Google+ Is a Virtual Networking event.


Google+ Is a Virtual Networking event. Without the benefit of cocktails.

Note: This post first ran on Bostinno here:

Over the last couple weeks we’ve seen an absolute frenzy of media activity around Google+ regarding implications for search, massive spikes in traffic and users late in 2011, and more. All that said, if you’ve been spending a lot of time on Google+ lately (it’s OK, I know you probably haven’t been… you want to say you have, but you haven’t) you may have noticed something completely uninteresting – the content. I suppose I have nobody to blame but myself, after all I specifically asked for all this lame content – I asked for all the updates I could ever want from my “favorite” brands, SEO optimization posts, the latest and greatest social media measurement strategies, pictures of donuts (Dunkinis pretty active), two million updates from CESPete Cashmore’s giant face… the list goes on.

Perhaps “lame” is a little harsh – I mean it’s work stuff really. It’s content that I need in order to be better at my job so it’s important. Problem is, that seems to be the only content on Google+ — work stuff. Listen, I am passionate about what I do, I love to learn new things every day and then apply that knowledge to create strategy for our clients, but after a while Google+ starts to feel like a virtual
trade show where people are constantly yelling at you to come to their booth and learn of the latest “game-changer” and you end up slinking through the trade show floor avoiding eye contact or needing a drink to sit through a sales pitch. Where is the interspersed story about my upcoming high school reunion, the pictures of my nieces and nephews, mildly humorous links from my friends, information on new music? Alas, it’s not on Google+.

This leaves us to wonder, what is Google+ really? Everybody, including Google, still seems to be figuring it out. It seems to be volleying for a position somewhere amongst the following four platforms:

1. Twitter: Mostly comprised of people posting links to other stories that they didn’t write (myself included) with headlines that are creative or smart enough to get noticed and make them look good. Exhausting!

2. LinkedIn: Sort of similar to Twitter but with more information about the person posting said links to other people’s creations. Oh and a resume… and a picture.

3. Quora: I’m an expert, see I can prove it here with this long winded answer.

4. Facebook: Here’s my kid. And my dog.

Alright, so it’s not as simple as that, but Google+ does feel like a Facebook wall with nothing but a business Twitter feed and some stock photography. One can essentially do this today via LinkedIn but your content will only appear to folks that you are connected to, already limiting the opportunity to virtually introduce your brilliant thinking to a bunch of strangers that you want to get to know.

I’ve said many times that Google+ could very well be a better foundation on which to build the next great social media platform. I’m truly grateful Google+ is around — competition is great and will keep Facebook “honest” so to speak. However, without the right user generated content, there is a limit to how much that even matters. To illustrate, consider Verizon FiOS. They overbuilt a new fiber-to-the-home network touting all sorts of technological advances over the legacy cable providers. None of that would have mattered if they didn’t secure content carriage deals with the likes of ESPN, NBC, HBO, CNN, ABC, etc. If there was nothing to watch, see, consume, there’s no reason to even turn on the TV.

So why isn’t there great content on Google+? Part of the problem is motivation – if you aren’t out to make money on Google+ there isn’t much of a reason to post content right now, which is why it’s crowded with brand pages and people essentially trying to sell themselves. Trouble is, that type of content is not something I’m going to “lean in” to listen to – instead it’s encouraging me to lean back. It’s the kind of content that is interesting for a while but eventually I want to get away from. The only true indicator of the future health of a social media platform is the engagement level of its user generated content. Technology is a distant second at best.

Perhaps Google+ evolves into a social networking platform for work, a sort of intranet / extranet situation. A LinkedIn meets Outlook, meets Skype, meets Twitter kind of deal. That said, that sure is a lot for one platform to handle and handle well. Probably too much. In the meantime, I’m going to log back into Google+ and see if there are some new infographics, a SOPA update, or perhaps another social media prediction for 2012.

Where’s that martini?

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