Last week, my husband and I were talking about Google+ – mainly the multiple statements made by Google about where they hope to take Google+ as far as how they'd ideally (and eventually) like to roll it into being an algo factor.
I'm a HEAVY user of social media – both personally and professionally – especially Twitter and Facebook. Spending an hour or two pinning things is my weekend morning ritual as I have my coffee on the back porch. I'm even on Instagram to monitor my tween.
He asked why I'd never taken to using it and I realized the answer was that I simply never had attempted to truly use it. It seemed awkward, no one I knew personally was super active on there and learning a new platform was the last thing I wanted to do with my time.
“Ok, then I'm challenging you to swear off all social media for a week, except Google+. I don't think you can do it.”
My husband – the successful manipulator of MY algorithm. Step 1, tell me what you want me to do. Step 2, tell me you don't think I can do it. Step 3, I'll do it – even if I don't want to – merely to prove you wrong. ;-)
Starting the One Week Challenge
- No logging into Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or any other social network that was not G+
- Not reading what was publicly available without being signed in on any of those sites
- AKA, no social media, for any reason, period – except for Google+
- My iPhone apps for all these sites had to be deleted from my phone
- I could return to my normal social media routines and addictions on May 30th
I posted a message on my Twitter and Facebook letting folks know I'd accepted his one week challenge. It was late at night and the challenge was going to begin the next morning. A few folks I know online saw my message and offered to come along for the ride.
It's only a week right? Shiiiiiit… I got this.
INITIAL PANIC SETS IN
And then I realized – MY BIRTHDAY WAS GOING TO FALL DURING THE ONE WEEK CHALLENGE.
But I'd already publicly accepted. It was done.
The next morning I sat on the back porch, coffee in hand – checking out Google+. It seemed so empty compared to the “hustle and bustle” of Facebook and Twitter. I felt lonely.
This was going to suck.
GETTING “MOVED IN”
If Google+ was going to be only lifeline to the Internet world for a week, then I needed to get things in order.
- I updated everything on my About page. I redid my bio, added in descriptions of my companies, added relevant links to things and added a ginormous cover photo.
- I dug through all 6400+ people who had circled me to circle some back and organize them into relevant circles.
- I realized Google+ had put a “verified name” symbol next to my name on my profile. (I still have no idea how or why this occurred LOL)
- I came across this post through my Google+ feed which showed me Google+ had a lot of intricacies I didn't know and lot of functionality I was completely unaware of.
The best parts about my week of only Google+
LEAVING MY COMFORT ZONE
The first thing I realized was that because there was less activity on Google+, I needed to be following more people there if I wanted an update more than once an hour. ;-) My “standard follows” weren't active there. It was time to “make new friends” within the industry.
I added names I recognized that had circled me and starting adding folks to circles as they engaged with my posts (or that I was engaging with on posts by others). Over the course of the week, I ended up circling a few hundred people I don't follow via other social channels.
NOTICING THE NOISE TO SIGNAL RATIO
It only took me a day or two to notice a significant difference between Google+ and my normal social channels. The noise to signal ratio heavily leaned towards signal. People didn't post updates about their lunch or what their plans were for the evening. There weren't pictures of quotes in every other post in my feed.
The bar for what was worthy of posting an update seemed to be much higher in Google+ land. And that's likely because of who chooses to use it versus the more popular social media outlets – but the difference was there all the same. Honestly, I saw more valuable industry information shared on Google+ within a few days than I had on all other social media outlets combined in weeks.
RAISING THE BAR ON INFORMATION I SHARED
I found myself doing more reading over the week in order to “meet the bar” of info others were sharing there. Google+ sort of demanded I find quality information if I wanted to post.
I'm not saying that every post I did was 100% business related. I posted a few pictures over the week… I did a few checkins… I made a few posts that would be classified as “fun” – but all in all, I realized I was scrutinizing almost every update I posted. I didn't want to be the one mucking up the place with more useless bullshit than signal.
FINDING GREAT CONVERSATIONS
Another noticeable difference was the level of depth in comments on posts – especially the business related ones. I found and participated in some great conversations on Google+ in the comments.
