I like to look at the fundamental nature of things like, “What are social media?” All their core, each social medium is first a medium, which means a communication channel that enables storage and transmission of information. What distinguishes social media from others (such as broadcast media) is the social aspect – they integrate mechanisms that enable two-way interaction between individuals or groups.
Twitter is a social medium, and one of my favorites. Wikis are social media. Instant messaging, text messaging, and email also clearly represent social media. So do blogs and YouTube, where the social interaction may be highly asymmetric but threaded discussions (comments) in the context of the content makes them social.
The way I see it, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yammer, MySpace, and a host of other social networking sites are fundamentally different – I call them social platforms. Not everyone agrees with this distinction (for example, here), and maybe platform isn’t quite the right term, but there’s a big difference in the way I interact with people in those environments from how I interact with people via a single medium.My distinction? I log into what I’m calling platforms and interact with others predominantly within the context of their unique environments. Virtually everything takes place within one window. Taking Facebook as an example, I can check-in to a place, tag people, share a status update, and/or share a link from within the environment. I can also chat and send messages. In ways, the environment (the site) aggregates multiple media to create the platform. If I don’t log in, I’m not “resident” in the network; I may contribute to content by posting from third party apps on other media (for example, FourSquare or Instagram), but I don’t tangibly contribute or derive value from it.
Of course I have to log into the media I use often, like email and Twitter, but business needs routinely drive me to do so. I’m so often resident on those networks that I often call that process authentication rather than logging in, not to mention I can use any number of client applications for each. I find I need a disciplined practice to stay resident on Facebook or LinkedIn and Yammer.
Which brings me to Google and Google+. People have commented that Google+ is, “Far behind Facebook,” in terms of many things – its interface, ease of use, features, and so on. I don’t agree. Google has not-so-secretly build a solid platform by focusing on fundamentals and doing them all reasonably well. I log into my email, and across the top of the screen is a ribbon with many Google services at my fingertips. Google+ is a no-brainer and opens immediately after email. Instant messaging is available, and when it’s open on my Google+ tab it also opens on my Gmail tab. I switch tabs and forget which Google application I’m in at any given moment.
Then there’s Google Drive, where I can store documents and edit many, even creating new documents using the Google Docs applications. I can share from there as well to work collaboratively while discussing and/or commenting from the context of the document. Amazing, and social.
On that banner I also access my YouTube channel, Maps, News, my Calendar, and more. All one click away, all in the routine of my normal business processes.
Love them or hate them, Google has built an incredible social platform. Their various media, social as well as broadcast, live in separate tabs on my browser, they’re just not aggregated into a single window. The fact that I’m resident on the Google platform daily in the course of business is so important to me that I’ve made a conscious effort lately to contribute as much as possible to content on Google+, and I already derive nearly as much value from it as I do from Twitter. It’s even the primary way I interact with others about my blog posts.
What do you think? Google fan or not, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Fans use the G+ tab below; others can use the WordPress comment tab.
Thanks for reading!
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