Cold Turkey Facebook, Refined Sippin Google +

by =Deadly-Wanderer

Being in the business of Search Engine Optimization and Paid Search it’s no surprise Google+ has my attention. In the mad dash of marketers, geek hipsters, and NY Times level press last year remember the headline “Is Google+ the Facebook Killer?” The question now seems muted but the network remains a force due to the default logged-in social search toggle button and the appearance of network connections and pluses in paid search.

Like many I used, I liked.

I liked the design, I liked it was relatively easy to use and easy to categorize people into circles. I liked the newness.  I stayed on longer more than most and used it primarily for SEO and digital marketing type information and also found it useful in discovering niche content and people associated within that niche content.

A few weeks back I was talking with some friends and we noticed we’re checking Facebook without noticing we’re checking Facebook. If you look around we all have our noses in our tiny screens and it appears the majority of focus is on Facebook. Is it really that important and necessary I check my Facebook feed in between meetings or first thing in the morning while I’m still in bed?

I Decided To Do a 1 Week Test.

  • Go cold turkey on Facebook for one week. No checking, no updating. In order to commit I had to delete all Facebook apps from my phone and iPad, as well as Facebook bookmarks in my browser.
  • Get by only with Google +.

I did see my Facebook use as an addiction. I had thought of doing the test for some time and kept delaying. “I’ll just wait to the presidential debates are over”, I thought. “Or the World Series”. Seeing what the extremes are saying on Facebook during presidential debates, the posting of Big Bird Sesame street memes or talking crap about Jose Valverde can be quite entertaining and I didn’t necessarily want to give that up. But I did take the plunge.

Google Plus

The question now seems muted but the network remains a force due to the default logged-in social search toggle button(1) and the appearance of network connections and pluses in paid search(2).

I was surprised. After an unnerving 4-5 hours, by the time I was in day 2 I was pretty checked out and didn’t really care. I was humored by my reflex to go up to my bookmark bar and click on the FB icon and it not being there. Same for my phone. After about two of those self inflicted reminders my habit was broken. I did miss the banter, the music nuggets, Klecko’s divine and culinary rants, Valerie’s cat, Dykehouse’s brilliant art and dry self-portrait faces, my high school friend on the other side of the political spectrum who posts offensive commentary, my cousin’s Japanese pics, a co-workers adorable kid, or my wife’s friends posting pics of our daughter with her friends.

I did feel a little clear-headed in day 3 but… I was a little lonely.

I thought of and reflected on Clive Thompson’s ambient awareness. All this digital socialization has affected our collective unconscious in some way.

I was astonished at the time I seemed to now have available. We (I) really waste a lot of time on Facebook. I tidied up my email and unsubscribed from a lot of useless email. To compensate for my loneliness I took up Foursquare again and began to pay more attention to LinkedIn. LinkedIn has come a long way. In some ways, from an intellectual and business perspective, my LinkedIn feed provides more value than the Facebook feed. I began to feel more in tune with my friends and colleagues’ professional life and could also connect some subtle dots. Diving back into these other networks was extremely beneficial.

The Google+ Test Results

And, here it is – after a few days of tidying up my circles the content on Google+ is more high quality, educational, intellectual, and clean.

by ~metstyler

Very clean. No Advertising, at least no paid ads. If you want to call Zappos’ Google+ page advertising- fine, but that page is completely free for Zappos to create, no media dollars. You opt to put them in a circle and then have the power to categorize that circle and set the frequency of updating coming from that circle.

Google+ content, in general, is more subject focused and to some degree a little more corporate, not in a  negative sense. On Google+ you choose what/who you’re going to follow. To make the most of Google+ you need to curate your circles. Like many when I began with it, I threw everyone in the same circle. This quickly turns your feed into a spammy incomprehensible mess. I started with a Chrome extension that will uncircle all people who have been inactive for a timeframe you define. I uncircled anyone who hadn’t posted in 5 months. This made it a little easier to filter and sort. The other key is to adjust the frequency in each individual circle. This will ensure you are getting the desired attention in your main feed. For me I prefer to look at one streamlined feed rather than clicking to disparate circles. The slider in the picture below from an individual circle is crucial for setting this up.

Google Plus Circle Filter

Quick Positive (+) Hits on Google+

  • Austin Thomas

    If you are a photographer or interested in photography what you hear is true- You absolutely need to be on and use Google+.  It is that impressive. A large part of this has to do with the user interface and how images are treated. The code gives photos a lot of respect and attention with large sizes and black backgrounds. The photographer community is very thick.

