Google+ Circles: Convos better than Broadcast

July 13, 2011

in Google+, Social Networks

I’ve continued talking in Circles about Circles with other Circles while on Google+. I find that many are confused. They don’t know what Circles really mean. While I’m beginning to come to grips with them myself, I’m not sure I want to or can be effective using them the way they are implemented. So, this post is going to outline my current approach and what I’m trying next. After writing this post I also read Facebook and Twitter are broadcast design models; Google Plus is a sharing design model which helps add some real clarity to what actually is going on. Also via Luis Suarez I had to add this video link via Ross Mayfield.

Let’s start with a parallel and a comparison. I tweet @stuarthenshall publicly to anyone that wants to follow. I have also used other Twitter handles from time to time (business, experiments, prototype examples etc.) and those tweets are broadcast publicly. In all these cases these handles get followers. In all these cases the handles broadcast different tweets ostensibly targeted to different audiences – although some of these handles had the same followers.

Google+ works like I want to use 5+ twitter handles at once and send different tweets out. That’s a very complex task for many of us. I’ve never managed it in Twitter or Facebook or any other social network for that matter. My initial response to Google+ was great. Now I can “gtweet+” to my family, my closest friends, work colleagues, and then more broadly. Oh and I can go publicly too. Then you must ask… who sees it?

After just a few days I see big issues with that. My family isn’t on it. Yes I could use it to drive them to it via an email… but what’s the point? They won’t be here for 3 to 5 years. (maybe less; the cycles are speeding up). Other groups similarly. Oh dear, now I need to compose special messages for each of these groups. What will my frequency be? What will they want to see?

That’s what trapped me next. Sure I can organize my Circles. I can create a group like “VoIP” where all my VoIP, Skype buddies, Communication mavens all reside. I look at that group now and find I have 44 in that group. Now I have a choice…. I can share just with them or I can share publicly. If I share with them via Google+ there is no guarantee they will see it unless I put their names in the post (which generates a notification). If it was a valuable link share I also limit it’s potential share-ablity with others. So why limit a post to a group that may not see it ever? And those that don’t follow me – see it as “incoming”.

There are a couple of reasons… Members in a group may see it later on your profile. However, these posts are prioritized – eg my profile is ranked on latest posts for your viewing rather than most recent personalized updates. The what’s up with Stuart – personalized for a visitor simply isn’t there. So why not just go public with all posts anyways? All anyone is likely to ever see on your profile is your last post/update if any.

There’s no reciprocity in Circles. While I can know if it is public or pushed to a limited Circle or even just to me it takes time to identify it. It certainly may mean more to me if I am only one of 10 that got it… even if I don’t know who the other ten were. Example. I create a Circle and congratulate a colleague on their birthday with birthday wishes. I may not want to make it broadcast.  It’s useful although if the birthday person doesn’t follow me then my wish is only “incoming” while for others it may be a reminder. So make sure to put their name in the wish as then at least they get a notification! So, I can create a circle for the moment! They get the benefit of my reminder and the sort of Hangout type implications. Maybe these things should be color coded. Eg less than 10 people saw this.. less than 20. Then perhaps it becomes more interesting. Oh I’m a recruiter. I want to screen / talk to some candidates and get suggestions. I create a Circle for a job. MY MESSAGE WILL ONLY BE INCOMING if they don’t follow me!  That means, unless limited circulation posts get some visibility or a higher ranking then I’m not going to see a lot of point in doing them myself! In other words. If “LIMITED” sharing is important – then it needs to be more visible. The job example doesn’t require a CIRCLE unless they are already following.

In the future I’m potentially happy to have some declarative Circles where reciprocity is declared. Although this again has little value if my post remains buried deeper in the stream despite the apparent need/interest. That would also make us a group! Groups have the advantage that they can cross-promote and attract lurkers. Of course we have lurkers on Google+ too. They can see my public profile and posts.Yet without out some form of obvious reciprocity I can’t do much about it. A “GROUP CIRCLE” gets a common definition and a purpose. It has more clarity on what you and “We” are collectively trying to do.

There’s benefits to sharing more broadly in a Twitter and Blogging world. You simply never know who will see it, or pass it along. There’s also something that’s very personal about leaving a comment on a blog post. It’s personal, it is a gift (well sometimes a rant too). It’s remained difficult to comment on a blog and get the same comment back into Twitter, or now G+ etc. Trackbacks don’t tie back and yet the comments have often moved to Twitter – facebook etc. Now your blog post can be read anywhere.

