Google+ vs. Facebook
Is Google+ doomed to failure or will it be a Facebook killer? These are the observations from an active user of both social networks:
Nerds vs. Non-Nerds / Men vs. Women
If I compare my Google+ circles with my Facebook friends however, there is a striking difference: Most of my college friends from computer science and IT colleagues are on Google+. And many of them have have abandoned or even deleted their Facebook account, or they had none in the first place. On the other hand, none of my family and few others are on Google+. I have only two women in my circles and none of them are active. My Facebook friends, on the other side, contain a broad range of different people and gender is balanced. Interesting. Let’s see whether we can find a cause for this observation!
Circling vs. Friending
Facebook friendships are always mutual, confirmed by both sides. Managing lists etc. to group one’s friends is optional, a featured tucked on and rarely used by the majority. When adding a person on Google+, though, I have to decide which circles to put them in and circling is a one-way connection, with no obligation for the other person to follow me back. This does not only make it easier to connect with strangers due to the lightweight, less binding nature of circling, it is also an important psychological difference. My theory is that especially girls may find one-way relationships creepy and “stalkerish” and even if they search for an entourage, this is no replacement for the mutually-verified friendship. Geeks (both male and female) may be attracted by the idea of grouping relationships into circles. Men in general will see the opportunities for networking (Psychology professor Roy F. Baumeister has a talk worth reading called “Is there anything good about men?” that explores differences between men and women without judgement and he basically says something similar).
Quality vs. Quantity
Google’s Vic Gundotra says a write access to Google+ for external applications is “not coming anytime soon” as he’s afraid of “polluting” the stream. So far, Google+ is no secondary usage place, there’s only original content. This leads to less, but more meaningful content. A focus on quality. Facebook, on the other hand, has focussed on quantity with their launch of Timeline and Open Graph. Even if I’m not visiting Facebook for days, my timeline will fill itself with music from spotify, foursquare checkins, Tumblr postings or even just content generated about me by other users through “frictionless sharing”. This way, they achieve a true ambient intimacy for some, while others will just go “meh I’m not interested what my friends eat for breakfast”.
Professional vs. Personal
I think Google+ looks like the typical Google product: A clean, well-thought interface but not as creative and simple as many others. And to me it looks much more professional, but not in a LinkedIn-this-is-my-CV-kinda way. It looks like a place for conversations with peers, both known and unknown, and many early users said that it’s much better than Facebook for this purpose; also because the stream is really focussed on original content and no secondary usage. Google+ has games but they made sure they’re separated from the main feed of updates. Users who have been bombarded by FarmVille, CityVille and “WhateverVille” requests in Facebook may sigh in relief when using Google+.
Being able to write a long blog post about the differences of Facebook and Google+ proves the fact that one is not merely a clone of the other (and I haven’t even written about the largest unique feature of Google+, the Hangouts). They seem to serve different needs for different people. Some need one, some the other, and social media pros will use both, propably with a third party aggregation tool. Maybe Google and Facebook, while obviously being competitors in this space, will hurt themselves more when trying to copy the other instead of focussing what they can do best.
What do you think?!