What Google+ users can learn from nonprofits

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m fascinated by Google+.

I left Web Worker Daily in 2009 in no small part because I was bored out of my mind with the content I was producing/editing. I couldn’t stomach looking at even one more new social networking/collaboration site that no one would care about in 6 minutes, much less 6 months.

Google+ is different, and not just because it’s from Google. Why? It’s a paradigm shift in large scale at-your-fingertips social networking. Sure they have tweaks in technology to work through to make stream organization and circle management more intuitive. But the concept completely turns on its ear how most everyday folks have used social media so far.

I maintain that not only is it for the better, but that nonprofits that communicate well already had it figured out.

Established social sharing model (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc.):

I find this interesting (or I have an opinion/thought/idea/question) so I want to share this with you because for some reason you find me interesting enough to follow/friend me (so maybe you really do want to know where I am or what I had for lunch).

Google+ sharing model:

I find this interesting (or I have an opinion/thought/idea/question) so based on what I specifically know about you and what we have in common as unique individuals, I think you’ll find it interesting too.

See what’s happening there? Cool, huh?

Nonprofits are all about segmenting our communications and getting to know our constituency so we can serve them better. After all is said and done, an organization’s value in the world is defined by improvement in its constituents’ lives, not the organization’s bottom line. The bottom line allows the organization to serve more. Effective nonprofits know it’s not about them.

Robert Scoble doesn’t get it yet, as evidenced by his latest blog post: Why yo daddy won’t use Google+: no noise control. Guess what: My daddy won’t use Google+ because my daddy is dead. But Robert wouldn’t know that because he doesn’t know me. It’s okay, it’s a blog post. That post is just as much about him as this blog post is about me. That’s the nature of the beast when your name is at the top of the page. I’m only hoping you’re here because you want to be. I might segment my content by category or tag. I can even try and hide content based on category or tag. But I can’t target you any more than Robert could change his headline for me.

On Google+ you put me in a circle for a reason. I put you in a circle for a reason. When I decide to share, it’s not a blog post, a status update, wall post or a tweet. It doesn’t matter if what I’m sharing is to you and 3 others, or to you and 300 others. It’s still more about you than it is about me because I had to take that moment to think and select your circle before I posted. It’s about what I think you want to hear from me because I explicitly know what we have in common, not just about what I think has value to you solely and entirely because it has value to me. I wish the tech pundits now banging on Google+ could understand that.

I also wish Google+ had a way of filtering out Public posts from the main stream. I’m following some of the early adopter crowd for now, but wow…they’re noisy. Not so much them but the 300 people who comment on every post. And no different than the conversations I would find on any of their other stages. For me, the gold in Google+ are in those posts that are marked “Limited” even though I have no clue what circle I’m in. It’s not just about privacy. It’s not fear of secrets getting out. It’s I thought of the circle I put you in and I’m sharing with you for that reason that has value to me.

So Google+ has changed the paradigm of social sharing…the question is, are we really ready to embrace it?

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7 thoughts on “What Google+ users can learn from nonprofits

  1. Judi, I have been following your thoughts about Google+ on the platform and you know that I concur with a lot of your thinking. It’s about YOU is such a great distinction from the it’s about ME attitude on other platforms. The cynic in me wonders how long that will last, of course, but for now, I do appreciate that aspect.

    I love that the circles are (for now) private, but I’d also like to see more public circles around interests. I think the Sparks is sort of that, but it’s more of a news stream than a real circle of interest. People who love Friendfeed love it because of that intimate public conversation space that it allowed, and I would like to see Google+ iterate to include that. This is one reason Reddit sub-groups are also so close-knit and successful.

    Google + is addictive! I think it mimics Facebook more than any other platform, and Facebook understands what makes people return, thus amping up the “sticky-ness” of the site. I look revisiting this conversation in six months as well…

    • Thanks for the comment, Debra. Google already has Google Groups and they’ve done crap with it besides a little bit of a cosmetic change over the past year or so. I’m wondering if we’ll see that roll into Plus at some point. There are your public circles right there. Why reinvent the wheel?

      • Great point, Judi. I also think that Google would be wise to roll Google docs into Google+ as well. That seems to be a missing element, but I suspect it will come. Someone else mentioned the Google calendar element that can easily be rolled in for events, too.

        Victoria – if you go to plus.google.com, you may be able to join. I noticed that my friend was able to do this on her computer today, and she had not yet been invited.

      • Judi – Awesome post here. Especially your description of the two sharing paradigms. It might take a while for users to figure out that Circles are not the same as Facebook Groups. To that point, I predict Google will be adding Google Groups to the Plus platform very soon.

  2. John, I think you’re absolutely right (and thanks for the comment and nice words). I know for a fact that Google is testing adding +1 to Google Groups and reworking the layout. I think this is part of the grand scheme. But they’ll have to wait until Google+ is more accessible.

    The NPSF Google Group for example has over 1300 members and it’s clear that not all of them are using regular Google Accounts. Would hate to lose them in the transition, or have to force them into Google+ for them to continue to participate.

  3. Ruhi Bell says:

    Hi Judi,

    Great post! I’m intrigued by Google+ and am waiting for an invite so for now I’m relying on people like you to tell me what you think.

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