Social networks: What are they good for?

You and I probably share something in common. We probably use more than one social network. And if we do, we’re probably always considering what we get out of each network and wondering whether the time we invest in each is worthwhile.

I use four social networks on a regular basis: Twitter, Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn. Each seems to be do different things better than the others.

Twitter is my real time news flow. I follow people who care about, think about and speak about the things I also care about. So, if I’m likely to hear first about something important to me on Twitter (Sorry mainstream news sites. You no longer are a destination for me.)

Google+ gives me the best conversations with the smartest people. There’s no apparent limit on post or comment length. And people routinely go back and forth and discuss topics in depth. It’s really a satisfying discussion.

Facebook is where the most people are. And it’s hard to ignore a place where most of my friends hang out. Still, it seems like the cotton candy of social networks. All show. But empty calories. There’s really nothing of substance happening there.

LinkedIn is the “business network”. I get the least out of LinkedIn. It seems to be a place for people to make useful business connections. And it feels a bit tawdry, a place for users and people who want to be used.

So, that’s the way that I see my social networks.

What about you? Do you agree with my assessments of the different networks? Which do you use? What do you think each one is best for?


The New Google Reader: A Step Forward

It happened. Finally. After several years of little change for my favourite RSS reader, Google Reader, it’s out with the old and in with the new this morning.

When I signed onto Google Reader today, I was greeted with this message:


With the new version of Reader, I’ll be able to share interesting content publicly via my Google+ ID. Or I can share them only with circles that I have selected as being interested in specific subjects. I also can add my own comment to highlight what I find most interesting or remarkable in the article.

This is all good news to me. I’ve been a consistent user of Google+ since it launched. And I’ve curated circles of people I follow by subject area. So, I’m getting great value from my time on Google+. Now, with the integration of Google Reader sharing features, it will be easier for me add content that I find worthwhile – and hopefully that will draw more people to follow me on Google+.

So, it’s goodbye to some of the old sharing features. And it’s hello to sharing and promoting content via Google+. I like it.

Why I'm hooked on Google+

Mark Ragan asked on Google+: “Why do you like Google+ or dislike it? What are its greatest strengths? Weaknesses?” I wrote a longish answer, which I’d like to share here as well.

Why I keep returning to Google+

I find myself looking at and replying to the posts in my Circles at least daily. You can see my public posts Why have I added it to Twitter and RSS feeds as a principal source of information?

1) The organization of comments with the original post enables an intelligent, longer form conversation. A step above the declaratory statements that Twitter’s 140 character limit make possible.

2) The absence of the “traffic building” gimmicks that caused Facebook’s interface to become a junkyard (on the way to being he next MySpace in terms of a messy interface?)

3) Google+ Hangouts and Chat provide instant communications options – from every page.

4) Circles, of course! Think about organizing your interests in different circles the way you’d sort your clothes into different drawers by category and season. It makes it possible to focus on the conversation about the subject  you are interested in at any given time.

It still could be improved

Not every thing is perfect. Google+ is still a channel-in-the-making. The biggest disappointment so far is the Sparks feature. I can only hope that Google is going to give us more refined search controls on this feature. Once they do, it too could be great.

My public profile on Google+

If you’re interested in following what I have to say on Google+, check out my public profile.

Inside PR: Hanging Out on Google+

It’s two weeks since Google+ launched and the Inside PR hosts, Gini DietrichMartin Waxman and I, have been testing it for its strengths and weaknesses. This week we  talk about our experience so far.

One of the things that has caught most people’s attention is Google Hangouts, the feature that lets Google+ users set up video conference calls with up to ten users. So we thought that we’d use this feature for our recording. Well, as you’ll hear in this episode, there’s a reason why Google+ is still in the “test” period. Not everything works the way that you’d like it to. We lose Gini part of the way through. But she rejoins us by the end. We also experienced the same problem that Shel Holtz noticed when he and Neville Hobson recorded a special episode of the FIR podcast using Google Hangouts with Camtasia studio. The video recording had several defects – frozen screens and video that lagged behind the audio. Hangouts is quite ready for this use. But we’re hoping that Google will keep improving this feature and we’ll keep testing it. Eventually, I’m sure we’ll be able to produce a video version of Inside PR to accompany the audio version.

