Content Marketing, Social Media Strategy, Social Media Tools, Google Plus, Personal Branding

Popularity and Reciprocity are the Enemies of Connectivity

As I spend increasing amounts of time playing with Google Plus (see my analysis of it here), I’ve come to recognize that the success of social networking eventually brings about its demise. Twitter originally felt a lot like Google + does today, where you recognized most of the people in your stream, interactions were more conversational, etc.

But popularity changes the game. When lots of people flood into a social network, the personal connections that made it attractive in the first place get overwhelmed sometimes.

Further, Twitter’s big mistake was perpetuating the notion of reciprocity. That if someone follows you, you should probably follow them back. If you don’t, you risk being labeled as aloof and elitist. (I really enjoyed the debate on this point from two guys I respect immensely, Mitch Joel & Mark W. Schaefer)

With its built-in Circles component, Google + may have solved these problems. You can have many participants, but engage with different groups in different ways, and you can reciprocate without overwhelming your own interactions on the network.

Has Google + defied the Dunbar Number problem (the research that posits you can only maintain 150 relationships)?

If you’ve played with Google Plus, how do you find it comparing to Twitter and Facebook in its ability to connect you with others?

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  • toddschnick

    unlike twitter and facebook, i am only connecting with people i sincerely want to connect with on G+. and a very few that i am hoping to forge a deeper relationship with. and i am loving the empowerment that comes with this… i’ve even removed the counters that show how many circles i am in, etc. because it isn’t about that, right?

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @toddschnick I hope it doesn’t become about that, but it inevitably will. Already, the A listers are sharing on G+ the charts that show which are the Top 100 accounts in terms of total followers. Yuck.

      • toddschnick

        @JayBaer @toddschnick sigh. i’ve noticed that too. why oh why…

  • Arrie_Music

    @birdbathbuzz thanks for the follow chris!

  • bsoist

    Thanks! We all know this is going to happen.

  • clintonbon

    I’m still connecting with a lot of folks, but just using the Circles. For my world, I’m blogging about innovation and Crowdsourcing and it was always odd for me to post a post on Facebook knowing 99% of the peeps could give a darn about the post … So the filtering it innately allows is great. I’m reading n’ sharing articles with certain growing Circles without having to annoy my Highschool friends who would rather hear me chat about the NY Mets or Hot Pockets ;) … I think G+ does negate the Dunbar Number simply because the circles act as their own networks.

    • CanyonComm

      @clintonbon I agree Clinton. The huge advantage of Google+ v facebook and twitter is the segmentation/profiling ability. LinkedIn does this to a degree within Groups, but still that information is broadcast to your collective connections.

      Working on an agency team, I dive deep – in fits and spurts – to research, grow and nurture at times very different audiences (such as agronomy, facilities management, software segments). The result is a very disjointed perspective of me on LinkedIn via my activities stream. This also may limit my ability to connect if people view my stream as decision criteria to connect.

      Do you think Google+ requires “too much” of the user to tip the scales from fb? After all, as users lazy prevails and easy wins the day frequently.

  • http://www.robertpickstone.com/ RobertPickstone

    I agree with most of your posts but really not too sure on this one.

    Those special moments and special connections can still take place if someone takes the time to manage their experience. I know you say that this takes effort but the tools are there for those that wish to use them, and those who do use these tools are still able to find and maintain these relationships, however many people they are following or are friends with.

    Google+ is essentially asking users to do what Facebook and Twitter did years into their service. They are asking users to organise their experience using a little effort. The main difference is that Google+ is asking users to do this from the very beginning. Even if users do this thoroughly and effectively, circles will still need to be updated and changed over time, as new relationships are formed and changes happen with life.

    If Google+ becomes extremely popular, the effort still needs to be made by users. This is the same effort which the majority of Facebook and Twitter users are not willing to make, although those that do see the benefits.

    Another reason why connections may be harder to come by is because social users of the internet are being pulled in all sorts of directions. Some spend time on Facebook, some Twitter, some LinkedIn and now some Google+.

    My personal viewpoint is that Google+ does not offer a service that has enough differentiation to tempt mass numbers of Facebook users to switch. It is more of a threat to Twitter, especially with regards to the point you make about making new connections – the openness of the network and traits of average users are key factors in this.

