Google Plus Is the Little People’s Twitter
I’m going to make my primary argument immediately: Google+ may be seen as a social, content distribution system but it’s more a gift to the little person than a gift to the celebrity personalities, something that neither Facebook or Twitter, due to their fundamental nature, will ever be.
While your common Tweeter will tweet away not caring about how many people she is followed by — she will check but she won’t really care how many actual eyes read her tweets — I’m sure there are more than plenty that notice their paltry three digit or less followers number and weep. Even worse, when they take the 12 seconds to run through that short list, they will probably realize that three digit number is an effective one or two digit follower number because the rest are bots or auto-followers of thousands upon thousands who will never read your tweets.
I am one of those
un lucky few. I will testify that out of my paltry 115 followers on Twitter, I can count the number of people who may read < 10% of my tweets in one hand. I will confess my number used to be much larger — bold enough to say double that! — but that was another account (Twitter’s fault) and another Internet lifetime ago. My effective number, even then, was meager.
Twitter is fun as heck, and a great way to get in touch with people and start revolutions, movements and affect change as a mass of people. It’s a veritable mass e-protest waiting to happen, and it’s already rippled off the web. The problem with Twitter, however effective it is to make massive ripples, is that it’s a one-sided love affair for the common user. Twitter is a great content delivery network where links and quick wit and thoughts are shared, but more than that, it’s the most useless site for robust discussions and even more useless to the Little People.
The Little People is everyone else who exists in the ether. +Robert Scoble posted recently that he thinks Google+ is finally ready to go mainstream because a celebrity (+Felicia Day) passed him in number of followers. [Slow Clap] I think that’s great news, and I hope it’s right, because I want to see Google+ blast off! It is, however, irrelevant to everyone who isn’t a systems designer, programmer (or hacker), advertiser, celebrity, or celebrity fetishist who follows no one but celebrities (I follow a few who aren’t, I swear!).
Google+ going mainstream matters to me, and the Little People like me, because it means there will be more people following the people I follow who might read and participate in posts in which I comment. Read that again.
That is it. Nothing else and I mean nothing about Google+ matters above and beyond what Facebook or Twitter offers. Everything else about Google+ as an effective social media site can be found on Facebook and/or Twitter — for the Little People.
Think about how Twitter works for the Little People:
- We’ll follow a hundred, a few hundred, maybe even go nuts and follow a thousand people.
- We’ll make lists to filter some of the crap. (I’ve gone the opposite way of late; there’s still too much yummy goodness in list-invisible reply & new style retweet posts.)
- We’ll soak in the links, witty comments, emo confessions, “I farted!” exclamations, photos, and exclamations of imminent doom.
- We’ll retweet, new and old style, those good ones.
- We’ll reply to many and post our own original #3s.
- We’ll realize one person in your follow list glossed over that great tweet you’re so proud of that would normally merit 100+ retweets if it wasn’t just that one jerk who read it and didn’t retweet it out of laziness.
- Go to Step 3.
How. Depressing. It’s also the biggest problem I, and many Little People, have about Twitter — and it’s why Google+ can become what Twitter can never be. It’s great to read what the non-Little People have to say, and for Little People to retweet to advertise non-Little People’s awesomeness, but it’s absolutely terrible for a Little People to get recognized for any value add they might have.
Two reasons make this a Twitter problem:
Twitter’s character limit allows us maybe 20 words per tweet to articulate a thought which, unless it’s the product of a genius moment, doesn’t leave much room to get a full thought across. For a Little People, asking someone who happens to come across your tweet after the entire Interwebs gets scrambled and accidentally ports him/her to it to click the link to your fully thought out blog post, is actually asking a lot. With hundreds or thousands of tweets a day to gloss over, your little micro-blurb and link tweet will be invisible. Beyond that link lies a 500 word essay that may change minds and lives, but you’re a Little People and no one will read it. Boo hoo. On top of that, the character limit forces everyone, including the non-Little People, to truncate thoughts that, each tweet by themselves, might not make sense post-retweet to a third party. Twitter increasing character limits wouldn’t help because people will simply get used to the new limit and the truncating will continue.
Twitter is also as vast and empty as the universe seems to the naked eye. There’s all this dark matter and energy tickling our noses right now which is going undetected: those are the Little People’s tweets. That fact makes Twitter a devastatingly one-way love affair to the Little People. Suppose someone tweets something and it’s retweeted across the Twittersphere. You reply to the author(s) and they reply to you. Hooray! To those who watch their full Twitter stream, that original author’s reply to you might get checked for context, and perhaps more @[name] will get added to each tweet henceforth, making the conversation bigger. (Hello character limit &$%#blocker! You make this harder.) The problem is there may be hundreds of people also replying who will never be recognized and threads of potentially good conversation are lost into the cloud forever. If only Little People’s tears could cure cancer. Then again, those tears would probably never reach the sick because of Twitter’s failings, too.
Here’s where Google+ gets good and where the non-Little People and somewhat-Little People come into play the most. Consider a Google+ post by a non-Little People. You comment on it.
Do you see where I’m getting at? You’re not alone anymore, Little People. You have friends. Even better, you have enemies. Mortal enemies! How exciting is that!? For someone like me who enjoys discussing politics, public policy, and economics (the money kind and the economics of animated kitten pictures), being in a post’s discussion with strangers is potential e-Harmony but without the fake love stories and regrettable offline dating. (She really wasn’t Emma Stone after all…)
Comment on a post and get into a discussion on Google+. You will get people yelling at you, agreeing with you, +1ing your comment, and people adding you to their circles because your visible, non-truncated post made sense enough to merit a peek into your profile and subsequently led to approval.
That’s what Google+ has the potential of being (and already is) to the Little People: it’s a Facebook-like discussion with a more robust and visible Twitter audience. Your discussions are not limited — as in Facebook — with people you already know (and secretly want to forget), and is open to the public at large as it is on Twitter. That last part is key: that @reply to a Google+ post doesn’t need to be retweeted by anyone to get seen by the other non-Little People. It’s right there in front of everyone in that non-Little People’s post.
The 250 people who have me in circles may be a small number, sure, but so is the number of weeks my profile has been active in an open beta and I have the opportunity neither Facebook or Twitter can ever provide to not only have conversations with people, but have what I have to say finally be read. The potential discussions Google+ makes possible can not only be more thoughtful than on Twitter, but they can lead to even more connections with the world. The developers of Google+ in Mountain View, California may not have necessarily had the genius-like intent of making Google+ work that way, but a fractal starts off basic, small and formulaic and then grows into a stream of complicated beauty with consequences that ripple in unforeseeable ways.