Google Plus Cheat Sheet
Google Plus Cheat Sheet for Those Still Figuring Out the Basics - Credit: wilgengebroed (via Flickr)

How is Google Plus Faring With the General Public?

Google Plus Network

When Google Plus launched several weeks ago most of the buzz I noticed around it came from the professional social media community, for obvious reasons. As the user numbers climbed people started wondering who was using Google Plus. There were reports that “male geeks from the US” dominated the G+ network early on. But that wasn’t what I saw in my own networks, both personal and professional.

Of course user bases change, especially during strong growth periods like Google Plus experienced over the last month or so. And they can vary quite a lot from one person’s network to another. In the end, the only user base that matters is the one you’re connecting with. For me that’s a pretty diverse group including social media consultants, freelance writers and authors, online business owners, and offline friends and family members.

With that in mind, I want to share some observations from my own networks during the earliest days of Google Plus, including its surprisingly quick adoption by my “everyday” (read: not professionally in tech or social media) connections. But first, let’s look at the more tech-savvy.

Google Plus Adoption in the Tech Crowd

Despite reports of male geeks dominating Google Plus, that wasn’t the case in my own network. A good number of my current and past clients fall into this group, and they were one of the slower groups to adopt G+. They were also the most diverse group in how they used the network.

For example, many showed up to play with their shiny new toy, but they never really made an effort to have conversations there. It was more about staying on top of something new so they weren’t left behind.

On the other hand, a few are some of the more active members in my G+ circles now — sharing so many updates I’ve had to place them in their own limited circles so they don’t dominate my stream with the latest tech news or blog posts.

Google Plus Adoption with the General Public

Now let’s look at the “friends and family” group. These are people I know offline and who aren’t quite social media obsessed. I expected them to be slow to adopt a new tool. After all, their friends were already on Facebook for the most part and they get quick messages and updates via Twitter. Why use Google Plus?

I was surprised to see that those offline friends were actually some of the first G+ members, some even getting there before me. However, their posts have been few and far between. The posts they did share were often about how confused they were with the new platform (“How do I do this on Google Plus?” kinds of questions). There may have been an exchange or two. And then silence. It seems this group is still figuring out where G+ fits into their online social lives.

Google Plus Cheat Sheet
Google Plus Cheat Sheet for Those Still Figuring Out the Basics – Credit: wilgengebroed (via Flickr)

Those in Between

The bulk of my Google Plus circles are filled with business contacts — largely the freelance writer and author crowd. These are people who aren’t just casual users wanting to chat with friends, but also not necessarily heavy into the tech scene. One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed is that they’re the most active group there — even moreso than some in the PR and social media industries.

I was surprised by this at first, but it actually makes sense. Being writers, I think the appeal of G+ is the ability to write whatever we want and share it with whomever we want. We love to write. Twitter can be too limiting with character counts. Google Plus addresses that. We have a great overall community, and we love to share. Facebook didn’t fill that need for all. Google Plus gives us greater control over that sharing. Our own blogs are great for niche content but they don’t always lend themselves well to more personal updates that colleagues would have an interest in. Google Plus lets us share those kinds of posts without taking away from the focus of our blogs. It’s a natural fit. So really, it isn’t surprising that writers are one of the best represented occupations on Google Plus.

That’s how everyday Joes, tech geeks, and the majority in between have adopted Google Plus so far. My network won’t necessarily represent yours. Perhaps your offline friends fit that “U.S.-based male geek” demographic and dominate your Google Plus connections. Maybe you work in another area somewhat surprisingly well-represented there (I was surprised to see teachers high on the list linked above for example).

Who’s using social media most in your network? Are your contacts slow to adopt or jumping right in? How are they using it? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Written by
Jennifer Mattern
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  • Great post,

    I am a huge Google plus fan and I commend you for this post. I don’t have too many writiers in my stream but I will go seek them out now after reading this. One component that you left out that is huge in the plus world is the visual element. When Google Plus opens the flood gates for business I hope they take notice of what the photographers have been up to. Some of their work coming through my stream is mind blowing. If writers are the largest group on G+ than photographers have to be the second largest and they are certainly the biggest advocates. You definitely need to start circling them and paying attention because they are already influencing some of the powers that be at Google.

    • I certainly hope you do find some writers to follow Jim. We’re quite the conversational bunch. 🙂

      Writers are simply the largest group using G+ in my own network. It’s very possible that there are more photographers overall on the service. I really don’t know. But I know what you mean about the visual element. One person in particular shares several photos per day on G+. And they’re always lovely. It’s not really what I expected in my network, so it always stands out. 🙂

  • It sures seems to me that my network as a whole has seen a slowing effect. Except for the Chris Brogan’s of the world, I see 1-2 updates a month. In my opinion, I just don’t need one more network. And with the recent updates to Facebook, it’s clear they can mimic any functionality on Google+

    Hit me up on Twitter: @djenders

    • Dennis – I think G+ is a good option for those fed up with Facebook and those (like me) who have refused to use their service from the start. That said, Google certainly hasn’t learned enough yet, as we’re seeing with the “real name policy” issues. That alone has slowed down my own usage in the short time since writing this article. And I know I’m not the only one who feels that way — especially in a network of writers where pseudonyms are quite common (and expected).

