Shauna Causey, Kathy Gill, Sean Malarkey, and Adam Loving hold a Google+ “Hangout” to discuss the new social network. In part one, we talk about the differences from other social networks, non-reciprocal friending, using your real identity, and segmenting your audience.
Adam: Well, thanks, guys, for joining me tonight. Joining me from Seattle, up the street here in downtown Seattle is Shauna Causey. She does social media for Nordstrom and a number of companies over the years, and she also is involved with a number of local causes, so her last name is very appropriate. And as you can see, it’s still sunny here in Seattle tonight, which is a rarity. So, thanks for joining me on such a sunny night, Shauna.
Shauna: Yeah. Thanks, Adam.
Adam: And then from Columbus we’ve got Sean Malarkey. He’s an internet marketer and entrepreneur, Twitter trainer, blogger – what am I forgetting, Sean, anything?
Sean: A father, a husband! (laughing)
Adam: Excellent. And then Kathy’s here tonight, too, from Seattle . She’s a senior lecturer at UW – University of Washington, my alma mater, in digital media, and knows more than hang-outs just in the five minutes we’ve been getting set up here than I did. So thank you, Kathy, for the intro. What she pointed out was that whoever’s face you click on here will show. Otherwise, it’s going to follow who’s talking. So I’m just going to click off, and if you click it twice there it will follow who’s talking. I guess it’s defaulting to Shauna or me. But anyway, thanks everybody, for sending me your questions. I wanted to have this informal chat, because I know a lot of people have been asking me, What’s the big deal with Google Plus? It got a lot of real big publicity over the last month – or it’s been about six weeks that it’s been around, I’m guessing. The first three weeks it had like 20 million users, the fastest-growing social network, or something like that. Obviously, that’s a little bit skewed because anybody who’s in G-mail gets the invitations from G-mail. It pops up on your screen, and your friends are inviting you, so it’s really easy to sign up. But nonetheless, you know, everybody is wondering, is Google going to kill Facebook, and what about Google Plus is good or better – what have we learned? You know, I’m a developer, so I’m very interested in what application designers learned over the last – it’s only been five years, if that, that Facebook’s been around. So I thought I’d collect a few discussion points and run it by these guys, who are the most bona fide experts I know out there. I know that’s a dirty word, to say you’re a social media expert – but these are guys who actually live it and do it and teach it. And so I thought it would be fun to just have a casual hang-out and see if we could make our browsers crash, because that’s what we do, on the cutting edge! (Laughter) So, first of all, the first question is, What is Google Plus? Let’s talk a little bit about how it is different from Twitter or Facebook, and the other ones. Anybody who wants to jump in, just jump in.
Kathy: Well, the first thing is, it’s not reciprocal. So that’s the really big difference – well, it’s one out of two from my perspective, really big differences. It’s more like Twitter in that you can follow or put in the circle anybody that you want to, which means that you can see their public stream, if they’re actually making stuff public. I’ll let somebody else go.
Sean: I think that’s a good observation. One of the things, too, that is different, is that it doesn’t have a messaging system, which I can’t decide if I like that or I don’t like that. But I definitely don’t miss all the messages that I don’t care to get. So, for me personally, it seems like a stripped-down Facebook, but a lot more like Twitter in the sense that you can, like you were just saying, you can follow other people, you know, follow their public stream and get their information. It’s not inclusive or exclusive, I guess, in that regard. So I like it from that perspective.
Adam: Great. So Kathy, you mentioned it’s not reciprocal. What does that mean, in terms of circles – because circles are the big concept in Google Plus?
Kathy: Right. So Facebook and Lined-In are what we call reciprocal networks. That means if I want to see your stuff, you have to agree, and then you get to see my stuff. So both people have to say, Yes, I know this person, or Yes, I’m willing to share my information with this person. Twitter – wide open, you know. Anybody can follow anybody. Yes, you can block someone. All that means is they have to go to their web page to actually see your stuff. You can’t stop them from seeing it. This is that same thing. You can put anybody in a circle. And you can send them a message. They don’t have to look at it. If they haven’t put you in a circle, it’s unlikely they’re going to see it. What I like, though, Sean, about the lack of messaging, is that it’s the same screen. So if I want to send a note like Adam did, to three or four people, you just put their names in it like an email. It’s the same screen as you do anything else in, and then you just have to make sure that all of the people that you sent the last post to, you have erased from that bar. And then you hit “Post.” I mean, I kind of like that.
Adam: Yeah. It’s worth noting that that’s how I organized this little hang-out that we’re having – we’ll talk about the hang-outs in a second – so I posted once, and then I just tagged six people who I wanted to invite, and only those six people saw it. And then we could correspond on the comment thread there about questions we should talk about, or who can make it, or etc. And then I posted again for everyone, saying, I’m going to have a hang-out, and we’re going to discuss questions. What are your questions? – to the rest of my followers, or the other people who have me in circles . And so, yeah, it was completely separate for everybody else, but one stream for me, which was convenient.
Sean: And here’s – just to kind of counteract that or go against it, honestly, I didn’t even see the post. Like, I have a lot of stuff that’s shared with me, and so I missed it. And I had to go to your wall tonight to find it. And if we had a messaging system, I probably most likely would have seen it.
