Google Plus: Abandoned Social Media Playground or The Internetís Best Kept Secret

Tuesday, July 08, 2014 9:00 AM

Let me ask you a question: When you need to Google something, what search engine do you use? Is it Google? And when you’re at home checking your Gmail and a friend pops on to Gchat to say hello, is that on Gmail and Gchat? What about when you’re at work and you just remembered that you were working on some files at home and don’t have them on your work hard drive. Do you then check your Google Drive to retrieve that file and then save it on your work hard drive and keep working? Maybe you’re collaborating on a project with a partner and you want them to take a look at an early draft and make some notes. Do you share that document with them on Google Drive so they can read your draft and make notes that you can track live? What do you do when you’re trying to find that new restaurant that just opened in town? Do you open up your Google Maps to get directions?

So perhaps those first few questions were a bit leading. Let’s try another question: Where do you go to look at pictures of your old high school classmates, to post pictures of your breakfast, share important or weird news stories, post videos of cats sneezing or of babies dancing? Where do you go to update friends, family, and work colleagues about your comings and goings and if you are feeling “truly blessed” on any given day? Is the answer Google Plus? For the vast majority of you the answer is probably no. You do all those things on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram but mostly Facebook. “What’s Google+?” you might be asking, or, “isn’t Google+ that thing nobody uses?”. But why does nobody use it? It seems weird to me that for a society that relies so much on Google for so many things that we don’t seem to trust it yet to be our one social media home base. This is especially more perplexing once you realize what a lovely and pleasurable experience it is to use Google+ for all your social networking wants and needs.

So what’s with all this Google praising? Do I work for Google? No, but it does feel most days like Google is working for me. Next to my iPhone, I use some sort of Google service every single day. It just makes sense that eventually I would be using it for everything that I use Facebook for and then maybe, some day, stop using Facebook altogether. Allow me to make my case for a company that has already proved itself time and again:

Look and Feel

This is something that Facebook had going for it from the very beginning. That blue and white interface looked crisp and clean. There was lots of room to stretch our legs and figure this whole social media thing out. Nowadays things feel a little bit more squeezed and compressed on Facebook, wouldn’t you agree? Numerous columns with sponsored ads and suggested follows and “what’s trending” sections kind of squeeze out all the good stuff. Not only do things seem a bit more busy and hectic on Facebook but we’re also being subjected to constant advertising in one way or the other. Kind of like real life. It feels kind of inevitable that one day Facebook and our real lives would have that same feel to them each day.

Facebook's user interface has gotten more cluttered over time

Google+ has that same crisp and clean look to it but they’ve added some colour to things. Everything just looks so much prettier on Google+, especially the photos, but more on that later. In an effort to help you streamline what you see and what you don’t see when you’re just checking in, the top bar allows you to filter out who you see on your homepage: friends, family, acquaintances, or just those you can “follow”- it’s like being friends with someone on FB without the long-term commitment. Everyone you add to your Google+ you put into circles and those circles can overlap. Say you have a friend that you also work with, they could go into your friends and work circles where another co-worker might just stay in your work circle. All of your family members can be in another as well, which leads me to one of the great features of Google+, being that you can control what groups of your friends, acquaintances, or whichever see what you’re posting. Whether it be a photo or an update or a shared link. Who sees what is all up to you with just a simple checking of a box. Simple, easy, and some might say long overdue.

Photos and Video Sharing

This is something I can’t quite explain but the photos that I see posted through Google+ are much more vibrant than what I see on Facebook. It might have something to do with their size or possible some information is much more compressed when you post to Facebook but whatever the reason is, the result is great looking pictures. Video is also a much more pleasurable experience, mostly because of Google’s relationship with YouTube. It just works and works well.

Photos and videos look great on Google Plus

Mobile Experience

The Facebook app for iPhones and iPads has gone through countless ups and downs and upgrades and improvements. It seems that they’ve finally got things right when it comes to the iPhone app. Things work pretty well but it took forever for them to get it right. Remember when there wasn’t even an iPad app for Facebook? It was like building a fire before there were lighters. Hard times indeed. Now the iPad app works...I guess. The experience isn’t really the easiest for me on my iPad app but maybe it’s just my old iPad. I’m glad they finally got a Facebook app that works though. Google+ got their mobile apps correct right from the get go. Not only did everything work like it should but everything just looked so damn pretty. It really is a lovely experience on both the iPhone and iPad. Remember it wasn’t so long ago that Google’s stuff didn’t always work so well on Apple products, for whatever reason. Even if you have zero friends or zero people to follow on Google+ I would suggest using their mobile app and see how much fun it is to just click around and look at stuff and Like (+1) pages, read and share links and look at photos.

Do People Actually Use It

Here comes the rub. On Facebook I have about 590 friends. Obviously a lot of these people I don’t know but I like knowing that they’re there. On Google+ I follow 235 people and only 143 people follow me back. Out of the 235 people I follow I would have to say that maybe 10% of them are active on Google+. Most of those are the sports teams I follow and the Food Network. Their posts are all great and I never feel overwhelmed by their social media presence. Compare this to Liking a product’s page on Facebook and see how much nonsense you have to put up with. The problem with Google+ is clear and the problem is real: There’s nobody on there to play with me. It’s like this brand new playground that was built but it’s miles away from everyone’s houses. At times I feel like I’ve discovered a social media oasis. It’s bright and beautiful and colourful, things work like they should, I don’t feel bombarded by ads, and I can filter out the information I see if I do feel bombarded by posts and updates. It has everything I want and also, right there in the top right corner, is a button that connects me to all my other Google preciouses: my mail, my documents, my calendar, everything.

So what’s the final word on Google+? Well, I think it is here to stay and that’s one reason why you should give it a shot. The other reason is that its existence doesn’t rely so heavily on ads like Facebook so it doesn’t feel like you’re going to be bombarded by sponsored content any time soon. Google already has you coming and going and they know it. A little space to roam around free on Google+ is a small price to pay. The thing is, if you do it right then you’ll go ahead and follow companies yourself anyway, without even being prompted to, just like with Facebook or even Twitter. Google+ is not the next Google Buzz. It works great and does things with style and functionality. I think it’s a place that some companies don’t yet have a presence on, for the reasons I’ve just explained, but people will start to flock to Google+ just like they flocked to Gmail and Google Maps. It just feels like the right thing to do. Our Google Overlords made it that way.

Give our Google Overlords a shot at your social media traffic
Jason Lee Norman

Jason Lee Norman

Jason Lee Norman is a writer with a beard. He is the 2014 Writer in Residence at the Edmonton Public Library. He is obsessed with keeping his iPhone over 75% charged.

comments powered by Disqus