    It would be great to chat sometime on Twitter (or LinkedIn…or Google+) ;-)

    Rob

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @RobertPickstone I totally agree Robert, but the fact that G+ forces you to segment from the beginning is in fact the differentiation. It makes you think in circles NOW, instead of you having to retrofit your relationships to make sense of them down the road. If Twitter would have rolled out lists at the beginning, it would be a lot easier to manage today.

      • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ djwaldow

        @JayBaer I’d like to pick up on what @RobertPickstone said above and add the following: I’m LOVING the fact that I can add folks to the “appropriate” circles out of the gate. However, I see 2 issues. First, what happens if I pick the “wrong” circles? Case in point, I created a Blue Sky Factory (work) circle. When BSF got acquired and I was no longer part of it, what do I do? Well, I *could* go back and modify the folks in that circle. However, I’m more likely to leave it as is b/c it’s too much work. Second scenario is the hundreds (okay, dozens) of people who are adding me to circles who I don’t know at all. Not at all. However, someday, it’s possible (likely?) that I will. Am I going to go back and add them to a circle or two?

        See what I’m getting at? We are then back to the same issue that Twitter had with lists and Facebook with … lists?

        The issue, as I see it, is that your relationships (circles) change over time. They change when you move (physically), when you change jobs, when you add new friends (circles). Then what happens?

        (does this make sense?)

        • http://www.robertpickstone.com/ RobertPickstone

          @djwaldow @JayBaer @RobertPickstone Bingo. That makes complete sense to me – I was trying to say the same thing but probably got too caught up in the detail.

          Segmenting from the beginning is not a differentation in my view. I don’t think it will be to the masses either (sorry to keep using that word!). Google+ will also not be immune to users not wanting to make the ongoing effort of managing their experience.

          Anyway, making predictions is fun! Who knows how it will play out. I’m just not as optimistic about the future success in numbers for Google+ as many of those blogging about it are.

          @RyanCritchett – Ryan, what do you think?

        • http://rmctech.net/ Ryan Critchett

          @RobertPickstone @djwaldow @JayBaer Ya know Robert.. I was just having this conversation with morgan_griffith on Twitter and she (with a good point) thinks before we can really make hard determinations, it needs to mature.

          I think the same thing but definitely believe a lot of biz professional people will make the jump from Fbook to G+. I’ll also jump on the bandwagon of people saying it’s intuitive, because it really does do things you’ve always wanted other social platforms to do.

          Of course the circle thing is incredible. The vid chat is hard to touch and the whole integration of it, gmail and other services is pretty sick. Time will tell, but I think it’ll be around for a while, doing quite well.

          Side note: I also think, which I mentioned to morgan_griffith that it’s not going to be the “next big social platform.” Something else is coming, soon. It’s in the air. ;)

      • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ djwaldow

        @JayBaer I’d like to pick up on what @RobertPickstone said above and add the following: I’m LOVING the fact that I can add folks to the “appropriate” circles out of the gate.

        However, I see 2 issues.

        First, what happens if I pick the “wrong” circles? Case in point, I created a Blue Sky Factory (work) circle. When BSF got acquired and I was no longer part of it, what do I do? Well, I *could* go back and modify the folks in that circle. However, I’m more likely to leave it as is b/c it’s too much work.

        Second scenario is the hundreds (okay, dozens) of people who are adding me to circles who I don’t know at all. Not at all. However, someday, it’s possible (likely?) that I will. Am I going to go back and add them to a circle or two?

        See what I’m getting at? We are then back to the same issue that Twitter had with lists and Facebook with … lists?

        The issue, as I see it, is that your relationships (circles) change over time. They change when you move (physically), when you change jobs, when you add new friends (circles). Then what happens?

        (does this make sense?)

  • theresesquared

    @jaybaer When it takes over your life.

