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I Will Leave Facebook (But not Twitter) for Good - You Will, Too

Tomorrow, I am chairing the Social Media in Government Conference, produced by the Advanced Learning Institute, so I won't be on GovLoop nearly as much as I should, though I will be on Twitter.

There's been a lot of coverage of Google+ both on GovLoop and around the Web.  People are making all sorts of pronouncements, and though I usually try to steer clear of prognosticating, as I review my slide deck for the conference, I cannot help but come to this conclusion: I will leave Facebook for Google+ and I won't look back.  


I predict that many--if not most--people in the workforce will follow me.  And most--if not all--people who already use the Google suite of products (GMail, Google Docs, Picasa, Blogger, Google Public Data Explorer) will follow me.  The reason why is also the heart of my presentation.  In a word: Connectivity.

On Thursday morning, I'll talk about how connectivity is reshaping government, and to help government leaders and employees understand and implement connectivity, I've identified four types of connections: people to (1) each other; (2) digital assets, like photos, documents, and raw data; (3) applications; and (4) things.  Simply put, Google+ acts as a single tool that enables each of those connections, while Facebook does not.  


There is nothing that one can do on Facebook that one cannot do on Google+ (save, perhaps, play Farmville, but one has to assume that's not far off).  Twitter is something else entirely, and I'll address that further on. 

One of my slides shows a visualization of layers as they are used in various applications, like Photoshop and Flash.  In Flash, users can create a base layer of graphics and then add layers like "music," "buttons," "animation," and "action script."  I apply that idea to our lives, arguing that we can think of reality as a "base layer," onto which we can add other layers, like "language," "electricity," "finance," and "government."  We can also add a layer called "social."


The social layer allows us to complete manual tasks more quickly ("many hands make light work") and mental tasks more completely ("none of is as smart as all of us.").  The social layer helps us find things faster ("honey, have you seen my keys?" "everyone should read @digiphile's latest: #GOV20"), compile and vet information more rapidly (Wikipedia) and direct action more precisely (Ushahidi: Haiti).

What Google+ represents, especially for people already using Google's other tools, is the application of a social layer onto digital tools through which we already connect to each other, digital assets, applications, and things.  Where Facebook was spawned, as its name suggests, in a college setting, divorced from productivity and directed solely toward social, Google+ is exactly that: it's an additional layer over productivity tools we're already using.

In another post, I wrote that any social network would have to achieve critical mass to succeed; Google+ already has more than 10 million members, by some estimates, and even if only current GMail users move to the platform, Google will catapult to nearly 200 million members - critical mass indeed.  Moreover, many organizations both in the private and public sector rely on Google for their IT infrastructure (Hello, Los Angeles).  Google+ can likely count on those users to help it both define and refine its value as a social layer on top of its productivity layer.

I'm not suggesting that Facebook as a company is necessarily toast.  But I am suggesting that the Facebook of 2013, if there is to be one, will look and behave very little like the Facebook of 2011.  Its interface excels at only one kind of connection (people to one another) and is merely an add-on to our lives.  Google (again, especially for users of its products) is central to our lives.

Not Ruling out Twitter

So why will Twitter be untouched by Google+?  In a word: Tweetdeck.  Tweetdeck, or Hootsuite, or whatever other compiler we may use, allows for an information-dense, easily- and quickly-customizable dashboard that the simplicity of Twitter's data allows.  It's wrong to see Twitter as a "social" network; rather it's an "information" network.  As Mark Drapeau writes, Twitter has become both infrastructure and content.  There's plenty of room for both Twitter and Google+.  

