Saturday, December 08, 2012

Facebook vs. Google+ Communities - Is it talkers vs. doers?

If you have a special interest, you may see a lot more action in a Google+ Community than on Facebook. After two days in Google's The Photo Community, my photos had garnered more interest than I have been able to build after years on Facebook.
Google may have hit it off big with its newest product: Google+ Communities.

Two days ago I joined The Photo Community at Google+. The community was created by Trey Ratcliff, a very well known HDR photographer. After two days in The Photo Community, I have gotten into contact with more photographers than I have during the past two years on Facebook. The reason for the different results: The design of the new Google+ Communities.

I am an amateur photographer, and I have spent a couple of years building a photo library at Facebook. some time ago, I started doing the same thing at Google+, but initially it was a bit disappointing. I found other photographers, added them to my own photography circle, and posted photos, but there was little response. The design of Google+ made it easy to find people with shared interests, but it also made it difficult to get noticed.

This changed in a big way two days ago. Google Communities aim to make it very easy to discover people with shared interests. Interested in photography? The Photo Community is very easy to find. (Though I admit, ironically, I found it on Facebook, because Trey Ratcliff posted an invitation.)

A community can be divided into sub-communities. For example, I posted the Scaly Leaves photo in the Anything Goes subgroup, but the sunken boat in the Black & White Photos subgroup.

Different social media sites have different characteristics:

Twitter makes it extremely easy to connect with people who have similar interests, but you also need to use filters to get rid of lots of useless noise. You can't do much on Twitter, except post brief messages and links to interesting stuff.

LinkedIn is great for building a network of business contacts, but sadly, doing things together with those contacts is very difficult. I know from experience, because The LESS Author Group used LinkedIn as the main network hub while writing LESS!. I set up a LESS! forum on LinkedIn because I knew everyone in the group had accounts there. Unfortunately, LinkedIn lacks the tools you need to do things: You can't upload files to other group members, you can't post pictures or other media, no face-to-face communication...

Facebook is of course the largest community, but the noise to signal ratio is incredibly bad. You get advertised to death, people you barely know insist on telling you what they had for lunch (often with photos), you get invitations that are aimed at tricking you into opening up your contact data, and it is well difficult to find anyone who wants to do anything but smother you with their interests, or sell you something. The smothering, by the way, is not due to people on Facebook being especially boring. It is inherent in the design of Facebook. Facebook has affordances encouraging people to post everything in a general stream, even if there are special interest groups.

The big thing about Google+ Communities is that the affordances drive people in the other direction: It is more attractive to post in a community than to post in a general stream. The effect of that shows in the  diagram at the top of this article.

I strongly suspect that Google+ communities will turn out to bring something else into the game: The combination of communities, media upload, and video conferencing, makes Google+ communities very attractive for doers:

If you want to start a company, make a movie, become a better surfer, produce an interactive eBook, become a top notch photographer or writer, start a rock band, or coordinate a political campaign, you can find people and coordinate activities using Google+ Communities much easier than you can using other social media web sites. It does not mean the other sites are useless, far from it, but a Google+ Community is likely to be the major activity hub.

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