Adam: Right. Yeah, I had a little bit of angst about that, because I didn’t take the step to go find everybody’s email and email them or send a calendar appointment. I was like, you know, did everybody see it? Did they see the time? And being that it’s integrated with my G-mail, it seems like that should have been easier, and that there should have been a check-box. And I have seen a check-box appear in a few places where it says, Would you like to email them? And they’re not on Google Plus. But since you were all on Google Plus, it didn’t give me that option. But Google is probably hoping that G-mail is their messaging for the social network.
Sean: The platform, yeah.
Adam: But of course, not everybody’s on it. And yeah, that did give me a little bit of hesitation, and I wondered if you all had received the invitation.
Shauna: And that’s actually how I looked it up. I just went into my G-mail to remember, Adam, what you said. And it was really easy to find. And I think that’s a key point, is if you are using G-mail, it’s a great experience having everything in one place, and you know, whether it’s search, whether it’s going on to look at what you friends are doing or share updates, and then having email right there, that’s one of the reasons I hear people really like Google Plus.
Sean: Right. That’s true.
Adam: So what are some of the circles you guys – I’m sorry, go ahead.
Kathy: It’s also one of the things that we have to be wary of. There’s this big mega-corporation across the pond in Redmond. Integration can be your friend, and integration can be an impediment to competition.
Adam: That’s true. Didn’t Google get in a lot of trouble with their earlier Buzz product for assuming the people that you emailed were your friends on the social network, which revealed some connections people didn’t want revealed?
Adam: Well, what are the types of circles that you guys have built in using it over the last month or two? I’m just curious.
Kathy: For me the hardest thing was figuring out that I have two kinds of circles. So when I started out, I did my circles like I did a Twitter list. I did them by, “You’re an educator. You’re a journalist. You’re Seattle”, which is the way I organize Twitter stuff. But then I realized that there are people I want to talk to, and there are people I only want to read. And so I restructured my circles. So I have a set of circles that’s like a Twitter kind of feed for people who say things publicly. So it’s just a stream. And then if I’m saying something about motorcycles, I send it just to my motorcycle people. Or if I’m saying something that’s just about education or UW, then I have a little circle that’s those people. But they may be all clumped together in another circle that’s a reading circle.
Adam: I see. Interesting.
Sean: Yeah. I haven’t gotten that far.
Shauna: It’s making me laugh watching this, because I feel like it’s so mysterious, and now we’re all going to be looking at Kathy’s stream and going, I wonder what circle I’m in? (Laughter)
Kathy: Well, you were all in more than one!
Shauna: Well, I haven’t seen any motorcycle updates, so –
Adam: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking! (Laughter)
Kathy: Yeah, you’re not in that circle. (Laughter)
Sean: Do you have to have a Harley to be in that one, Kathy?
Kathy: Not a Harley, not a Harley. There’s two Harley’s at our house, a Ducati, a BMW, and a Honda.
Kathy: I’m not the Harley person. That’s Mike.
Sean: I’ve got a scooter, if that counts.
Kathy: It does.
Sean: Yeah, if you’ve got like a push-bike biker’s circle, that’s for me. But otherwise, I haven’t graduated to motorcycles yet!
Kathy: But, I mean, how are you guys doing? That’s been the biggest thing for me, is figuring out how to wrap my mind around talking as opposed to reading.
Sean: You know, what, I’ll just be honest, I have like three circles, and one is just a whole bunch of people that I added that were pretty cool people, but I exported a list out of Facebook, of cool people that I really like, and it’s about 600 people. So I put them in there. And the only other one – and I have my close friends, people that I hand-selected as I went through and followed, which is about 100 to 150 people. And then outside of that, one day – I like to post stock updates, so there’s different stocks that I follow and pay attention to. And you know, just like you with the motorcycle thing, it’s not going to appeal to everybody. So I opened the thread up and said, Anybody who wants to get in on this, let me know. And that’s been pretty cool. There have been about a half dozen people in there, and 90 percent of the people, every time I post an update, will comment on that thread, that are in that circle.
Kathy: Because it’s very tight in topic, yeah.
Sean: So I’ve enjoyed that. That’s cool.
Adam: So, any other nuances?
Shauna: Yeah. Well, I went out of control, I think. I feel like I need to simplify. I’ve got about 20 different circles. And I guess the thing that might be different for me, I don’t follow celebrities at all on Twitter or Facebook, unless they’re funny or there’s something unusual about them. But I do on Google Plus, which is different for me. I have a Celebrities, or I think I call it Famous People, circle, because I’m seeing that they’re adding some updates that I’m finding useful even though I don’t intend to connect with them. So that’s different for me. I do have a Funny People circle (laughter) and I’m not sure who’s in it, but just people who – if I just want to laugh, I’ll just look at that stream, and it’s guaranteed to make me laugh out loud. So I have to make sure I don’t look like a crazy person, looking at my screen by myself, laughing out loud! (Laughter)
Adam: That’s funny.
