Google+ and the Unsettled World of Social Media

Like apparently all other tech geeks, I’ve been playing with Google Plus for the past week. And like a lot of us, I’m finding a lot to like. The G+ team evidently worked on the technology for at least a year before releasing a public version of it, and it shows that they’ve done their homework.

A lot of us don’t love that Twitter is limited to very short messages and Facebook connections are symmetric (if you’re my Fbook friend, I’m automatically yours), so G+ tackles these limitations. It allows you to easily make multimedia contributions of any length, and to control who can view them.

This latter feature is achieved via ‘circles,’ which are collections of people within G+ like family, colleagues, bosses, people who I like to share raunchy Internet humor with, church youth group, and fellow geeks.

It’s pretty clear that some people in my life belong in more than one such circle, and others should never be part of some of the circles above. Circles lets me accomplish this kind of categorization and segregation easily, and G+ also makes in painless for me to send each of my posts/contributions to a different set of my circles.

It also lets me ‘tune in’ to any of my circles, and so hear what its members are broadcasting. Of course, if they’re broadcasting only to their climate change deniers circle, I’m not going to see it (since they would hopefully not have added me to that circle).

Circles are nicely explained in this slideshow from the always savvy Ross Mayfield

I’ve also learned a bunch about G+ from Robert Scoble, Paul Allen, and many others. In fact, I’ve learned a lot more about the technology from individual observers, both prominent and not, than from any official Google publication or tutorial.

I think Google realized that this would be the case — that the crowd would quickly educate the crowd about this new social technology —  and so didn’t go heavy on the initial user guides. This strikes me as a smart (not to mention cheap) strategy these days.

I’m still learning my way around G+ (which already has something close to 10 million users!??!) and the below cheat sheet from for hire media is a big help. I don’t have nearly enough information and insight yet to know how big a deal it will be, or if it will will finally help Google break into social media in a big way.

from for hire media

The one thing I can state definitively at this point is that the toolkit of Web 2.0 technologies is not yet anywhere near complete — we’ve not yet seen all the important innovations. Facebook (which was launched in 2004) was different than MySpace (thank Heaven), Twitter (2006) was different than Facebook, and G+ (2011) is different than either.

Anyone think that G+ is the final form of social networking tools? Me, neither. Very smart technologists are still learning what works and why. They’re motivated not only by their inherent desire to build cool stuff, but by very large user bases and potential markets. We consumers are going to be reaping the rewards of their work for some time to come.

What’s next for social media? What have your experiences with Facebook, Twitter, G+, and other tools taught you to want next? Leave a comment, please, and let us know. I’ll share my thoughts on the matter in my next post.