I GOT A LOT OF REAL LIFE SHIT DONE
Not having multiple social media networks as a distraction meant I had some time on my hands when I wasn't working. As an example – my daughter has been bugging me for over a year to get her room decorated. This week, me and a few friends went on a shopping spree for tween accessories, painted her room, decorated it and surprised her with the results.
Every other room I've decorated in my house has been done by professional painters because I certainly didn't have the time to do it – and taken a few weeks to get everything purchased, hang things, etc. I didn't realize how much of my personal time social media actually swallows up. It was pretty alarming in all honesty and a big reality check.
What hurt the most about my week of only Google+
THE LOSS OF MY “NIFS”
Greg Boser was the first person I'd heard use the term NIF. It stands for Non Internet Friend. Bottom line is that no one in my family was active on Google+ and only two of my NIFs are. I felt very “out of the know” when it came to “offline” friends and family. It's amazing how social media has become the (almost) sole form of communication with have with most friends and family (especially those that aren't local to us).
THE LOSS OF LOW BAR SHARING
As I said, Google+ raised the bar on shares. While awesome in some aspects, it sucked in others. I found out there's a use for all that “low bar sharing” – entertainment – and that was something I didn't find a ton of on Google+. Everyone needs to occasionally be reminded of why we can't let Kevin Bacon die.
GOOGLE+ DOESN'T DO EVERYTHING OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKS DO
While Google+ closely mimics all the functionality of Facebook, it simply doesn't have the functions some that other social networks do. For me, the most noticeable was Pinterest. There was no way for me to find and catalog (so to speak) all the stuff that I do via Pinterest (I had to go the way of the dinosaur and use bookmarks to save anything during the week so I could later add it to Pinterest).
THE INABILITY TO WIDELY PROMOTE
Because I've spent so much time on Facebook and Twitter (especially Twitter), I've amassed a following on both that allows me to easily spread information – from both myself and others. Now, had I spent the same amount of time on Google+ as I had on the aforementioned networks, that might have been the same for Google+.
But bottom line was that whatever I shared with a purposeful intent to promote had a fraction of the audience and reach that it did with my other social networks. Whether it was sharing this as a PSA to parents of teens using Instagram or promoting the launch of my new Ask Sugarrae series – I was at an extreme disadvantage with regards to sharing and publicizing information.
THE LOSS OF CONTACT METHODS
You don't realize how many people you only have the ability to contact via social media until you give up said social media. I had plans to meet with Sarah Boswell while she was in Houston on business that I'd made pre-challenge. I realized the day that I was supposed to meet with her (during the challenge) that I only knew how to contact her via Twitter and Facebook – she wasn't active on Google+.
I found out over the course of the week how common that situation was. How many people would YOU have no contact methods for if social media disappeared tomorrow?
NOT HAVING ANYTHING BUT GOOGLE+ ON MY BIRTHDAY
I woke up the morning of my birthday and the first email I see? A Google alert for my name that showed my Facebook profile – “Rae Hoffman is on Facebook” said the description. Really Google? REALLY? #headdesk #saltinwound #imissedhashtags
One thing I was interested to see was how many people would make a point to wish me a happy birthday – in a way they knew I'd see it on the actual day – when it wasn't as “easy” to do so (AKA, if they weren't active on Google+).
Additionally, my husband had conspired with two of my best friends in Canada to surprise me with a visit from them – they flew down the Sunday before my birthday for the week (apparently the look on my face when I came home from the grocery store to find them on my back porch was priceless).
Not being able to share their awesomeness (and things like the picture above) with family and friends via social media (that they actually participated in) was surprisingly tough.
Did this week change my thoughts on Google+?
Absolutely. Even if you completely ignore the potential effect it might eventually have on the algorithm, my week there taught me that my former opinion that it had no merit to a real person was wrong. There's a lot of value (for me) in participating there. Like all social media, if you use it like an asshat as your personal advertising channel vs a way to network and find cool things, you're not going to find it very productive.
Does that mean I'm not running back to use Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest the moment I'm “allowed to”? I've already got my sneakers on. ;-)
But I won't be leaving Google+ in my rear-view mirror. I've learned that comparing Google+ to Facebook is like comparing standard red apples to green apples. Once you've taken the time to taste both, you realize there's more of a difference than meets the eye.