Jon Thomas
Jon Thomas
Communications Director

Google+ Friends Both Facebook & Twitter

Google, Facebook and Twitter, sitting in a tree...In the media frenzy leading up to Google+, a slew of articles preemptively warned that Facebook should be shaking in its boots, painting Google+ as a defacto “Facebook Competitor,” even implying a gladiatorial showdown where two social media juggernauts would enter the Thunderdome, but only one would come out alive. But after using it for a few weeks now, I see some pronounced differences between the two that make me far less sure that Google+ is ready, or even intended, to cut Facebook’s unbridled success.

First, the Google+ user relationship experience appears more akin to Twitter than Facebook. Unlike Facebook, which requires a reciprocal acceptance, the structure of relationships in Google+ allows any user to add any other user to their Circles. While these Circles allow for unique segmentation of privacy, data, and more, the “follow anyone you want” structure puts the focus less on mutual personal relationships and more on aggregating larger numbers of followers. (Yes, people still care about # of followers)

Does this mean that it’s Twitter that’s in trouble? Not exactly. Granted, they do need to keep a close eye on the increasing capabilities of Google+, but for the smaller Twitter, simplicity is their core value proposition. The 140-character limit works for a variety of uses, and the lack of comment threads makes content consumption a breeze for those who are browsing their feeds.

Second, as Jason Falls recently noted, time spent on the Internet is not a zero-sum game. No one says you have to pick a monogamous social-media spouse. We spend our time on a myriad of sites, and while the introduction of Google+ isn’t exactly a win for Facebook and Twitter, the grim reaper isn’t on their doorstep either.

Basically, despite the undeniable tension of a Tarantino-style Mexican standoff between the three, there’s plenty of room in this town for Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to all coexist, maybe even peacefully, with no threat in the near future of any of these social media behemoths falling.

Don’t get me wrong: Google+ is a very real player in the content marketing space. The platform is built to share targeted content and to encourage sharing and conversations – no character limits, less anonymity, larger reach, easier segmentation, integration with Google search, and an open comment system (as long as the post is public, anyone can comment) make Google+ a fantastic place to move your followers to your owned channels.

But Facebook and Twitter still hold on to unique value propositions that Google+ isn’t positioned to infringe upon, and this type of competition can only mean good things for the social media user. Facebook and Twitter will be forced to continually improve and respond to the needs of their customers if they want to keep Google at bay.

However, there remains a key question born of both corporate and user frustrations: Is this yet another social media profile that brands will need to develop a strategy for? And will users find the time to maintain interest in three separate platforms simultaneously?

The answer to the first question is yes, and it’s not a bad thing. Google+ is poised to offer brands new features to engage with their fans that no other platform can. Your brand’s eggs will need to be spread across another basket, but consider it a new opportunity. With the introduction of Google+, there are even more chances to engage fans where they already are, instead of trying to interrupt them while they’re being entertained, or waiting for a bus, or reading a magazine.

The answer to the second question, will people have time for all three, is a bit tougher to answer this early on — but it will undoubtedly be the mortal wound for whichever of these platforms blinks first by holding back on innovation or not listening to what consumers actually want.

So let’s start the debate here: Will you find the time to be an active user of all three? If you think one will inevitably be the first to fall, which one and why? Is Twitter ultimately too simple to stick? Or has Facebook become such a behemoth that it can’t stay nimble enough to keep up with it’s hopelessly broad range of users?

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  • http://chrisdenman.co Chris Denman

    As an active user of all 3, I can say I’m exited to see what Google plans to do with business profiles. Also, I haven’t heard much being discussed in terms of advertising yet either. I think they nailed this and it can only get better moving forward. The simplicity and openness is very appealing to me (and many others) I would like to see them improve on Sparks as well.

  • http://www.postadvertising.com Jon Thomas

    I am sure as you-know-what that both Advertising and Brand pages will be huge on Google+, just as they are on Facebook. Sparks seem to have been an afterthought thus far (I totally forgot about them actually, until you reminded me), but I can see where advertising would integrate in them just like AdWords. 

  • Alex Wen

    Great article, my thoughts exactly! I was also excited for Google+, but quickly realized it wouldn’t quickly replace Facebook (which so many are clamoring to do, apparently). The three really do serve different purposes and ways to reach/interact with audiences. Knowing Google and the projects they release, it’ll always be a work in progress, right? Good to know that things will adjust and be added (hopefully to the benefit of users)!

