If Not Google Plus – Where Will We Find a Facebook Alternative?

If Not Google Plus – Where Will We Find a Facebook Alternative?

Let’s check in with my 99 Days off Facebook timer and see how long I have to go. Click the graphic below to check out my clock and learn more about the 27,000+ people who are giving up on Zuck.

fb-timeoff

Talk about breaking a habit. In almost two weeks I have freed up a lot of energy and time. I’ve found some new focus on my real-time relationships and brought a lot of my creativity back to what’s important to me. Not trivial updates and banter. And though I love cat pictures, I can find them with a Google search anytime I really need some Laser Cats – Cat vs. Dog. Laser Fight.

Okay, so I miss some of the interaction. But I’m really thinking this time off is going to fuel the search and push for “what’s next” in my social networking world. Two places I’ve been spending a bit more time are LinkedIn and Google+ Let’s take them one at a time.

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Linkedin As a Social Network

Linkedin and Facebook share a lot of similarities. Both are well-financed revenue-driven companies. Both platforms allow you to gather friends and contacts and message them in various ways. And both provide a STATUSPHERE environment. “Here’s what I’m doing, here’s what I’m thinking about.” The better part of Linkedin, for now, is the lack of “Here’s what I’m having for lunch.”

And Linkedin has tried some great things in the past but allowed them to get overrun by the spammers and MLM strategists. First it was Q and A. Ask a Question and smart people would try and Answer your question. But the Q and A section quickly dropped into spam trolls and link baiting. Such as, “What’s the best ecommerce service?” Followed by immediate responses, “Here’s BigComm Commerce (note affiliate link) and I think they rock.” What was an interesting concept was flooded with trash. Linkedin eventually killed the Q and A and with it a valuable way to potentially share information with others.

Today we have Linkedin Groups. And if a group is actively moderated and closed I’m sure there are some great high-level conversations going on. However, much of what I’ve experienced in the last year, is a rapid decline of the conversations in groups to resemble much of what brought Q and A down. People aren’t asking questions to get answers or share information, they are sharing information and asking questions to market themselves or their companies. It’s gotten bad on any OPEN group. And I believe it’s because the return on investment for moderating a Linkedin Group is very low. What’s the point?

BUT… Here’s a place where perhaps Linkedin could bring some incentive to the chaos of Groups. Build promoted and professional grade groups. Give moderators a piece of the action for page views and rev-share a bit of the advertising dollars generated by those eyeballs. Give the business folks an opportunity to build revenue-generating empires on Linkedin and you might have some incentive for some smart people to build some smart conversation salons. However, this is probably not in the works. But perhaps it’s a Startup Opportunity: PRO-GROUPS – moderated communities for business development, knowledge sharing,  and conversations. Allow some enterprising social leaders to build “platforms” for their thought leadership and ability to attract nurture the conversations.

One the massive evolutions in the new influencer-economy is the businesses that have capitalized and emerged as leaders in rallying and managing huge groups of bloggers, writers, photographers. The business world needs good influencer communities too. Who’s going to build one?

And finally, one of the biggest functions that Facebook provides today, for my business, is the Private or Secret Group. Since everyone is already ON Facebook, reaching them using Facebook Private Messages is easy. (Be careful not to reach out to too many people in a 24-hour period, because Facebook will put you in time out.) Then you can assemble your Influencers within a Private Group where they can message each other and share information. And of course as a community manager you can nurture, recruit, and influence the influencers. That’s the idea, anyway. We need a professional network of Private discussion groups. Perhaps these are Linkedin Groups that already exist, but none of the Groups (Open or Closed) that I’m part of share the same rabid enthusiasm of some of the Private Facebook communities of influencers that I’ve been connected to.

KILLER APP ADDITION for LINKEDIN: Ultra-moderated, potentially rev-sharing groups for professional communities.

Google+ Languishes and Thrives at the Same Time

You don’t have to believe in G+ to see that it HAS become a force on the web. And if there’s a company with more social clout than Google… Well, tell me about them? And the platform of Google Plus was not intended as a Facebook-killer. There are some social networking features in Google+ that look a bit like Facebook. The updates look a lot like status posts on Facebook. And while Circles give you a lot more options than Facebook (Which now has Lists (ways of breaking friends into smaller groups) it’s a long way from building an efficient communication network. It’s better than List’s (Facebook’s response to G+ Circles) but it’s not perfect.

And Google is building up Communities, but I haven’t spent enough time playing with them to understand their real functionality advantages. (Note to self: time to do some Community spelunking.)

But here’s where Google Plus is going, that you need to know about.

  1. With Hummingbird, Google Search let it be known that the “social signal” was going to gain massive relevance in your SEO performance and page rank value. (Hint: since Google IS G+ there’s a good chance your Plus profile and Plus sharing is going to become a lot more important soon.)
  2. Even more weight to your Google participation. Do any Live Hangouts? Share a lot on G+ with a large-sized audience? Guess what, you’re stock on Google Search is just about to go up. According to this post, WAY UP:  Google to reward users of Google+ Hangouts & YouTube Live Events with more prominent search placement – B.L. Ochman’s What’s Next.
  3. With the central integration of most of our G-services (here’s my active g-app list: Docs, Drive, Voice, Mail, Plus, Search, Adwords, AdSense) Google+ is going to become the launch pad and rally point for everything Google. Now if you’re concerned about Google’s Evil Empire tendencies, you might be looking for another place to put your energy. But then again, Luke found that exhaust port on the Death Star by what, The Force?

No matter what you feel about Google Plus, I’d advise you to continue to get your G+ ship in order. You’re going to need G+ Influencers tomorrow in the same way you like Twitter/Facebook/Vine/Instagram/Pinterest influencers today. Get with the program and don’t lose your shirt later.

We’ve got to come up with some alternatives to Zuckerberg’s slave ship of sorrow. As your reach to 1. your friends and 2. your friends who have explicitly asked for your status updates heads ever closer to zero, we’ve got to find a way to reestablish a connection with one another. Yes, I know, it’s about off-line connections not online connections. But guess what, online is where business takes place. So we have got to be smart about seeking out or building the next social network.

I’m hopeful. There’s too much money and momentum for social media or social sharing to go away. But Zuck’s days are limited. Just as Microsoft has fallen from the top of the OS and App pile, so will Facebook fall from the top of the Social Network heap. But the company/platform to take it’s place has probably not been launched yet.

Google+ ain’t it. Linkedin, while having a lot of potential, is still a pure business network. So I’m looking. And next I’ll put revisit and update my criteria for Building a Social Network post.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)
permalink: http://uber.la/2014/07/if-not-google/ ‎

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