Have you ever sat down with a long time partner and said, if we could do it over again, what would we do differently? So far, I think that Google+ is the Social Network that’s doing it over and is doing it right.

For me, Facebook started as a place that suggested we could have private conversations with friends and family. But as Facebook developed its business model, it broke the faith with us on that. Bit by bit, it pushed our information onto public feeds – and it wasn’t always up front about what it was doing and didn’t provide us with easy control over how we could control our information.

Martin has been focused on rebuilding his network on Google+. And he’s found that it feels like the early days of Twitter, before the celebrities invaded it and the network became obsessed with numbers of followers. Martin’s finding that he can connect with his real community of interest on Google+ and have much higher quality conversations than he’s experienced on the other networks.

So far, I’ve had an experience similar to Martin. I’ve found that I share the interests of most of the people who have followed me. And by using the Circles feature to sort people by topic, I can dip into different areas just as I would if I were choosing between sections of a newspaper. A great way to increase the signal to noise ratio.

Martin also finds that a strength of Google+ is the ease with which users can adjust their privacy settings – on a general basis and on a post by post basis. It’s intuitive and clear.

Gini also points out that the Circles approach is different from the asymmetrical following on Twitter and the symmetrical friending on Facebook. And this means that we’ll have to develop a different way of figuring out how to manage ourselves in a way that takes full advantage of the unique properties of Google+

So, that’s our Google+ discussion this week. It’s the biggest thing that’s happened in social media in the past couple years. We’ll continue to test it and share our experiences in future weeks.

And what about you? Are you using Google+? What do you think of it? It’s strengths? Its weaknesses?

Send us an email or an audio comment to [email protected], join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoe Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

This week’s episode was produced by Kristine Simpson.


An A- for Google+

I’ve been using Google+ for several days. So far, I think that, by and large,  Google got it right this time.

On the Plus Side:

The combination of video Hangouts with a Friendfeed-like Stream provides a natural conversation platform in which I can easily move back and forth between posting and live video conversations. It’s unlike anything else that so far exists.

The concept of Circles provides a fresh-start to those of us who found something wanting in both the Facebook symmetrical friending and Twitter blanket-followership. Circles should take the focus away from the blatant pursuit of large numbers of followers and place it back on finding others who truly share our interests – and want to engage in conversations about them.

On the Minus Side:

Search? How do I find things? Believe it or not, Google+ lacks a proper search function. The closest it comes is a feature called Sparks, which includes a search bar that suggests “Find stuff you’re interested in…” Surprisingly, it offers only basic search. It doesn’t offered the Advanced Search functions we’d expect of Google.

A pretty darned good start.

So far, an A- for Google on the early days of Google+. And given that I’m talking about a service that’s still in its trial phase, that’s a pretty good mark.


What Keeps Jacob Glick Awake at Night?

We live in a Google world. Google Search. Google Reader. Google Maps. GMail, Google Translate, Google Docs, Blogger. Android. Chrome. Google News. Google seems to reach into every aspect of our online lives.

But will it stay that way? If there is one constant on the Internet, it is the inevitability of change. And that’s not just change in technology. That’s change in how we use it, how we relate to one another, how we see institutions and our expectations of them. What we find useful today we might not find useful tomorrow.

Our next speaker at Third Tuesday Ottawa will be Jacob Glick, Senior Policy Counsel at Google. This role at Google gives him a unique perspective on many of the most important issues that will shape the continuing evolution of the Internet and how Google itself is evolving to maintain its relevance and to live up to its slogan, “Don’t be evil.”

I’m very much looking forward to the discussion that I know Jacob will prompt. It should be a good one.

Register online to attend

If you’re interested in participating, click over to the Third Tuesday Ottawa meetup site and register online to attend.