  • http://www.postadvertising.com Jon Thomas

    Same here Alex. Google is definitely no Facebook clone. I’m looking forward to their next upgrades and such.

  • Keith Blanchard

    OK I’ll be the bad guy and say: all three can’t coexist. Everyone is adding their friends to circles for Google + but are they really posting there, and everywhere else too? I find myself already spending too much time managing social media; the idea I’ll post to FB, and to Twitter, and to LinkedIn, and to Google+ is not realistic unless you are a professional or semi-professional self-marketer willing to spend all day updating various profiles. I think it’s hard to unseat Facebook, but if FB doesn’t adapt, G+ probably gets its own crowd and gradually displaces it over two or three years (that’s what happened to the former juggernaut MySpace, right?) just my two cents

  • http://www.postadvertising.com Jon Thomas

    Very valid prediction. But I feel like that’s what people said about Twitter when they already had Facebook. First, why would anyone care what I’m doing right now? Second, why would I post to two places when I can just post to Facebook? But Twitter carved out its niche. I think G+ will too.

    I can see if someone where to think that G+ and Facebook were too similar (like MySpace and FB were in the beginning, and basically still are) that one would have to fall. Though as I said in my article, I think there so different that G+ is closer to Twitter than Facebook. The content sharing is at an insanely rapid pace, and there’s no focus on personal stuff (I still can’t figure out the Photo application, and you can’t just go to someone’s wall and post a message). I’m seeing three distinct services here, with G+ being a blend of both.Also, maybe it’s just my stubborness, but I don’t think LinkedIn will ever be a real player in content sharing. They have a nice foothold in Groups and Questions, which can be very useful from a personal branding standpoint, but I don’t see a focus in content sharing there. I never log into LinkedIn to see what content people are sharing. 

    Also, MySpace was not nearly as innovative as Facebook is. Even when FB was in their rear view, they didn’t budge and now they’re left in the dust.

  • http://www.postadvertising.com Jon Thomas

    Very valid prediction. But I feel like that’s what people said about Twitter when they already had Facebook. First, why would anyone care what I’m doing right now? Second, why would I post to two places when I can just post to Facebook? But Twitter carved out its niche. I think G+ will too.

    I can see if someone where to think that G+ and Facebook were too similar (like MySpace and FB were in the beginning, and basically still are) that one would have to fall. Though as I said in my article, I think there so different that G+ is closer to Twitter than Facebook. The content sharing is at an insanely rapid pace, and there’s no focus on personal stuff (I still can’t figure out the Photo application, and you can’t just go to someone’s wall and post a message). I’m seeing three distinct services here, with G+ being a blend of both.Also, maybe it’s just my stubborness, but I don’t think LinkedIn will ever be a real player in content sharing. They have a nice foothold in Groups and Questions, which can be very useful from a personal branding standpoint, but I don’t see a focus in content sharing there. I never log into LinkedIn to see what content people are sharing. 

    Also, MySpace was not nearly as innovative as Facebook is. Even when FB was in their rear view, they didn’t budge and now they’re left in the dust.

  • http://www.postadvertising.com Jon Thomas

    Very valid prediction. But I feel like that’s what people said about Twitter when they already had Facebook. First, why would anyone care what I’m doing right now? Second, why would I post to two places when I can just post to Facebook? But Twitter carved out its niche. I think G+ will too.

    I can see if someone where to think that G+ and Facebook were too similar (like MySpace and FB were in the beginning, and basically still are) that one would have to fall. Though as I said in my article, I think there so different that G+ is closer to Twitter than Facebook. The content sharing is at an insanely rapid pace, and there’s no focus on personal stuff (I still can’t figure out the Photo application, and you can’t just go to someone’s wall and post a message). I’m seeing three distinct services here, with G+ being a blend of both.Also, maybe it’s just my stubborness, but I don’t think LinkedIn will ever be a real player in content sharing. They have a nice foothold in Groups and Questions, which can be very useful from a personal branding standpoint, but I don’t see a focus in content sharing there. I never log into LinkedIn to see what content people are sharing. 

    Also, MySpace was not nearly as innovative as Facebook is. Even when FB was in their rear view, they didn’t budge and now they’re left in the dust.

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