. Some bloggers have noted that Google+ seems to generate more discussion than blog posts, and that could be true, but I still find it annoying to keep seeing the same things in different places, and unless they’re doing something different on that network, they’re getting moved to a stream that I don’t check often.
What implications for learning do you see on Google+?
DE: As I gathered my thoughts about how Google+ can be used for learning, I came up with mainly the same strategies/advantages as for the other big three (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn). And all the advantages listed above for personal use apply to corporate learning (being able to follow someone you admire but may not know, ability to target/protect your messages, etc.) For my own personal learning and development, I see a big advantage with Google+. Most of the people I follow on Twitter post links to lots of interesting articles. Great resource — you’d think. But there are too many of them to keep up with, you don’t know from the tweet where you are going or what you’ll see when you arrive, and you don’t get to have the poster’s perspective on the information. Whereas in Google+, I can see a quick preview of what the link is to, the person posting has a chance to share thoughts and opinions, and anyone else (with the right permission) can add to that conversation.
JU: With all of what has been written about learning through social media, I think it’s always important to realize that the implications for learning and the implications for teaching/training might be different. As with Twitter, I think Google+ is a great way to pull information to you (both through circles and sparks) and to me, that falls under learning. But there could be great uses for formal teaching/training as well, because it could be used to facilitate discussion and sharing… and again because of the easy-to-understand sharing controls, I could see platforms that are built on Google+ having more appeal than ones built on Facebook.