Google+ Isn't Better, But You Are

I think about behavior all the time – why people make choices, how we arrive at decisions, what values and pre-constructions we take with us into our analysis of costs and benefits.

Lately I’ve been puzzled by a certain string of behavior that arose with Google+. People began using Google+ and then immediately declared it to be much better than Facebook. The comparisons continued, and everyone agreed that while Facebook is quite robust (and boasts, more or less, half of American adults as users), Google+ is a better experience.

The arguments they make against Facebook often have to do with self-selected behavior, and often I see people say without even a hint of irony or self-awareness that they enjoy Google+ more because of who they are interacting with, or the content that they see. These same early adopters, so quick to embrace the new girl in town that they changed their Facebook user profile pictures to a “Gone, moved to G+”, sometimes complain that they don’t see much content over there, or wish their friends would post more.
This is not to say that one platform is better than the other. I think both are terrific but they have different cultures and applications, just like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn are all different. That being said, the vehemence directed at Facebook seems overblown.

I asked my brother-in-law what his experience with Google+ has been like, and he confirmed a suspicion I’ve had for a while: It isn’t that Google+ is a better social platform than Facebook, but rather that everyone is now pretty good at social media.

Despite being almost immeasurably more complicated than Twitter, Facebook has enjoyed a terrific run that only now seems to be slowing down in tune with major world stats like broadband penetration or mobile device adoption. Everyone that’s been using Facebook has essentially had five years or so of on the job training in how to use social media.

With Google+, they aren’t accepting every friend request they get or following every single person they have ever met, and so they aren’t getting bombarded by stupid updates from people they don’t care about. They understand what information is valuable to them, and that’s what they let in the door.

For quite a while, Facebook has allowed you to tailor the content you see and to viciously break down how your updates and content are shared with the people you know. You can share your party pics with your BFF List and your thoughtful posts (on, say, social media) with your Co-Workers List, and if you use the system correctly, never the twain shall meet. In some ways this is an even simpler concept than Circles.

For most of us, though, the damage is done and we’ve come too far to turn back. I’ve never set up a Facebook List and I probably never will, and yet I am rocking about 25 meticulously categorized Circles on G+. I have learned behavior and recognized bad habits on Facebook, and just like everyone else, I am trying to avoid any repeat mistakes when I start out elsewhere. Unlike everyone else, though, I understand that this is about me and my behavior and not about the platform.

It is my honest opinion that most people would have a similarly positive Facebook experience tomorrow if Zuck hit the Reset button and wiped out every user account on the planet. If you had Facebook to do all over again, would you do the same things? No. You wouldn’t do the same things, because now you are good at social media.

BONUS: Ever since I saw the first angry tirades against Facebook and how much cooler Google is because they care about your privacy and aren’t into learning things about you, man, not like Facebook… well, I had to laugh. The whole motivation behind the +1 system is to provide Google – and marketers and agencies that sell Google AdWords media, like me – with self-selected, declarative interests tied to real humans that will buy things.

Until now, Google could only infer what you were interested in by your search and browsing history, and it did this damn well. Unlike Google, Facebook has hundreds of millions of users that volunteer information about the things and music and movies and books and brands they like and love, and they do it every single day.

So let’s not imagine that one company is inherently better than the other. This is business, and you are expected to act like a professional.

Josh Berthume