Time to add your 4th Social Network: Google Plus

Most visitors to this web site are no doubt well familiar with social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Off to the right of this blog you can click on either to check out my activity on those two sites. I’m also active on Linked-In and for the past three years have been content to leave it at that. It’s a big time and energy commitment to get involved in these sites and I find they chew up a lot of time nights and weekends.

For that reason, I’ve been reluctant to jump on board every new social network that comes out. I didn’t join My Space and I only briefly tried out FriendFeed until it was acquired by Facebook. I didn’t join Google’s first attempt at social networking but have made the decision in the past week to join Google’s second try: Google Plus. I’m active there as Jonathan Chevreau.

Here’s my logic for “starting all over again,” despite a significant commitment to the other three sites, which I’ll continue to be active on. I always viewed Facebook as primarily for Friends and Family, although the Facebook account linked from this site is a newer account used for broader business and investment purposes. I view Linked In as essentially a rolodex of business contacts: the same people you’d normally exchange business cards with over the course of a working day.

Twitter I’ve viewed as a sort of free-for-all, open to the serendipity of random encounters. Of course, Twitter’s List feature allows you to drill down on very specific types of Tweeters. Since my focus is personal finance and financial independence, I maintain Twitter lists on everything from stocks to retirement to insurance and annuities to economics and politics, hedging and options.

So how is there room for Google Plus? Well, first of all, Google is a web powerhouse we all use anyway. Second, by being late to the market, Google seems to have figured out a way to leverage the experience of all who preceded it in social networking.

All my life’s a circle

The key concept with Google+ is Circles. The first “Circle” is your immediate family. The second is Friends: people you’ve actually met and with whom you have some kind of positive relationship. These two circles I view as equivalent to how I originally used Facebook:  a way to keep up with the family, to see what photos Daughter has posted while at college, etc.

The third Google+ circle is Acquaintances: people you’ve met that aren’t strangers, but nor are they bosom buddies. Probably, many people you know at work would be classified initially as Acquaintances, and hopefully after time some become real friends. But at least they’re real people who you’ve met.

The fourth circle at Google+ is “Following.”  These are people you’ve never met and with whom you have no relationship: many are celebrities or gurus of some sort who don’t know you from Adam. You’ve heard of them but not vice versa. So you “follow” them in the same way you’d follow someone on Twitter, fully expecting to be able to monitor whatever they’re putting out on their “public” feed. They may also be putting out more intimate content to their inner circles but alas, it is unlikely that we ordinary followers will be privy to those feeds. Such is the nature of the beast.

Finally, you can create and label additional circles, just as you might use Twitter lists to sort Tweeters into various categories. Since you’re currently reading a web site devoted to Financial Independence, you can be sure I’ll create at least one circle devoted to that topic.

It’s a big commitment to “start all over” with yet another social networking site. It’s still early innings for Google+. Through much of the summer, there was a three-month “by invitation only” trial but Google just threw it open to the rest of us a few weeks ago.

If you’ve not jumped aboard the earlier social networking sites, you might be comfortable starting now with Google + since almost everybody but the early-adopter stars are just getting up to speed and learning about it, building their circles from scratch. For those already active on the other sites, it remains to be seen how much Google+ displaces them. Personally, I expect to be a tad less active on Twitter and I was never hyperactive on Facebook to begin with.

Hope to see many readers of this blog over at Google +, in whatever circle makes sense.

And enjoy the rest of this beautiful Thanksgiving weekend!

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