I wasn’t sure it could happen, but in just a few days, I’ve found more reasons to believe Google+ is going to be a real player in not just social networking, but in knowledge management and content development. I’m still formulating questions and opinions about it (and we’ve been discussing it a lot around the office), but here are my quick takes on two common challenges to Google+:
“It’s yet another social network.”
At first, I had the gut reaction of — what, another thing? But Google+ is deceptively simple, designed in such a way that it feels more like a clean slate than it does another tool to use. It’s like Google has somehow capitalized on social media fatigue. The problem has not necessarily been too much social networking — the problem has been how cluttered and bloated the existing networks have become. As others have pointed out, Google+ is not another thing to do — it’s a chance to start over and get to the essence of what makes social media valuable.
“Aren’t Circles just like Facebook’s lists?”
At face value, it may seem that Circles are nothing new. They let you organize people just like Facebook lets you organize people into lists. But the difference is how Circles are integrated into the experience… indeed, they *make* the experience. Connecting with people on Google+ is part and parcel with adding them to an appropriate circle — as soon as you click to connect with someone, the lists of Circles appears. This removes all the friction. In a couple clicks, you’ve added and sorted people.
Furthermore, when you post something on Google+, you must choose which Circles should receive the information for the post to be published. This is such a subtle distinction, but for me, it was the light bulb moment with Google+. It defines the “culture” of Google+, I think. Facebook has the option of selecting lists when posting an update, but the positioning is different. Facebook asks, “Who do you want to hide this from?”, but Google+ asks, “Who do you want to share this with?”
This subtle, conceptual difference (coupled with Google+’s seamless execution of it via Circles) is what has the potential to make Google+ stick, I think.