  • The iPad app for Google+ is one of the most elegant and free-flowing user experiences I’ve seen. It’s akin to Pulse or Flipboard. Content wistfully flows by with large pictures sprinkled in. Selecting circles are very easy and there is no noise from other third-party apps or advertising. It’s content in its simplest and purest form. The iPad app will almost guarantee I keep coming back.
  • The community management or “circle management” is brilliant. Adding and sorting friends, family, companies, brands, entities, or intelligentsia is intuitive. After what is probably 10 years on Facebook I still haven’t bothered to figure out how to organize and categorize friends. Sure it’s probably easy but I need to navigate to some help forum somewhere to figure it out. With Google+ I figured it out instantly. Again, self-community management is key to have a positive experience on Google+.
  • In good post-modern “respect for the author” fashion Google+ gives an entity a voice. In Facebook I fear we sometimes fall victim to the crowd. For instance when the Detroit Lions won over the Seahawks last week, I typically would take in the revelry with fellow Lions fans who may have posted a link to a video from ESPN or the Detroit Free Press. Detroit LionsWithout a Facebook connection and no football fans in my Google+ circles I decided to circle the Detroit Lions. By circling them the Detroit Lions were feeding me directly and I actually watched some lengthy press conference videos from Jim Schwartz, the head coach, and the quarterback Matt Stafford. I felt I actually had a better understanding of the game, felt a closer connection to my home team, and that the Lions had a voice. We’re only talking about a football game here, imagine how this transcends to news stories, politics, or even a company’s reputation. All too often we fall victim to the herd mentality and pitchforks which Facebook so easily perpetuates. Google+ seems to subtly level this playing field.

Quick Negative (-) Hits on Google +

  • While the iPad app and mobile apps are great they still are in their infancy. If you need to do heavy lifting like organizing/creating circles or switching between personal and brand accounts it is a little clunky.
  • Beyond embedded YouTube videos music is really lacking. I really enjoy my musician/DJ friends who share music via Soundcloud on Facebook or the record label that is promoting and posting their stuff. This community seems to be virtually non-existent on Google+. Resident Advisor has a presence and posts with links to their podcasts but the interface needs more…. a partnership with Soundcloud or the like would be great.

Facebook Is A Frat Keg Party. Google+ Is A Cocktail Soiree.

As I was a little lonely in my experiment I reached out. Recommended Users was a good place to begin to follow people. This blog post is mostly from a user’s perspective (not the publisher) but an interesting note about etiquette to point out. I began to follow let’s say an additional 10 – 15 celebrity/famous type people in my test, everyone from the likes of the Dalai Lama, Jeff Jarvis, Robert Scoble, MLS, and others. In this list was Arianna Huffington and Guy Kawasaki – pretty typical people for a digital marketer to follow. Even after I had curated my circles and set up my feed settings Arianna and Guy were relentlessly posting every passing thought and seemingly unrelated and haphazard content. It seemed like they have people to just upload for the sake of doing so. Are you really that important I need to have dozens of posts from you all day? Within a day their posting for the sake of posting was annoying. My response was simple- just create a new circle call it “the rest” and throw them in there with the slider to show less of this content. Now my main feed is not being bombarded with them.

This goes back to subheading of this section, Facebook is a frat keg party and Google+ is a cocktail soirée. Screaming and bombarding with content may work on Facebook (and Twitter), but with Google+ it pays to engage with your followers and also be elegant in how you publish. Talk and engage about what you know, and are a part of, rather than try to be everything to everyone.

When I came back to Facebook after my week-long hiatus I was underwhelmed and somewhat annoyed. My reaction was a la seeing MySpace 7-8 years ago – tons of advertising, apps and widgets everywhere, and gratuitous information. Our Facebook screens have become overwhelmingly chaotic and the advertising is almost over the top and in your face. It’s creeped up on us all.

With only a year into it how Google+ rolls out remains to be seen. Google has been subtle in its adaptation and keep in mind all that data, sharing, and plussing being tracked and incorporated into their algorithms. They’ve kept Google+ clean and appear to have left the ad revenue to come from Adwords and their Network, likely fed information being shared on Google+. A very sophisticated strategy compared to Facebook. It will be interesting if they’re able to pull people away from Facebook to use their more intuitive and minimal interface. It’s possible that ultimately is not the goal. In the end MySpace defeated itself.

As I played around with Google’s multiple projects and apps in this study, Android for example, and all the Google Chrome extensions it is apparent they have really thought this through. Some criticize as a company they have too much going on, not enough focus but maybe Google+ will be a hub of sorts. Curate your circles.

See you at the soirée.

Everything written here are the views of Tim Aten and Tim Aten only. They have no relation, nor are they the views of any of my employers past or present.

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