Heated discussion yesterday about how the social media landscape will look once Google completes the rollout of it’s much vaunted Google+ service. Do you need to be in the space first (Facebook for personal, LinkedIn for business), or can you conquer the space with innovation (Google+).
For those who have not yet seen it, Google+ is their answer to Facebook, with a few notable exceptions. In particular, you can put people you ‘know’ into ‘circles’. One circle could be school friends, another work colleagues, another could be work colleagues from a previous job. You can then control access to information to each of these groups, according to which circle they are in.
You can do the same thing, to an extent, with Facebook, but it’s complex and, frankly, beyond me.
Typically (can we say ‘traditionally’ yet?), people use different systems to use their different voices. For example, using LinkedIn for their professional personas and Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and so on for their social ones. Some use Twitter for Micro blogging and so forth. There are also a range of tools to link them up, allowing a ‘Tweet’ to appear on LinkedIn and Facebook, so effectively third party tools link up the different profiles, if you so wish.
A key question is whether you can get critical mass with a new system. Most people i know are on Facebook. This makes it very sociable indeed, especially as many of them are ‘vocal’. I know six people on Google+ (although it is only in it’s pilot phase, with limited access). Nevertheless, much of my use of Facebook is ‘consumption’, browsing it to see what people are up to. I may do this several times a day, but the activity is only worthwhile because of the critical mass of data that changes every day.
There is a truism of all social media, indeed, of all community sites, that if nothing changes, it becomes stale more rapidly than a cheese sandwich on a sunny day. This is as applicable to training and learning communities as it is to communities based around your favourite band or artist. You need regular updates and content.
Now it’s possible that by being there first (or rather, by being the first site with really global uptake), Facebook has won the first and only battle. Sure, it is bound to see attrition, but will this be significant? I can’t see everyone leaving, and whilst ‘circles’ are a good idea in theory, will they work in practice?
You see, i think that people have a very limited appetite to organise their social media presence. Essentially, i think my appetite to devote time to categorising and managing my presence on a site is only slightly more than my appetite to spend time cleaning the bathroom. I want to consume, not organise. There is a chance that ‘circles’ falls into the same category as recording from my digital radio. I know it’s possible to do it, i can see the slot for the USB at the back, but i know, with an absolute certainty, that i will never do it.
Clearly the world of social media is still in it’s heavily volcanic phase, with new continents bashing into each other and mountain ranges rising and falling, but it’s possible that the days of radical change are behind us. The initial rush to colonise is likely to be followed more by consolidation than revolution. Possibly famous last words of course, but look online. I still use Amazon, Ebay and Paypal. They were the first (or the first with mass uptake) and therefore, my choice. I simply don’t have the time or inclination (more the inclination than time if i’m honest) to change.
Inertia is a powerful lack of force, and i suspect that, whilst it may create a community, Google+ will never kill Facebook. It’s just too late in the game.