A perspective on Google+ Circles

I had written a small amount of this on a FB friend’s status, but I thought I would expand what I’ve written and share here, too! I’m embracing the new social media site, Google+ (G+). Here’s why:

To my friends not already on G+ here’s some background: G+ is like a mix between Twitter and Facebook.


Twitter is like having a 1 channel, text-based radio station. If you want to share something, you put it out to the world. People can ‘subscribe’ to your Twitter feed without asking your permission. (though there are settings to block this, this is the default.) You don’t necessarily need to know or follow the people who follow you.

Facebook is more friend-exclusive than Twitter: If someone asks to connect, then you “friend” them – and – make an agreement that person can see your 1 channel feed (station) in return. Otherwise, your “station” is silent except for your profile photo and the profile info you choose to share with the general public.

On G+, from the listening side, it’s like Twitter in that you can subscribe to and be a fan of anyone’s feed. From the speaking side it is like FB, where it allows you to select who you broadcast to.

BUT… both FB and Twitter are similar to “1 bit color“. (either on or off) You subscribe to ALL stations of a person (in Twitter), or you offer all stations or NONE of yourself to the world (FB).

G+ is more like “24 bit color” – true life color – in that you have a lot more control of who sees each message you share. (Oh wow – 24 bit color = 16,777,216 colors. I had to look that one up.)

Allowing a person full access to all of your life’s stations is not necessarily a good thing, nor do I think it’s natural. Sure, it allows you to really get to know the person you’re connecting with, but do we do this in real life?

No.

I have a little sadness with what might initially feel like closing people out, but on the other hand, there really is a huge coldness in the bulk amount of broadcasting people do online. People enjoy broadcasting the minutia of their lives. This does not bring people closer together. (I know I’m broadcasting right now in writing this!! Irony!)

Still ~ real, back-and-forth interactions where both people are involved really rocks, and by controlling what is actually broadcast, it minimizes the “Only I’m important” feeling that social media broadcasting can give.

You don’t necessarily want to share personal information with people you’ve met in work but you may still want a connection to the very same people. (LinkedIn feels to be a “work-centrific social media site, but why maintain a FB and LinkedIn account, when G+ can give you both?) Work connections can be helpful in learning and growing – and especially in this “who you know” world, it’s good to keep connected with people you’ve worked with. You never know how you could help each other in future.

What Google+ is to me

Within G+, each post you broadcast, you can choose which circle(s) you share with. Only you know how your circles are organized. By grouping friends, family, colleagues and whatever other type of circles you can imagine, it allow you to share relevant information with specific groups of people.

The connections and messages I share on G+ are more focused to each “type” of person, which also make reciprocating a connection less stressful. Gone are the days that you need to be concerned whether or not to reciprocate a connection with a colleague – for fear they learn something super-personal about you that you would only want to share with friends or family, but “OOPS! You forgot you were connected to them.” (Not that it applies to everyone, it’s just to give an example.)

It also inadvertently (or perhaps overtly) shows how much you mean to someone else, when you see this as their feed:

How you organize your connections

Google+ allows you to sort people you connect with into “circles”, which is more how real life is arranged.

We all “broadcast” differently to different people in real life. (And, some people ONLY broadcast! Aagh!) To me, the G+ circles I’ve created are my different “stations”. Currently, this is a broad description of how I am arranging my circles at this moment, both personally and professionally:

Personal:

If you’ve met and are talking with someone new at a party and mention you have an interest in energy conservation or that you collect purses (for example), if you have a mutual interest, you both may choose to go deeper in that subject & choose to reconnect with them in a meaningful way in future. In real life, people are first “Acquaintances” (or Neutral) until they find something in common they both share. I use G+ circles in exactly the same way.

