Lots has been written about Google+ but I haven’t seen a good explanation of Circles. It’s a revolutionary development for mainstream social engagement, and I think it’s worth explaining it a little better.
Let’s compare Circles to Facebook Friends. Most people on Facebook are connected to hundreds of “Friends”, but they don’t know majority of them well, and some of them they don’t know at all. Now, imagine if your “Friends” were only your close friends and family, people you talk to at last once a month. How much more would you post? How much easier would it be to post something personal? OK, not everything you post is personal, so what about the rest of the “Friends”? Well, let’s think about who they are.
- People from your High School that you barely remember
- People from college you used to party with
- Former co-workers
- Recruiters you worked with
- Parents of your kids’ classmates
- People with common interests e.g. tango dancing, chess club, running buddies
- Current co-workers (most people don’t add them to Facebook since they are afraid to post something embarrassing for a professional setting)
- Last but not least, random people you don’t recognize
Google Circles creates a social structure of your “Friends” that resembles reality, rather than lumps them together. Once all of your former “Friends” are split into Circles such as: Friends, Family, Professional, Co-Workers, Acquaintances you can tag each of your posts with the appropriate Circle. You can create your own circles based on your interests, e.g. KidsSchoolParents, TangoDancers
- Family vacation details: Family
- Kids funny pictures: Family, Friends
- Your blog post on politics: Family, Friends
- Your picture at a conference: Family, Friends, Professional
- Your blog post on industry trends: Everyone
- Pictures from an office party: Co-Workers
- Complaint about your boss: Family, Friends
- Complaint about a family member: Friends
- Complaint about a friend: Family
- Your mood today: Family, Friends
- Post about walk-for-hunger: Everyone
- Pictures from school play: Family, Friends, KidsSchoolParents
- Amazing tango video: TangoDancers
A corollary to how you post is how you view. Start by viewing only the news from your Friends and Family, before you look at the updates from everyone else.
Some might say: Facebook already supports these features, to which I say: bullcrap. It is the same as saying your bicycle supports a trip from Boston to San Francisco. It is most certainly possible to cycle cross-country, but most people would never do it.
Google Circles will enable more sharing and more engagement and is a huge leap forward for social networking. Facebook might be in trouble and unless it does something VERY quickly, it will see a critical mass of people switching to Google+, if they haven’t already.
If you need a Google+ invite, drop me a line @grublev.
Note: there is an easy workaround to copy your Facebook Friends to Google+ Circles.