Kathy: You know, I have a Celebrities circle, too. Most of my celebrities are science fiction related – and I don’t do celebrities anywhere else. But yeah, I have found it interesting to see the early adopters in this space in that very high-profile – not the Ashton Kucher type, but yeah, it’s kind of interesting to see how you’re using this.
Adam: Yeah, myself similarly. Let’s see, I’ve got one big pool of following and one big pool of followers. So I’m just kind of trying to be a little bit scientific about how people discover me, and what proportion of the people that I follow follow me back. I’m not seeing the kind ‘return on investment”, quote-unquote, that I got on Twitter from following. But I am seeing that the more I follow, it seems to recommend me to more people. I don’t know what the percentage is – it seems like less than 30 percent following me back in its early days. And then I do have a circle for family. I love to use Google’s photo-sharing app, because it’s hooked in to i-photo. So I’m finding it easy to share with family, although only a couple of us are on there yet. And I liked Shauna’s comment about the funny circle, because for whatever reason, on a new social network, I’ve been more liberal with the cat and dog stuff. (Laughter) And it’s just doing great. Like, the internet always comes back to the funny cat videos. It was cats dee-jaying, and then I had one that was dogs shaking their faces, and it was super-slow photography, or whatever. And those have by far gotten the most likes and the most re-shares, and whatever. So, I don’t know. At the end of the day, it’s all just about the funny cat photos, it seems like to me.
Kathy: One of the things that I’m doing in terms of serendipity, or trying to expand the kinds of information that I get, is you know, Google had that thing where it made suggestions in the very beginning – “You might want to follow this” – I mean, I haven’t looked at that in centuries! But I went through and I specifically looked at women. Because I thought that women who are early adopters could be an interesting group of people to follow. And so I set up a circle that’s called “Following Women”, all right? And I might never move them into another circle, but it’s like a subset of following. And if then, when I see in the notifications that women that I don’t know have followed me, I’ll look – do they look interesting, or are they posting something – sorry – other than cats? I’m just not that interested in funny cats and dogs. (Laughter) Then I will put them in that category. And so I’ve built up – I mean, I “met” some amazingly interesting people that I would not have otherwise.
Adam: Right. Well, it’s interesting that – I mean, you’re a power user, obviously, Kathy – but that the way Google has structured it allows you to sort of create these social experiments and have your own circles and all that. I think that in and of itself is a fascinating fun pastime for people to manage their – you know, I mean, as a developer, another thing that people love to do is pick out their top friends and look at the photos. So if it’s an app that’s all about people, it’s bound to more viral and more engaging than others.
Kathy: And FYI on that experiment – I have a student who’s experimenting, and he’s been taking that Google Recommendations and putting people in a circle 100 people at a time, like in a big block. And then he’s doing what you’re doing – he’s looking to see, How many of them follow me back? The interesting thing about that is – because Google makes those recommendations based on other people in your network – Google recommended about, oh, I don’t know, 50 of my motorcycle friends to him in the same block. And so he added them, right, in a block. And then on my motorcycle list there comes this question, Who’s this guy? And before I had a chance to get in and answer, someone said something sarcastic about, Well, we know where he found this. So I got panicky. I thought, Oh, my gosh, did he like look at the people I’m following and check them off? So I went in and hid – in my motorcycle account, I hid who I follow, thinking, okay, I’m helping protect this part of my life. These people don’t want to be public. They don’t like this part of me that’s, you know, out here talking all the time. And then I realized that – then he told it was the Google algorithm. And I realized that my hiding doesn’t help at all, because Google knows.
Adam” Yeah, it’s advertising your social network whether you want to or not, based on the fact that you’ve organized it. Interesting. Great! So sort of on that note, one of the other distinctions – I didn’t quite follow all of the headlines a few weeks back, but there was a question of whether or not you’re required to be who you say you are, to use your real name. What was the outcome of that? I think it was that Google is enforcing this now, that you have to be that person, just as Facebook does. They have a team that shuts down accounts that look fake, or accounts that look like businesses. Is that what you guys have heard as well?
Kathy: That’s what they said. Was it last week – yeah, I think it was the end of last week – basically they said they hadn’t changed their policy. And I think their policy is wrong, and I’ve written about it quite a bit. And Facebook’s real name policy is a joke!
Kathy: A joke!
Sean: Facebook is too big to even monitor it.
Shauna: I actually had one yesterday that was a fake account set up under an executive that I know. And I ended up being able to see the wall, and it was really – they were posting inappropriate things. And so I asked Facebook if they would take it down. They were actually using the image and name of the person.
Adam: I see, in their name.
Kathy: Yeah. But that’s not what I’m talking about when I say it’s a joke. I say it’s a joke because, like, when I’ve gotten spam on my Facebook page, when I’ve done things that may have been controversial, or whatever, the spam that comes through is from people who have made up names. And they have made them up in a very creative fashion! I’ve got some screen shots, the names of their universities, and all sorts of stuff that’s just clearly fabricated.
Adam: Right. With 750 million users, or whatever it is now, there’s no way you can keep up with them all. I mean, it’s a big question on the internet, is whether or not you are required to be a real person or whether you can be anonymous as a very different social dynamic. On Twitter, obviously, you can take on whatever name you want.