Google Plus as a Professional Communication Tool
The following is a guest post by Shay Shaked.
I've been messing around with Google Plus for about two weeks now. It occurred to me, after reading Tom Johnson's latest post about content strategy and listening to his podcast about the same topic, that Google Plus is, perhaps unintentionally, the best professional social network with the right usage of content strategy.
I'm not going to explain what Google Plus is in this post. If you want to learn more about it, there are hundreds of articles around the Internet already. I suggest you head to Google's official introduction to Google Plus, or check out Read Write Web's excellent coverage on it. What I am going to do here is to contrast Facebook with Google Plus and explain why professionals, especially communication professionals, should give Google Plus a good hard look. Taking into account that the service is still in its infancy, many of the points raised here are still theoretical, especially with most people still unfamiliar or without access to the service.
Google Plus is not just another social network. It approaches the concept from a different direction — one that can make it an excellent learning and communication tool, not just the "no time for breakfast today, but my cat looks happy, lol" kind of shout-out platform. The reason behind this difference is in content strategy, or content management. Google has placed the content control back in the hands of the user. With Google Plus, each one of us gets to wear the content strategist hat and have a go.
Think about it this way: Facebook has had privacy issues for years. We can even say it redefined the term. It's every professional's nightmare. People don't think of what they want to say and to whom: It's just a jungle out there, so why bother? The two easy options are to either have a professional Facebook persona or simply avoid it altogether. Some of us maintain more than one Facebook account for this reason, while others dig into the depths of the privacy settings and create lists of who can see what. Either way, it's usually ineffective and challenging to do.
Even if you can manage one of the two systems, the constant changes to the service tend to annoyingly restore the privacy settings back to what Facebook believes should be the default -- the “share everything, regret later” philosophy.
As a result, most people do not take Facebook seriously as a professional platform. My Facebook account is full of restrictions meant to block certain people from seeing those photos and posts I don't want to show up during a job interview. I would probably never use my current Facebook account for professional networking or interests; it's just not serious and not filtered enough for that purpose. The only thing Facebook is good for professionally is to add contacts in order to spy on them to find out more useful information. This is exactly why you should have as little information on Facebook as possible.
Google Plus is something else. When I want to share an interesting article, I go to "Sparks," which is a different application altogether, and share an article of interest with people from my professional circle. This specific aspect of Google Plus still requires much work, but the potential is evident in the concept. I created my professional circle (“network”) as soon as I joined Google Plus. Adding people to this circle was natural and quick. Within seconds, I had an article shared with only the people who I know would care about it.
My friends, who are more interested to hear about my latest date, will get the content relevant to them. In other words, I have the responsibility of creating relevant information. I need to choose what information to give and to who, and not just block certain people form reading everything I can come up with. Through the ease of sharing this information, Google Plus does not just invite me to share relevant information, it compels me to create and find information, something Facebook has never done for me.
Yes, Facebook fans can argue that it's possible to create lists and groups in Facebook just the same. However, the lists are not immediately available and have to be maintained. Facebook's lists work as filters. Google Plus's circles work as, well, circles. Just like in the real world.
But there's more to Google Plus. It also ties in the rest of the services Google already offers in a nice tidy box, waiting for communication professionals to use. All you have to do is to click on the black bar at the top of the screen, and everything is at your fingertips: your documents, diagrams and sketches, conversations and logs, calendar with appointments, and contacts. The potential level of integration here is huge. Think of what happens when you can share not just a link to a Google Doc from within the Google Plus stream, but also have it show up with a short blurb or a summary of what's in it, perhaps with a thumbnail. Have a wireframe image saved into your online album, and have different people comment and add to it, if needed.
I don't know if the folks at Google thought of Google Plus as a professional social networking platform, but I see it as a serious competitor of LinkedIn and Twitter, not just Facebook.
Shay Shaked is a professional information visualist with strong background in non-profit organizations. Currently completing his Masters degree in Professional and Technical Communications, Shay has always been passionate about communication and teaching. He is working part time as a teacher and hopes to pursue academia and education in the near future. To view Shay's blog, visit Technically Writing.