  • ajjuliano

    I definitely agree with the premise that “the success of social networking eventually brings about its demise.” However, I think it’s too soon to tell whether Google+ solves this problem. Right now it seems like an alternative to Twitter and Facebook (and even LinkedIn to some degree)–a welcome alternative, but still an alternative. The problem right now is that it isn’t mature enough to attract the “lots of people” who will be there eventually. Most of the conversation is about Google+, but when that wears off I think it will be very useful, for precisely the reason you state–the ability to shrink individual circles to focus on what’s most relevant to that group. I try to take a less is more approach and focus on quality over quantity, and I think Google+ is built around that same principle. instead of facing the challenge of managing lots of relationships within a single network, however, we may be faced with the challenge of making sense of an managing different types of relationships within the same network.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @ajjuliano Yes. That’s part of the good news/bad news paradox of G+. We have to be both business and personal in the same location (or at least we can be if we choose to be, using circles). Right now, we now that Linkedin is biz, and Facebook is (largely) personal. G+ is both. We’ll see soon enough if that’s a net positive or too much of a “worlds collide” scenario.

  • osuextensionguy

    So true. RT @aafromaa @jaybaer When is social networking too much? Popularity & Reciprocity are enemies of connectivity. http://t.co/8F5OIy6

  • ryancmiller

    @KatherineMeyer thanks for the RT – have you made the jump over to Google +?

    • KatherineMeyer

      @ryancmiller I’ve been playing around on it a bit. I’m intrigued but have not really had time to do a deep dive. You?

      • ryancmiller

        @KatherineMeyer same – trying to figure out how not to repeat myself in terms of posting (and what I consume). Lots of repetition so far

      • ryancmiller

        @KatherineMeyer intrigued by the circles and hangouts (haven’t used hangouts yet but if you want to try at some point let me know)

        • KatherineMeyer

          @ryancmiller I did the circles, that is mostly what I’ve played with so far. Hangouts seem cool, but agree could be cool.

        • KatherineMeyer

          @ryancmiller I did the circles, that is mostly what I’ve played with so far. I’ll have more learning to re: hangouts but def should try!

  • KellyeCrane

    Great points, Jay — I especially like your note about reciprocity. One additional note re: popularity: I think a large part of the diminished experience of Twitter (and Facebook to a lesser degree) is the wide use of automated tools. In many (most?) cases, humans are not the ones doing the following and posting, and real interactions suffer as a result. It’s becoming harder every day to dig through the noise and have actual conversations.

    Right now, people have to actually go to Google+ to post. However, for a social network to become a ubiquitous part of our lives, does it have to open up its API? Probably- and that’s when the network’s popularity gets exploited to the detriment of the network itself. Ironic!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @KellyeCrane Really, really good point Kellye. Lots of people on G+ are pining for an API, but will that kill the golden goose?

      • Tim_Weaver

        @JayBaer @KellyeCrane What if G+ held out for the API linking into the other services? Instead of having your Tweets posted to G+, do like LiveFyre and Disqus have done and push it to Twitter or Facebook. I admit to know knowing if API’s are two-way streets, but if G+ can be the big dog in the fight, it might work.

        The downside to this is, of course, G+ will then become the platform from which the “spammer” will operate, to its detriment.

        • KellyeCrane

          @Tim_Weaver I certainly hope people won’t be able to auto-post their tweets/FB posts to +. In my view, that would kill it completely! But I’m also talking about things like direct RSS feeds and scheduling tools like Hootsuite (and other, more aggressive, auto-sharing platforms). They’re what make broadcasting possible.

          Of course, they’re also what makes broad social media management possible for most brands (even those who do their best to truly engage), so it will be interesting to see how Google plays it.

        • Tim_Weaver

          @KellyeCrane No, I was thinking having G+ posts autotweeted or posted to FB…make G+ the powerplay. It’s one thing to have a tweet indicating “Hey, I just posted something interesting on G+”…you expect that kind of stuff.

          I don’t want to see everyone posting on Twitter and having it show up on facebook, like can happen now.

          Does that make sense?

  • tammi_kibler

    I agree that much of the fun of Google+ stems from the intimacy you can forge with such a small group of people. I am skeptical that we’ll be seeing as many conversation strings going 30 deep with comments when our streams shows 100 new conversations each day.

    I like that as an early adopter, I was introduced to new people and conversations rather than just the same crowd, different scene, but I don’t know that this will continue to be the case when more of my friends and family migrate to Google+.

    I like all the things that Google+ does better than FB and Twitter, and I think the circles will help us manage our sharing, but I tend to think you are correct that at some point we will all find our filters and will only listen to a core very similar to whatever cores we heeded on FB and Twitter.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @tammi_kibler Absolutely Tammi. Twitter felt the way Google + does today. We’ll see how the Google + experience changes as it gets more popular.