  • Acquaintences/Neutral – New possible friends. I offer up tidbits of this and that, and see if there is a similarity before adding them to a closer group – just as I would in real life.
  • Friends – True friends. These are people who are “OK” with all of my stations. I may omit sharing with them the minutia of a specialty interest I may have, as I do in real life. When eyelids start to droop, the subject changes! hah!
  • Family – Close family. Family matters – and even talk of visits may be shared (if my family actually joins me in G+!!) Part of the reason I would never broadcast on Twitter that I’m going on vacation or a trip is that I don’t want to let the world know that I’m away from home and hey – it’s an OK time to rob my house! Fear-based, I know, but still – why invite something like that? It will be fun to share and get excited about upcoming connections and trips & I do hope my family joins me on G+. I’m not sure how photos work yet – but I’d probably be more apt to share more photos of myself and my family if I knew it was only with the family.
  • Each BIG Specialty/Interest I have gets it’s own circle – If I have a BIG interest in something, like… pizza making, or WordPress. As with real life – I don’t want to annoy the people around me by blabbering on about something too much if they really don’t have an interest in it, so I create groups to share with people who I know are more interested in a specific subject that I’m also interested in. This allows a deeper connection with the people who also care about the subject I’m broadcasting, and we all can learn more with the back and forth conversation we all have without turning off friends who may not have as much of an interest in that subject.

To get off track for a bit ~ on the subject of specialty interests ~ I don’t know if it could be done (it doesn’t seem to be available at this moment), but I would love to see the ability (in G+) to subscribe to a person’s “topic” – so if say ~ someone expresses they’ve enjoyed working with polymer clay and they also post a whole lot about how they love sports or hate the government, I’d like to be able to “subscribe” to the polymer clay stuff, while turning off the sports or politically charged statements.

That would employ the use of tags or similar PER POST, and may never be available, but I’ve been in a position where I’ve shut off a friend’s feed on FB because most of their feed was gritching, moaning and complaining about something or other. If they were actually talking about something of common interest, I would have loved to be able to see it without having to remember to go to their profile and then sort through all the rest of the junk they’ve posted. Just like in real life – I control what I allow people to say to me. If someone complains too much or brings fear-based views to me, I shut down. If even a glimmer of common interest is showing, I want to be able to interact.

~ Ok, back to the main subject ~

Work-related:

You wouldn’t talk about the “People of Walmart” website to a client (unless they have a twisted sense of humor) nor would you want to bore your friends with “Shop talk”, so you may wish to create work-related circles. Here’s what I have created:

  • Clients – Only work-type information, and very neutral non-work related comments are shared.
  • Colleagues – Same as above, but maybe more “insider” and detailed information that they would care about, where it would probably be too overwhelming for clients. Since I’m a freelancer, I use social media sites in ways that many people who work at companies may not use them, and it’s important to me to stay connected with the people around me who can help me, and I can also help.
  • Work-type Tip-of-the-Month (or Week, or Day?!) – For friends, colleagues and clients who are working in the same media & would like free tips to help inspire them in their journey. I can see offering free monthly tips and charging minimally for a yearly subscription to weekly tips. Not sure of the interest, but it’s a thought. (Aside: I’ve been thinking of this a LOT – as well as thinking about creating a minimally priced subscription-based forum (not G+), so clients and colleagues can all benefit from quick questions answered without having to break out an invoice. Increased knowledge can be shared, across-the-board.)

Other:

  • Controlled – People who, for whatever reason want to be connected to me, but if I don’t feel our personalities are a match and I want to deeply control what is being shared without hurting their feelings. There are a couple people I have as friends on Facebook who, I feel connected with me only to “spy” on what I’m up to, which feels a little creepy. I very-much appreciate that G+ allows me to filter what I share with whom.

In closing

(Holy cow, I’ve written a book! I applaud you if you’ve made it this far.)

I love the potential the G+ circles promise me, but as with when I jumped from MySpace to Twitter to FB, there will be people I leave behind because I don’t intend to attend to more than one social media site with much gusto. I don’t have as much energy as some of my friends to upkeep more than one of these social media sites with much energy, so I will choose what serves me best. Right now, that’s looking like Google+.

Join me on G+!

Feel free to [email href=”jean@jeanegan.com”]Email me[/email] if it’s still in field trial and you can’t get in and would like me to invite you.

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