Jaron Lanier must be rolling his eyes. Google + has been out all of two weeks and we have already seen paid seminars on how to use it; thousands, if not millions, of blog posts espousing its virtues and condemning its shortcomings; gushing praise for circles and the ability to organize our friends and acquaintances; and now, after less than a month, when most of us haven’t even figured out how to use our circles efficiently comes the latest assessment – circle fatigue. Really? To call circles “the dark side of Google +” does seem a little over the top. (Read the comments.)
Maybe we should all take a breath, restrain our need to decide/conclude/declare in realtime, before we actually know anything, and see where this all goes. Ever think that maybe it’s still too soon to tell?
We have no idea whether Google’s momentum – 10 million users in practically no time – will continue. No way of knowing how long, if ever, it will take to reach Facebook’s volume.
Will Sparks turn out to be as useful a filtering device as we can imagine – feeding us new content based on what we’ve clicked on, liked or interacted with from previous results that it’s added to our stream? If so, will it become one of our favorite features of G+?
In early questions I posed to heavy social users, many were ready to make Google + their de facto platform, but others had no intention of bailing on Twitter. Is it an either or? Or might we, over time, find that certain networks play different roles in our desire to connect, share, discover content and organize news and entertainment via the influence and recommendations of our own carefully curated communities. Leading to the question of what role will Google + play?
And all of that’s before we even consider brands and companies. Right now Google has asked companies to stay off until they get the experience right and can select some subset of the 36,000 companies who applied to get on. That will inevitably raise more questions.
Will brands use circles intelligently, organizing small groups of advocates and loyalists in one circle, coupon cutters in another, prospects in a third?
Will Google + afford marketers better interaction and listening than Facebook does, even if the number of +’s are fewer?
What about early reports that the men to women ratio of G+ users was 90:10? Apparently that was a false assessment, but Google’s new site still weighs more in favor of the less influential consumer. Will that change?
Regarding brand interaction, there’s user behavior to consider. With the ability to isolate brands into circles we can easily organize brands by category, by coupons, or by other preferences and have far easier control over a brand’s stream than they might have elsewhere. Need a new sweater? Click on the circle of all your favorite online retailers to see who’s sending you discounts.
Finally, there’s a lot of talk about SEO results. Presumably now that Google has put an end to real time search, Google + content will have an advantage. But we still don’t know, and may never know, how that works. Right now a link that gets shared publicy has a URL (back to the Google+ post), so presumably it can be searched and found. But what about a link shared with a limited number of circles that’s not public? Does that link even count toward the page rank of the article being shared? And does it matter how influential the person who shared it?
Maybe you know the answers to all of these questions. I don’t. But I do think that for anything to work for us we have to work at it. Which recalls a whole other argument – Douglas Rushkoff’s Program or be Programmed. Having everything laid out for us might be convenient. But control and choice might be better thing. I’m giving it time.