Is Google+ the Third Place of Social Networking?

Can Google+ be the “third place” of social networking? Or is it simply in third place?

Google Plus Logo

Google+, a new social network from Google, has certainly had a lot of- pardon the expression- buzz. As a longtime Gmail user, I must admit feeling a bit offended about not being able to sign up right away for the service. Google’s practice of trickling out invites, thereby stirring up social networking envy, seems to be a good way of generating interest. Or at least keeping technology journalists employed.

I was relieved when one of my trendy friends- Eric Vallo- finally sent me an invitation to join the Google+ Elite. I hastily completed my profile, started arranging my Google friends into circles, and installed the Apple iPhone/iOS app. But I’m not sure that I’m a sold-out Google+ believer.

Starbucks has built a global network of over 17,000 locations in over 50 countries based on the concept of a “third place” to relax and unwind between home and work.

Howard [Schultz (Starbucks chairman, president and chief executive officer)] traveled to Italy and became captivated with Italian coffee bars and the romance of the coffee experience. He had a vision to bring the Italian coffeehouse tradition back to the United States. A place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home. [emphasis added]

From Our Heritage on the Starbucks web site.

I use Facebook as my personal social network and both LinkedIn and Twitter for my professional social network. And I’m not alone in this separation of social network “friends”. Can Google+ be the “third place” of social networking, between home (Facebook) and work (LinkedIn)?  Or is it simply in third place?  (See Jamie Oswald’s related SAP Community blog Why Google+’s rapid adoption doesn’t impress me).

Unlike most of the Facebook community that gets offended when the Facebook UI changes, I’m pretty happy with its abilities to keep me in touch with people. Since SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence is just a small portion of the technology world, I rely on Twitter as a news ticker app (and shameless self promotion tool for this blog). And LinkedIn? I appreciate that the fact that your resume is always “out there” may or may not indicate that you’re in the job market. LinkedIn is also helpful for keeping track of technical professionals who, on average, change jobs every 18-24 months. Honestly, I wish LinkedIn was more like Facebook than it currently is. And I still wonder what LinkedIn was thinking when they built the mobile app. But does any of this give Google+ an opportunity to unseat any of the current social networking leaders, similar to the way Facebook sucked the life out of MySpace?

For me, checking Google+ is another item on my social network “to do” list. And after a couple of weeks of usage, it’s still at the bottom of my social network “to do” list. And this, ultimately, may be Google+’s dilemma. Regardless of how good or different it is from existing social networks, is it groundbreaking enough to get a large number of social networkers to stop using one or more of their existing social networks? As of today, the answer for me is “no”.

Excuse me while I go check my Twitter feed

Are you using Google+? Or experiencing social network fatigue?

Author: Dallas Marks

I am a business intelligence architect, author, and trainer. I help organizations harness the power of analytics, primarily with SAP BusinessObjects products. An active blogger, SAP Mentor and co-author of the SAP Press book SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, I prefer piano keyboards over computer keyboards when not blogging or tweeting about business intelligence.

8 thoughts on “Is Google+ the Third Place of Social Networking?”

  1. I agree. Google+ doesn’t seem to offer anything compelling over Facebook/Twitter. The only reason I hear for people moving over is that they are unsatisfied with FB’s privacy settings. I just don’t understand why they assume Google is or will be any better in the long run.

  2. Trusting Google with your data? Good luck with that. 🙂 I don’t use FB so I cannot comment on their privacy issues (other than the fact that they get written about quite a bit, so there must be concerns) but thinking Google will treat you any better is a joke. Why are FB and G+ free? Because you “pay” for your use of both systems by giving up information, whether it be your browsing habits, your marketing preferences, or anything else.

    People think Google is a search engine. It’s not. It’s one of the planet’s largest advertising companies. They see all of the advertising $$ that FB is sucking up and in my opinion have simply decided they want a piece of the action.

  3. For an academic (which I am), G+ offers a way to filter the messages that I send out via updates. Last year when I used both Twitter and Facebook, I had to either 1) add a hashtag, or 2) go to a specific facebook page. Even when I did use a hashtag, students still were thinking status updates were for them, when they weren’t.

    With G+, I can more easily manage the message from a single source (instead of trying to maintain 4 different networks).

    Now forget the social network piece and think about this: what if G+ gets integrated with Google Docs? Hmmm, social tagging of documents with filtering?

  4. I’m not a fan of G+, so I’m slightly biased. However, I think Facebook and Twitter have both nailed the “Third Place” in a way that is as good as you can get online without turning into chat roulette. Third Places, in my opinion, are vital to a community, they encourage connecting with new people that you otherwise would not have. Third Places are un-scripted and lack expectation. On both Facebook and Twitter, you have ways to connect with others that have simliar interests. Granted, in very different ways. But to me G+ is neither of these, and I don’t think Google is capable of that stable of a product.

    1. David,

      Thanks for writing. We use Google mail, applications, and even hangouts at the office, but I still don’t really make time to interact with G+ or build up my circles. While Facebook and Twitter may have their limitations, G+ so far hasn’t solved a communication problem that makes it desirable to stop using the other two.

      While it seems unlikely today, I wonder if the changes Twitter is making on the road to profitability will alienate its users, creating the opportunity for Google (or perhaps other players) that Google couldn’t create for itself.

      Regards,
      Dallas

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