Is Google+ worth your time? A layman’s look at the newest social network

12Jul11

I regard social networks much like I do my car: I get a lot of mileage out of them but don’t ask me what’s under the hood.

HTML? Might as well ask me to rebuild a carburetor.

I can, however, tell you how my car handles and what makes it better or worse than other cars from a user standpoint.

This brings me to my layman’s review of Google+, which you may know by now is Google’s answer to the social network. As of this moment, the network is still invite-only but there are plenty of invites to be had. I, for one, have been handing them out like candy.

The question I keep getting is, “Is it worth my time?”

My answer: Depends.

Are you in the market for a sleeker, newer model with improved, albeit subtle, features? Or are you comfortable with your current vehicle that takes you back and forth to the grocery store and already has your favorite radio presets? (Yes, I’m continuing with the car analogy.)

A lot of the people snatching up the early invitations to Google+ are either searching for the next big thing or champing at the bit to get away from Facebook and it’s sketchy privacy settings, relentless Farmville invitations and its relative inability to let you talk to your friends about last night’s exploits without exposing your church group to all the gritty details.

Google+ addresses all of these issues: The photos are brighter and fun to edit; the video chat, “Hangout,” is already more expansive than the chat Facebook unveiled just last week; and there isn’t a Mafia war in sight (but who knows how long that will last.)

Running in circles

Google+ shares a lot of similarities with Facebook in terms of look and style but it separates itself with the advent of Circles. As soon as you connect with someone you know, Google+ asks you to put them in a circle: friend, acquaintance, etc.; lets you create your own; or allows you to leave them out in the cold altogether.

This will sound familiar to you if you maintained lists in Facebook, but the main purpose of lists, at least for me, is to organize whose updates I want to read and to keep certain groups from viewing certain parts of my wall, such as photos, videos or my entire wall.

But it’s cumbersome and time-consuming if you want to send updates only select people can see.

Before you send an update, photo, link, etc. in Google+, you choose which circles you want to share or not share with.

Some of the privacy ramifications are still up in the air, at least they are to me. You can set your post so no one else can re-share it, but I find it hard to believe that someone couldn’t find a way to share your post (copy and paste?) if they really wanted to.

I also happened to share a blog post today in which the original user had set limitations on who he wanted to share it with. I saw the same blog post on a friend’s Facebook page within the hour.

There’s also some discussion about Google’s overall privacy policy but, in general, proponents love the fact that Google+’s privacy setting default on more privacy while Facebook has steadily moved in the other direction.

No business being on Google+

Another notable omission from Google+ are businesses. Google has asked businesses to stay away for the time being while they work on pages that should share at least some similarities with those on Facebook, but will hopefully be better. I’ve already shared my thoughts on the journalist pages. With the circles, I don’t think Google+ will even need special rules for journalists.

So what do you all talk about on Google+?

Because Google+ allows you to leave your inner circle without having to share all of your intimate details and photographs, there is much more discussion there than on Facebook among people who might not know each other very well, if at all.

This gives Google+ a little Twitter flavor, which I like. I’ve already met people who aren’t on twitter that I would have probably never met on Facebook.

So no games and no businesses? What the heck do you talk about on Google+?

To be honest, most of the people on Google+ are talking about Google+, kicking the tires, taking in the new car smell. I’d say about 65 to 70 percent of the updates are about the social network itself. That raises the question, at least it does to me, what will people be talking about when the novelty runs out?

Does it just become a newer, sleeker model of Facebook? If so, is that worth trading in old reliable – and the seemingly arduous task of moving reams of photos from one to the other? Is it worth your time to have both? And yes, they both have the capability to occupy a lot of time.

So is it worth it to you? You tell me.

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14 Responses to “Is Google+ worth your time? A layman’s look at the newest social network”

  1. Great post, Andy. Love the car analogy. I’m still trying to figure out how much time I should spend here. For me,The amount of time I invest will depend upon how many others that I want to communicate with are here and sharing good content. So far, it feels like quality over quantity compared to Facebook. I am still so surprised at how much I like it!

    BTW, was that my post you were referring to regards limited sharing? Thought I shared with public and my circles, but I posted it rather late last night, so… :-)

  2. Very good article Andy. Yes, Google Plus seems to be something worth my time to explore. I love new technology and I am always one of the ones who will be there to kick the tires. You are correct when you highlight the fact that social media apps can consume a lot of time. I use social media to stay connected with friends and to be in the know. Social media is like anything else in life. You have to moderate how much time you spend. Social media is certainly not a higher priority than many other things. Then again if you are on Facebook and you have a business page then that changes the entire scope of how it is being used. If it is a business tool then you have decided to engage social media for business use. I still think you would have to gauge how much time to invest in it compared to other business tasks. I hope that G+ NEVER adds bloated advertisements or games. I love how clean the interface is and how it integrates seamlessly with gmail. I also love the ability to put people in their own special circles.

    • Thanks, James. I omitted the fact that I will continue to do both, but I’m sure anyone could have guessed that. Honestly, I don’t have too many issues with my private facebook account, aside from the fact the privacy settings kept changing on me. Then again, I don’t use it as much as I once did. Instead I spread my attention across all of them.

  3. I think the no sharing thing has more to do with avoiding having the content be attributed back to the original poster.

    • I’m not sure I understand the difference.

      • When you reshare something on facebook, it always has a “via Tim Coker” tag saying that I originally posted it and you hit the Share link. I would guess there might be situations where I won’t want something posted to someone else’s wall with my name attached.

  4. I feel too involved in Facebook to switch everything over. And I already have different groups on Facebook for different types of friends. If I don’t want someone to see tagged photos or my wall, they won’t. Also, I feel like anything I post on Google+ is just repeating what I already have on Twitter. I probably won’t stay on there long.

    • I think that will be the real challenge for Google+. There are improvements to be sure, but are they enough to draw away people who have settled in at Facebook?

      • 10 Larry

        I think I read this morning 10 million users are already on G+? It’s big already!

  5. 11 Check This Out

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  1. 1 Andy Paras, Social Journalist / Jared W. Smith
  2. 2 Twitter bashing way too premature « andyparas

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