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Tags: 2, communications, jobs, tech


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Comment by Julie Chase on July 14, 2011 at 7:14pm
We finally are allowed to get to Facebook at work because our installation now has a FB page.  However, I cannot get to GovLoop and a few other Gov information sites.  As for other (i.e. personal) email addresses, we are not allowed to log into them on a gov computer.  I am amazed that you all can social network on the clock.  I will have to check out the new Google+ at home.  I doubt I will leave Facebook, too much invested in it of my time.  And at work, well, Uncle Sam is "watching".
Comment by Kent Cunningham on July 14, 2011 at 4:39pm
In terms of "sharing", I'd just like to add that Docs for Facebook has been around for about a year already, and that Facebook is rapidly adding email support.   It will be interesting to see where this goes in the next 12 months for sure, as the market is still evolving very rapidly.
Comment by Alicia Mazzara on July 14, 2011 at 9:50am
I'm curious about this statistic that most people under 30 use FB as their primary messaging service. I personally hate using FB to message people and only do it when I don't have their email addresses. Maybe my peers and I are anomolies, but I live in my Gmail and find that a lot of my peers do as well, partly for the chat functionality. Attending college or working in an office environment foists email upon you because everyone else is relying on it. So, I would go so far as to say that Google+ email integration holds a lot of appeal for people in their 20s as well.
Comment by Andrew Krzmarzick on July 14, 2011 at 8:36am
The key for Google here is to better integrate G+ with their email interface. That's where most people 30 and over live - in their emails - and who are likely the core target audience for +.  Most folks under 30 use FB as the previous generation uses email and I think it will be hard to wrestle them away from "home." I'm sure there aren't any surveys yet to get a sense of demographics for G+ adopters, but my hunch is that it trends older...and Google will have to find other hooks to make G+ the future...vs. an add-on to the productivity suite of people who are already (getting) on board with Gmail and GDocs.
Comment by Hillary Hartley on July 13, 2011 at 11:51pm
@Jeremy Sutherland -- Facebook has made feeble attempts, but it's not what their core user wants. Anyone remember Microsoft's Exactly. And while the Skype integration sounds cool in theory, how many people are going to turn it off for fear of being randomly called by their long lost high school friend?

Just my $0.02...
Comment by Hillary Hartley on July 13, 2011 at 11:38pm
The key qualifier here is "in the workforce." This goes along with what many people are saying, and I agree, that G+ is not so much a Facebook-killer as a LinkedIn- or [insert network here]-killer.

I don't see the average user abandoning Facebook for G+, but for people genuinely interested in productivity + connectivity, you are absolutely correct.
Comment by James E. Evans, MISM, CSM on July 13, 2011 at 4:05pm
I agree with your writings Gadi. The connectivity scores high with me. I've been leaning away from Facebook for a while now. This just might tip the scale in Google's favor.
Comment by Jeremy Sutherland on July 13, 2011 at 1:40pm

Currently, Facebook is the social network and Google's suite is the online work space ... but if Skype and Bing are being integrated now into Facebook now, how long until Microsoft 360 is also added to the Facebook combo? And if this happens, would it tip the conversation back in favor of Facebook (and indirectly Microsoft?)


As an unbiased consumer, it sure is exciting to watch these giants battle to make the latest & greatest!


- Jeremy

Comment by Scotty Bevill on July 13, 2011 at 1:29pm

As a society, I agree, and I hope Google holds to their word they are trying to open Facebook for the sake of innovation, not dominate it and make it go away.  Seems we are injecting the need to choose one over the other. 

The point made about your son's school, a community organization, colleagues, etc... is exaclty why I made the point he put the conversation in the context of the government.  With anyone in world capable of FB and G+, the government cannot and should not take the risk associated with "sharing" it's information across these platforms without extensive tax dollars being spent in diligence.  With the glaring issues of security of the Internet alone, aside form Google, FB, or Twitter, the question wold be whether they will make a lot of money developing this need for government resources.  Then the question has to asked, is it worth it to the rest of the tax payers for goverment employees to benefit from their own "private social network", I would say no.  


The notion this discussion became about government over any commercial entity, made most of our perspectives on preference and personal lives irrelevant and opened a must more difficult debate.  Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to speak for the government at large, but I think we as a nation have more to worry about than whether or not we can share photos of a convention at with our friends.

Comment by Scotty Bevill on July 13, 2011 at 1:06pm
I now I have to apologize to all of you for not being able to spell using my iPad. :)

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