Acknowledging Third Tuesday’s sponsors

As always, I want to thank the sponsors of Third Tuesday: CNW Group, Rogers Communications, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, Radian6 and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Thanks to these sponsors, we are able to program great speakers in cities across Canada, including Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa.

Technorati and Me

Sometimes it’s hard to admit that a longstanding relationship with a friend has withered to the point that it’s really just a memory. We cling to those memories of better time even though we don’t see one another day to day. TechnoratiAnd when we do, it’s just not the same.

That’s the way it is with Technorati and me.

There was a time when I would visit Technorati several times a day. I would regularly refer to Technorati to learn about a new blog I’d discovered. What author had registered ownership of the blog? How many inbound links came to it and from whom?

A blog’s Technorati Authority would provide a quick indicator of whether a blog was being paid attention to and by whom.

The Technorati search engine provided me with a unique view of content. Not only could I find the most recent posts on any topic, but I could also filter them by the Technorati Authority – selecting posts from all blogs, those with a little authority, some authority or a lot of authority.

And Technorati first introduced me to the concept of persistent search. It was the first search engine I found that enabled me to define a search and then subscribe to the results in my feedreader – telling me right away about new content that satisfied my search criteria without having to regenerate the search terms.

I registered ProPR on Technorati and followed the increase of my own authority (Yes, I visited daily just to watch the number increase.) I even registered my Twitter stream with Technorati and was delighted to see its authority climb as others linked back to my Twitter ID.

I could even rely on Technorati’s then-CEO, David Sifry, to post a quarterly analysis of the state of the blogosphere/ live web.

So, Technorati meant a lot to me. It was a search engine, a reference point to assess the relative weight of blogs and a source of analysis and insight into the growth of social media.


A relationship is only strong so long as both parties are committed to it. And over time, I began to feel abandoned by Technorati. Management changes, money problems, a loss of focus, failed partnerships, service outages – all took their toll. I began to rely less and less on Technorati.

Google Blog SearchAnd just when my faith in Technorati was being challenged, Google enticed with its own social media search engine. I began to hang out more often with my new Google friend.

As I divided my loyalties, I noticed that the results from Google Blog Search was finding posts and content that Technorati was missing.

But my emotional attachment with my old friend Technorati kept me coming back. I’d continue to routinely set up persistent searches on both Google Blog Search and Technorati.

On top of this, Technorati was failing to maintain its innovation leadership. Technorati authority was the bluntest of instruments. But it had its own authority, being widely cited and incorporate in indexes like the AdAge Power150. But despite the fact that its many users criticized the basic methodology, Technorati failed to improve. It left the field wide open to startup AideRSS to make the big advance with its PostRank algorithm.

And so it ends…

Finally, I am throwing in the towel on Technorati. I no longer receive benefits that justify the time to go to the site and conduct a search. Google blog search reliably provides me with more complete results. So, why spend the time setting up and reviewing search results from a second service that has proven itself so unreliable?

And as I have come to doubt the completeness of Technorati’s search results, I’ve grown ever more reluctant to place any reliance on Technorati Authority.

So, at the end of the day, I find myself rarely going to Technorati.

The only time I use it now is when I am doing social media monitoring for a client. Why? Because as superior as it is, Google isn’t perfect. And Technorati is still better than the field of also-rans (Ice Rocket anyone?). And when I’m doing work for a client, i need a “second dip” to be sure that I haven’t missed anything. So, for now, I turn to Technorati as backup. A far humbler fate for Technorati than I had once expected for it.

How about you?

Are there social media tools and apps for which you once had high hopes that you now find yourself using and visiting less often? Tell us about it.

To get the ball rolling, I’m asked Dave Fleet, Bob LeDrew, Mitch Joel, Colin McKay and Shel Israel to tell us about a social media tools with which they once had a warm and deep relationship with that has now lapsed.

Credit where credit’s due

This post was inspired by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson‘s discussion of Technorati’s unreliability on the FIR podcast 373.