The last 8 years tell a fascinating story of the evolution of the Social Media phenomenon.
I first joined MySpace in 2004 as a singleton, working and living away from many of my friends. What was the attraction? Actually, it was nothing more than meeting new people. I am still in contact and good friends with 2 or 3 people that I met on the site. MySpace developed further as a portal for musicians to promote their product to the masses. By the way, do not for a moment think that Facebook has not mimicked this as it has evolved towards a site dominated now by content from Fan Pages rather than individuals.
Facebook’s strength lay in reconnecting old friends. I profess openly to becoming an addict once I finally signed up in 2006. Here was a place where I could connect with mates with whom I had lost contact after school or university, many whom I feared I may never see again. For its many faults, Facebook has allowed me to resurrect several such friendships, for which I am always grateful.
However, this is where Facebook illustrated its flaws, as we began to live out our friendships online instead of in person, which was all very good if the person lived on the other side of the world, but not the other side of the city or in some cases even the street.
Facebook also posed the conundrum? What did you do if you received a friend request from someone outside your ‘normal’ social circles (we shall use the word ‘circle’ before long!)?
In other words, someone you knew, possibly very well, but not in the 5 pints at the pub before 8pm club. It would seem rude to decline a connection from someone that you know, and possibly like, but what if you really did not want to be sharing certain bits of information with them?
This first occurred to me when one of my candidates (I work in recruitment) requested to be ‘my friend’. A lovely girl, I had just placed her in a new job, and was keen to maintain a relationship and with a touch of pride to see her progress. But she was not a mate or a friend yet (she is now actually!), so what would she think of some of my more random Facebook updates, meant specifically for my friends?
This was the first example of a professional connection, but this would of course soon be the norm, albeit via a different medium. Hello LinkedIn! I am surprised that we had not considered it earlier. I again confess, on this occasion to doing Facebook searches based on Job Title for certain vacancies. And just as MySpace had allowed Musicians to promote themselves, we had to know surely that here was an opportunity for us to sell ourselves.
If match.com allowed us to sell ourselves on a personal level, well here was the opportunity to do so professionally, and as we know, those 2 ‘P’ words are never far apart, if only because so many of us find it difficult to define the barriers between our personal and professional lives.
Alleluia then, here was the network on which I could work! In other words, although a select few clients and candidates would know that I had been inebriated or out trainspotting at the weekend, it did not matter, for they would see my professional status update on Monday morning!
Again, LinkedIn has been very beneficial from a work perspective, but its limits have quickly made themselves apparent.
I would suggest that 80% of those with whom you would want to connect were those that you had never previously met? And even if I did connect with genuine friends on LinkedIn, we never communicated via that particular avenue, because we had our personal relationships on Facebook!
It was a ‘what can they do for me syndrome’. With this is mind, I found it rare to develop a meaningful relationship on LinkedIn. Furthermore, I found that certainly in the recruitment industry, it was used less as a networking tool than one via which you could keep an eye on the movement of others.
Now Twitter was a totally different kettle of fish. I did not get it, and as Steve Austin may have said, that was the bottom line. However, once I did get it, I was addicted. Twitter took the MySpace avenue of adding random people, but the bonus was that they did not have to approve you!
Once I understood the intricacies of @ and #, I soon realised that here was a wonderful opportunity to share passions with those that shared the same interests. Going back to the theory of human nature, here also was an opportunity for shameless self-promotion.
Twitter is both of these, and just as with Facebook and MySpace before it, I have made some very special friendships on this social network. It remains a great avenue via which to discuss passions, trending topics, and any other random matter that you might consider.
However, Twitter began to lose its lustre. There were too many occasions when you were unsure about who you were really interacting with. On too many occasions, there were those who used the anonymity of Twitter to develop it as a means of hurling vitriolic abuse at others. The spectre of spam also casts a shadow over this otherwise thoroughly engaging platform. Personally, Twitter has too frequently given me opportunities to ask whether I really need it.
I have not mentioned Google Buzz or Google Wave … in the case of Wave, I could not tell you what it was! In the case of Buzz, I know it gets updated on occasion from my Twitter, but could not tell you too much about it either. To one of the biggest brand names on the planet, such failure must have rankled.
Good evening Google+, where have you been? So far, I have heard that G+ is Facebook in disguise (which I tried to apply to an Elvis song!), that it will be another Twitter, that it is an unnecessary evil. As with anything in its infancy, it is too early to make definitive predictions. However, I like what I have seen.
Is it Facebook?
Yes, I can connect with friends and share content with them.
No, people cannot post unwanted spam on my wall. Not only that but G+ has forced me to create ‘circles’ – essentially groups of friends or contacts. And for each piece of content that I share, I can choose which group or groups to share it with. I am, in other words posting relevant content.
Is it Twitter?
Yes, I can add/follow as many people as I wish, but they are under no obligation to do likewise.
No, I can use my ‘circles’ to make sure that I am sharing and reading relevant content. And here is the hope, the fact that individuals need to have a public Google profile might preclude those who abuse from the cloak of anonymity. Furthermore, although people have now been programmed to be concise, we are not limited to 140 characters, and can see a little more about the links on which we are about to click.
Is it LinkedIn?
Yes, I connected with an HR Manager on there this morning and she has now emailed me her CV.
No, because I can go on and share whatever content I wish, safe in the knowledge that only selected posts need to be made available to my ‘professional networking’ circle.
When all is said, these are very basic observations. There are many, better qualified than I, that could go into minute detail about the differences, the prospects, the trends and the technology. My observations are those of a passionate user, but not an expert, and I hope that you as a reader will understand my limitations of knowledge therein.
However, I believe that Google+ has massive potential to change the way we network both on a professional and personal level. I do not expect Facebook and Twitter simply to drift away as did MySpace, so it will be interesting to see how these massive Social Media Platforms compete and interact.
As it stands, Google+ remains in beta (testing) with limited users. This means that the question of leaving other platforms is not even a consideration. The question is how Google+ will perform when exposed to the masses. It could be a massive success story, but will have to be wary of the weaknesses that its predecessors and competitors have shown.
However, I take the unusual step of finishing by quoting myself, and what I told my ‘circles’ about Google+ just yesterday:
Tonight is when Google+ finally made sense. Here is a medium through which you have Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn in one place … friends old and new, networking both on a social and professional level. With each post, you can choose to engage as few or as many of your potential audiences. It makes sense and it’s going to be great! (Originally posted here)
Rohan Kallicharran is the son of the all time great batsman Alvin Kallicharran, and named after another legend, Rohan Kanhai. For the full article & more by Rohan on a wide range of topics, click here
For a Google + invite, send email to Lloyd – Dogevpr2@aim.com