So today I think the most value I can add to myself and perhaps to others is “Comments” on Google+. It’s more conversational than my blog. A better conversation is what I think has really turned people on to Google+. That’s the hope and the dream. However, my hope is for more personal conversations, more one to few exchanges.  This afternoon when my G+Stream was polluted with a long list of comments on a perfectly reasonable Robert Scoble post I thought…. and posted:

Commenters on +Robert Scoble really screw up my stream. I wish his commenters were hidden and expandable! At least limit them to 2 or 3 or the most relevant or to people first that I follow. Too much scrolling to get to other stuff.

I could have commented on his post… however, it would have probably just added to the noise level. From this I draw a few conclusions. These are really thinking about a “reading” and response strategy rather than a broadcast strategy.  I’d be better off:

Commenting on G+ People’s posts where it’s likely to create a stronger bond or more positive exchange. IE focus on adding to the conversation rather than the noise. (Maybe all posts should be limited to the first 20 comments or require ranking after.. so the best float to the top.

This approach means I should reorganize my Circles.

1. Organize them for conversation. Eg I’m going to start a “I commented on Circle”. If I get an answer back I’ll add them to a “Reciprocity Interest Recorded”. I will look to add and build value with this group over time. This will be the stream I monitor most. I am most interested in participating in Public comments for the most part. I’ll have to have a better understanding of the other person when it is “limited”.

2. I’m going to remove people from circles that don’t follow me. I’ll put them in a “Grow” bucket and see if I’m really interested in commenting on their stuff.

3. I’m going to track those that have commented to me or on my comments. Again there was interest of some type.  Maybe I will see what conversations really emerge. Maybe I’ll help some of these commenters become Stars. I will look at if it was Limited or Public relative to the share.

4. The prolific high commented on Profiles I follow – I’m moving them to a place that is less important. They are stars already and if I wanted to play the same games and approach I could – it’s just not in my makeup. I may call this Circle Stars. I will continue to watch them for what and where the “mass” flavor is going. However most of them are just commenting on G+ at the moment or trying too hard to build their profiles and influence.

I’m also going to think about where I spend my time. 140char isn’t much good for conversation or deeper thought.  It’s great for links, for quick context and more. I love it at a conference, I like the buzz. It’s great in emergencies. Twitter won again this morning with #mumbaiblasts. G+ isn’t really in that place.  It’s more blogging in structure. While I have little problem with those that start a conversation by pointing to a link or a video off site… I’m not that responsive to the “gotta see this” intro. I don’t think Google+ is going to reward the equivalent of cheap tweets. I want to know why you are sharing and whether it is worth my expressing a POV.I’m also going to do an assessment re the personal exchange potential.

For me G+ wins when it grows conversations that grow into new relationships that are important to me. Otherwise I’ll soon just post blogs there and continue doing what I’m doing.

Dave Pollard wrote a post yesterday which is still resonating with me. Google+: On Communities, Circles, Friendship and Love

This got me wondering what use Google+ would be to me at all. I use Facebook and Twitter almost exclusively to republish/link to my blog posts. Why would I use Google+ any differently? (my bold)

My blog is my online presence. I use it to think out loud and to seek out extraordinary people who have been blessed with the curiosity, critical and creative thinking skill, and the luxury of time to learn about what is really going on in the world, and to imagine how we might make it better. What does Google+ add to my ability to do this? If my Gravitational Community of 70 people are the people I really want to spend my time with, what’s the best way to use that precious time with them — Reading/writing Google+ Streams? Impromptu/themed Google+ Hangout video chats? Whirlwind tours of face-to-face meetups? How do I make the people in this Gravitational Community the real friends that technology keeps promising they could be?

Dave goes on to write that he’s a little conversed out. I certainly feel for his sentiments.

What I know is…. Blogging began networking me with remarkable people back in 2002. Google+ may actually bring back some of that interest. I’d hoped that Twitter could generate more rich real-time conversations and intros. It doesn’t work that way and the thought died a couple of years or more back.

Google+ is an interesting intersection of Facebook and Twitter. I only wish I had better control of my data. I’ll be a lot happier when what I put into Google+  also ends up on my blog even if it never goes to the front page. Example I capture all my tweets that way. Twitter loses them….. On my blog they are part of me and searchable.

Open up Google+!


  • Jon Husband

    A post that I think needs to be / should be shared widely.

    Important to think about what you’ve outlined in terms of “getting things done”. What are your thoughts about the use of Circles in an organizational setting ?

    Thanks for the insights, Stuart.

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