  • Tim_Weaver

    Well said, Jay. I’ve never bought into the notion of Twitter reciprocity. I follow people who I think are interesting for the things I want and like. This is one of the things about Google+ that I like to far. My challenge has been in the slicing and dicing in order to not open it up and see thousands of new posts/”Tweets”. As it progresses, I think I’ll get a good handle on how to fine-tune it. Finally, nice product placement. :)

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @Tim_Weaver Indeed, on Google + I’ve kept it so locked down that I feel like I’m actually missing out on some important stuff. Hard to strike a balance.

      • Tim_Weaver

        @JayBaer I wonder if it might not have been a better play to make Google+ the “friends, family and acquaintances” network rather than try to adjust, as ambercadabra has attempted to do. Even after her announced paring, she’d down to *only* 700 “friends”. :)

        • http://brasstackthinking.com/ ambernaslund

          @Tim_Weaver @JayBaer Hey, it was 2200 before, which tells you how many utter strangers I was connected to. I already feel better. FB is the one place where I can control the gates completely, so that’s why I chose it for the more intimate circles. Anyone can follow me on G+ or Twitter without my okay (unless I block them). Hence my reasoning. Your mileage may vary. :)

        • tammi_kibler

          @ambernaslund @Tim_Weaver @JayBaer Google+ is different than Twitter. Although anyone can follow you on Google+, you control what they see with your selection on each item. If you make a status Public, everyone can see it. Otherwise, it’s only visible to the circles you choose, which are comprised of people you have chosen, not vice versa.

        • Tim_Weaver

          @ambernaslund 2200? Holy crap. OK, you’ve made tremendous progress. :)

  • teriel

    So far what I like is how you can create specific circles for specific groups of people so that you can share information that is relevant to them. Much better than Facebook or Twitter lists. With that said, I still see a lot of reciprocal behavior occurring on Google plus, which doesn’t surprise me, because people are trying to determine how to use it and exploring all of its components.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @teriel Definitely a lot of it going on right now, but I think we’ll see some “uncircling” especially if Google is serious about capping connections at 5,000.

      • teriel

        @JayBaer I hope so. I think it will be interesting to see how people will work with that and creating different types of circles. Is the 5000 cap for one circle, or all circles a person creates?

  • TrishJones

    Thanks for this Jay. I was almost feeling the need to opt out of some elements of social networking altogether, but your suggestion of pairing down is a much better solution. Haven’t had a chance to play with Google + (not honored enough to get an invite :-() but, I’ve heard some good things and looking forward to it.

    Thanks again for sharing, Jay.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @TrishJones Send me your email Trish at jay@convinceandconvert.com and I’ll get you a G+ invite. Thanks for your comment.

  • markwschaefer

    It’s funny. I was just talking about this in a speech last night. Greta monds think alike,. And ours too. : )

    There is a lot of rich content here Jay. Nine blog posts in one. I kind of see Google + as a Twitter “do-over”

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @markwschaefer Thanks pal. Glad you’re on board with this. Funny about rich content. Sometimes when you make less (quick video, short post) you say more.

  • DirectResponse.net

    Very interesting points Jay. I know my Facebook account is filled with people I could care less about. And these people just add noise to my social experience. Comments, tagged pictures, horoscopes, etc from people i’m not really that interested in.

    I am going to use my Google+ account as a fresh way to do it right this time. Only add people who are social aspects to my life in REAL life. Not just the guy I met at a convention one time and will probably never talk to again. The style of friend adding Facebook is really used for.

  • clairejoey

    Yeah I hate it when people say they “always follow back”. I’d rather they wouldn’t because if they ALWAYS follow back then it’s highly unlikely that they’re going to read any of my tweets.. what’s the point!?

  • STLStude

    @jaybaer I love the Sparks feature of #Google+. #IMHO, it’s the best thing about it. That aside, I don’t really see it as a game changer.

  • AmandadelaTorre

    Jay, I enjoyed your post and I am getting just as much from the collective responders. When I am on SM I imagine being in a loud room with everyone talking at once, like a trendy but overwhelming cocktail party. SM will have made it when we get to a level of sophistication where we can conveniently enter the party and scale it down to a few select companions sharing a really great conversation, but one that magically has content and video at the ready. None of the current platforms seem to do that, for me at least, so I’ll look forward to Google+.

