Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Aren’t You on Google Plus?

The short answer: No.

Well, er, yes.

Put it this way: I signed up. But I hardly know what to do with myself, now that I’ve landed on the Google town square right before the start of the Big Parade.

So it’s all the same as if I weren’t on Google Plus.

See? That’s not a question that can be answered easily. And part of the reason for that is embedded in just exactly what Google Plus really is.

It’s a Community

Talk about it: a community that includes at least five hundred million people, at least half of whom have been active users in any given month.

And with well over half of the user base peopled by the male persuasion. With a decidedly youngish perspective. Though that can hardly be bought as gospel truth, since even the Wikipedia readout has been branded as outdated.

It’s an entity whose soaring numbers have zoomed past the usage data at even Twitter, making Google Plus the hotly contested number two spot in the social networking world after you-know-who.

So much more than the small town ambience you might have been seeking.

Within Other Communities

There are multitudes of circles within the Google Plus world. You knew there had to be a way to sift through all that information overload to zero in on your specific niche.

However, it’s hard to find which ones are for you. At least that’s been my experience.

Oh, not in terms of trying to locate groups—in Google Plus terminology, they are called circles—as there are ways to search for circles representing your specific interests. The trick is in how to determine which of the many circles with the same label will provide the useful content you are craving. It seems as if everyone is jumping to throw their hat in the ring and create a Google Plus circle. But it takes more than the ring leader to create community.

It would be helpful to have a guide to help determine which circles are worth your time, and which ones would be a waste of time—with group names that don’t match content, or that contain large numbers of members who never participate. Or are trivial—or, worse yet, spammy.

Without a Road Map

The sense I get of Google Plus is that I am trying to wander the streets of a city formerly unknown to me—not to mention, larger than even my native Big Apple metroplex—and that I am wandering blindfolded and barefoot, without a roadmap.

I have no idea where I’m going or whom I want to meet if I even get “there” in such an impossible scenario. Nothing like traveling by Braille.

It’s plain I’ll need to do some brushing up on Google Plus customs, manners, and minutiae.

Unfortunately, although there are handy online guides shared by other bloggers, Twitter followers (thanks for telling me about this one, @elle_dee_see), marketing gurus, and even Google™ itself, it seems like it will take more than a cheat sheet to get me going.

Maybe something more like a Ph.D. in Google-ology.

To Get Connected

What do people really expect to get out of social media? Mostly, it’s to achieve a desired connection with others—sometimes flung across the country or even around the world—who are passionately pursuing the same interests we are.

Frankly, in the Google Plus versus Facebook debate—or versus Pinterest, or versus any other social media platform that will head our way in the future—the key is examining the specific criteria drawing a person to use such a tool.

Widely-respected technology guru Robert Scoble recently indicated a surprising (to some) about-face on his stance in this debate. Putting it roughly in his words, he has five hundred thousand followers on Facebook and over three million on Google Plus.

Scoble’s assessment of those apparently lopsided numbers?
If I post the same exact update on both, I’ll get a lot more engagement on Facebook and that makes me happy. I bias my time to work not just where the audience is, but also where the influential audience is.
At least that’s his take in a recent interview on the Marketo Blog. Of course, in the same breath, he mentioned getting Facebook messages back from the likes of Michael Dell of, well, Dell. Not everybody can say they run in those circles.

If your inner circle isn’t quite made of the stuff of technology CEOs, maybe you’ll agree with the Scoble point of view and maybe you won’t.

More germaine to the interests of readers here is the assessment shared recently by Pat Richley-Erickson, better known to all in the genealogy world as DearMYRTLE. In a blog post last Sunday explaining why she may give up blogging altogether, she contrasted her experience—observed in a personal study from March through May of this year—comparing the results of her use of Facebook versus Google Plus.

In her case, she had more personal and genealogy friends on Facebook than Google Plus, although admittedly, her tenure at Google Plus was far more brief. She noticed a couple key behaviors. First, she had more responses to her posts on Facebook than to those on Google Plus. But secondly, the responses she saw on Google Plus appeared to her to be “less frivolous.”

One piece of the puzzle that makes the winning difference for DearMYRTLE, though, is her use of a Google Plus feature dubbed Hangouts. The DearMYRTLE Hangouts on Air, in particular, have handed her an effective tool with which to achieve her overarching goal to “get people talking about how to do research.”

Based on Personal Goals

That said, it begs a question each of us needs to answer:
What are your personal goals in being online and utilizing social media?
Until you can articulate the answer to that question for yourself, you may find that you are undergoing something like my own experience with Google Plus: lost, wandering the streets of a thriving city, with no idea where you need to go, or how you’d like to get there.

For crying out loud, I still can’t get the second-nature hang of posting comments in a specific circle, much less tagging a fellow Google Plus denizen in a blog post. (And yes, I know how to do it; frustratingly, for example, just yesterday the confounded thing wouldn’t even work for me—with apologies to +Beverly McGowan Norman, whom I wanted to tag, and even today, I had to cut and paste my way to hyperlinking her Google Plus information.)

Until I develop the facility to organize my circles into a manageable utility that helps me achieve my genealogy research goals—not to mention my other business and personal goals—it will suffice me to admit that, yes, my little corner of the Google Plus world is still looking very much like a ghost town.


  1. For me, the answer is "yes, technically." However, I don't "go" there or do anything with it. I haven't even tried.

    1. Wendy, that's pretty much been the condition of my participation, too--though I hope to improve that. It's my sense there's plenty to exploit on Google soon as I develop a social media management strategy. Can't have all this fun stuff over run all my best intentions!

  2. I'm there, but only in spirit. I flunked Twitter-world- though I really gave it my best shot back when I first started- but just never had the time to stay with it. I've about decided ah-fooey with all of it, except for genie-blogging, which seems to get the most responses from cousin researchers and that's really all I am looking for anyway.

  3. With all the "sharing" that Google does with the NSA and the others in our Government - I'm not sure I want to have things I do logged and relayed to whomever.

    An innocent inquiry into a family tree might trip some paranoid in the White House's trip wire...

  4. I signed up and wish I hadn't. Google makes you tie everything together. I remember not being able to view a video on YouTube until I went through google plus hoops. And now they have ruined Picasa albums for me. I uploaded a lot of groups of photos that I could send a link to family or friends. Now Picasa albums is no more, its google photos. My photos are still there if I search long enough, but that nice way of sharing is gone. I want out of google plus since I never used it anyways. I just need some geek to help me out of it. I'm not sure what that will do to my YouTube or Picasa albums, but I'd like to find out.

  5. I have not signed up..although I have been asked to..I am just fine for now. Thanks for the review:)

  6. Social media can be overwhelming. My guiding principle is this: "Mariann, remember that you can't do everything." Often I stray from that principle. In principle, I would like to be on all the social media sites, but of course there isn't time. I like best to read others' blogs and write my blog. If I have time left over, I give it to Facebook or Google Plus. It's hard to narrow my goals because I'm always seeing more interesting tidbits ("Squirrel!"). So I just try to prioritize by time.

    And yes, there are continual frustrations. I agree!


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