What does Google+ have to offer the public sector that Facebook doesn’t? As a social network, Facebook currently dominates the social media arena with over 750 million users compared to Google+’s 43 million. However, there is a key design difference between the two sites that may benefit the public sector in the long term.
This difference lies in the fact that Google+ uses “circles” while Facebook has only recently introduced the concept of “lists.” Both help the profile owner determine who receives what information depending on how they are classified. However, while Facebook lists are invisible to the average user, circles form a major part of Google+’s cache. In an echo of how Twitter publicly displays the numerical count of followers versus those who are being followed on each user profile, the typical Google+ user profile lists the number of people within a user’s circle, and the number of circles to which the user belongs. The most desirable ratio is to have a small inner circle and a larger outer circle.
Although this may seem like a minor innovation, it has the potential to create a certain exclusivity that Facebook currently lacks. Facebook strives to be as transparent as possible, even though users can secretly determine who will and will not receive certain information via lists. Google+’s transparency about its exclusiveness may eventually prove to be more attractive to companies who wish to create different tiers of customers, especially for promotional offers or other commercial ventures.
Additionally, unlike Twitter, Google+ has several features that allow multiple people to easily participate in a group discussion while on the site. Both Twitter and LinkedIn have a certain static quality that has made it difficult for them to host a lively exchange of ideas within the confines of their site. Google+ could ultimately benefit agencies in the public sector that are looking to connect with entrepreneurs or other innovative users who wish to openly foster the development of ideas in public. Although Facebook functions as an excellent message delivery system, due to its large size and number of members, it currently does not have a feature that facilitates the development of ideas. While Google+ is unlikely to completely replace Facebook as a social networking site, its strength lies in its ability to create sustained and accessible collaborative environments.
Christopher Smith, CEO of opin.ca, provider of enterprise content management systems
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