  • IdeaAppsInc

    For me I am finding it harder to get used to the style.

  • IdeaAppsInc

    Sorry, posted to soon! What I wanted to say was I find the style harder for me to get used to as I am still trying it out. But at the same time I find it more appealing and alluring. It just looks more updated than the other two and I feel I just have to figure it out and get going. Also, the vibe is different and so far more of a geeky following.

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ djwaldow

    @JayBaer I’d like to pick up on what @RobertPickstone said and add the following: I’m LOVING the fact that I can add folks to the “appropriate” circles out of the gate. However, I see 2 issues. First, what happens if I pick the “wrong” circles? Case in point, I created a Blue Sky Factory (work) circle. When BSF got acquired and I was no longer part of it, what do I do? Well, I *could* go back and modify the folks in that circle. However, I’m more likely to leave it as is b/c it’s too much work. Second scenario is the hundreds (okay, dozens) of people who are adding me to circles who I don’t know at all. Not at all. However, someday, it’s possible (likely?) that I will. Am I going to go back and add them to a circle or two?

    See what I’m getting at? We are then back to the same issue that Twitter had with lists and Facebook with … lists?

    The issue, as I see it, is that your relationships (circles) change over time. They change when you move (physically), when you change jobs, when you add new friends (circles). Then what happens?

    (does this make sense?)

  • http://www.marketingeconomist.com/ Peter St Onge

    It seems to me the problem here is that automatic reciprocity deteriorates the signal-to-noise ratio indicating who’s helpful or useful.

    Two solutions off-hand; focus on non-automatic reciprocity and design of reciprocity indicators that don’t make it that easy to automatically reciprocate.

    An example covering both would be replacing “click here to thank” buttons on forums with actually having to write something when you thank.

  • OnlineBusinesVA

    Great post. You are right. Social Media is not a platform to deliver sales pitch. It’s not about talking about yourself. Listening to the audience to find out their needs and then responding to them to fulfill those can result in a healthy relationship in between the business and its customers. And Social Media is the right place to practice that.

  • http://rmctech.net/ Ryan Critchett

    Hey Jay – Makes sense man. I think it’s good to be conscious of the fact that the enormity of Twitter can stop those real cool micro connections from happening.. and then to do something about it. I use search.twitter.com a lot and search for specific people. Spending a lot of time doing specific searches for people, and what they’re saying, helps a lot. Good points man.

  • RyanCritchett

    @ericEsilva Eric, I totally agree man, it was cool for @jaybaer to touch on that.

    • ericEsilva

      @ryancritchett Yeah that was a pretty sweet vid

      • RyanCritchett

        @ericEsilva Sure was. Not sure if it can compare to your about video (and those rad socks) !

        • ericEsilva

          @ryancritchett haha my socks were sweet! More vids coming by the way. hey did you get my email at IMhack?

        • RyanCritchett

          @ericEsilva YES! I totally forgot. I mean.. I know about what you’re doing, but forgot to hit the wall up. SO on it bro.

        • ericEsilva

          @ryancritchett It’s cool man, I was just wondering if you got it cause don’t know ur real email broham.

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  • http://sociallogical.com/ jeffroach

    Reciprocation expectation and the fear of hurting someone’s feelings is a factor more often than is acknowledged. You’re right on with this, Jay.

  • http://www.cirrusabs.com KevinMullett

    Great post Jay. I am still waiting for the major social services to add native exclusionary lists or tagging. Google+ circles and slide to show more or less is a step in the right direction but stops short of allowing people to filter specific post types, hashtags, words, et al. Facebook started down this path by allowing blocking on app level or words within pages. You can use tools like tweetdeck or even a Chrome extension like http://proxlet.com to filter results, but these are not easily implementable or widely known so adoption is low. Many yearn for a day where they can block all “4sq” tweets, a particular hashtag chat or block .gifs. Particularly if this could be done easily on a case by case basis. Until then I’ll continue to spend a lot of time with lists, circles, hangouts, and hashtags in an attempt to keep familiar people in view.

  • dbsnp

    I thought it was Diaspora that came up with that solution.