      I’ve noticed a bit less general chit chat and less conversation about G+ itself (or maybe it’s just getting mixed with a wider variety of material now). But the most active a couple of weeks ago seem to still be the most active in my own groups, even beyond the bigger social media evangelists and tech types.

  • Wish I could share your experience. However, after inviting numerous “everyday” people over from Facebook, few accepted the invitations and those who have, despite initial enthusiasm, are posting less and less as they discover they can’t lure their own friends over. Google+ needs a strategy to arm wrestle with Facebook. It doesn’t have one yet.

    • That might be a part of the issue. I didn’t have to ask anyone to switch. And those who did want to connect with me didn’t have much of a choice as I won’t touch Facebook personally. I’m also a heavier business networker. So I use it largely to keep in touch with colleagues. While friends joined quickly, they’re all but invisible there now. Colleagues on the other hand are just as eager to grow their networks, so they seem to embrace G+ more readily. I think that business profiles will go a long way toward growing their userbase. And when brands and artists are on there to promote, their fans may be more likely to follow.

  • A nice post. I think Google+ will rule over social networks in the next few years. Everyone will use Google+ whether they like it or not.

    I like Google+ since the first time it’s launched.

    • I agree that there’s going to be a bit less choice in the matter. I’m just not sure how that’s going to work yet. With it being tied to all the other Google services, I’d say it’s inevitable though — if you want to use Reader, Gmail, or other tools, I can see them eventually making you follow G+ terms or having a public G+ profile even if you don’t use them for social networking. Out of curiosity, why do you think it’s going to rule the social networking scene over the next few years?

  • I suggest that the Google+ vs Facebook thing is serious business for them, but just a diversion for those who don’t have a dog in either hunt. While some friends/colleagues but not others are trying out G+ in the continuing field trial, the two networks are evolving differently. Different levels of conversation and maybe different types of conversation in each. Some of this is still barrier-to-entry from Google’s side, and barrier-to-staying as they chase people with screen names. I doubt this will evolve to “Google+ is to Facebook as Facebook is to MySpace” but who knows.

    • “Barrier-to-staying” — I love that. That’s exactly how I feel right now. Ever since Eric Schmidt opened his mouth and essentially said Google doesn’t care about our privacy because we’re products in their little “identity service” I’m surprised even more haven’t flocked to some other tool.

      I’ve cut back, and I’m still deciding whether I want to stay on G+ or not. I’m trying to stick with it in the short term in the hopes they get a grip on reality. Not wanting spammy-looking handles is one thing. Brand pages might help solve that. But requiring “real names” is just crap.

      I’ve been on the receiving end of nut jobs on the Web, so I feel for those in similar positions who were victims and are now told if they were victimized they simply shouldn’t be able to engage with their communities (the “don’t want to give stalkers your real name? don’t use the service” garbage).

      I’m also someone who works, and networks, under multiple names. This is my real name (at least for now). I don’t mind using it in a general sense. But I also write under two other names, and the networks are entirely different. Under G’s rules, I’m not permitted to use Google to keep in touch with those communities even though they know me under the other names. They’re even real-sounding names, which G’s VP previously said was fine. Schmidt seems to have changed that story. When I get married, I won’t be conducting business under my married name. So there’s no chance I’ll use it on G+, real name or not.

      I know quite a few professional women who have kept their maiden names solely for business and keep their married names private. Why should they be forced to use a “real” name nobody knows in their network? They shouldn’t. Why should victims be told they’re not welcome because G wants your real info rather than to protect user privacy? They shouldn’t. Why should users have to give their real names so G can police the actions of supposed predators there, when in reality they can’t actually police that behavior efficiently, and instead they’re getting countless others to furnish their real identities to those predators in the process? They shouldn’t.

      Really, there’s no excuse for it. Google could ask for your real info and give you the option to keep that private. Or they could stick to the real-sounding name policy instead, letting handles be used in a brand capacity in business profiles. It seems ridiculous to turn people off like that knowing the biggest problem with their competition is user privacy issues. You’d think they’d be all over that, doing anything they can to fill the void for people sick of feeling exposed. Guess not.

      And I’m just ranting now. 🙂 Sorry.

  • I have found Google + a good place to spend lots of time. It is truly addictive. First, it has allowed me to connect and share with colleagues in church ministry who are interested in using technology for evangelization and faith formation. I have met a wider group of them – and we have regular hang-outs to get to know each other better and to share ideas.

    However, the most active people in my stream are my “new friends” – a smart, savvy, and creative group of musicians/music-lovers, photographers, writers, general geeks, and people who love sci-fi. These are the people I enjoy the most and spend the most time in conversation with. I have, for example, a group of about 35 people who use Spotify who are just generally fun people to know.

    My Facebook friends? Only a few have migrated, and they use G+ seldom if ever – but when I go back over there, it is comparatively speaking, quiet and boring. One of my G+ friends put it this way:

    “What I have found here on Google Plus that is different from other sites is daily inspiration. The level of content is so high and the talent great in so many fields of study and endeavor, it’s like having coffee with Einstein, Picasso, and Hemingway. You can’t help but face the day with enthusiasm. “

    • Joyce – It’s interesting to hear how G+ is being used in your community. 🙂

      I love the quote from your friend. That’s a great way to look at it. If Google could just work out a few privacy issues, the conversation factor would blow most other networks away.