It’s been interesting to watch all of the speculation about the rise of Google+ and the implications of shifting the social media landscape. Most of the focus has revolved around whether it will steal Facebook users. A more interesting possibility that Google+ provides is the ability to integrate social media functions while segregating contacts within one social media platform.
The Old Paradigm
The way we’ve always viewed social media was through the lens of specialization. We’ve always used different social media sites for different functions. That seems logical right? This country was built largely through specialization so having a different social media site for specific functions just seems intuitive.
But the brilliance of the Google+ platform is that it has the capacity to streamline functions of three separate social media sites. Before Google+, you had Facebook for casual social interaction, LinkedIn for professional networking and Twitter for following thought leaders in your industry and famous people.
The New Paradigm
Google+ offers the opportunity to do all three of these functions from one streamlined social media site. Whether Google+ users will grasp this potential is a different question. But theoretically, the Google circles alone could allow a user to do all of the things they do with Facebook and LinkedIn.
Being able to separate contacts into a series of circles according to level of intimacy lets you have a circle of colleagues and influential networking contacts at the farthest end of the intimacy spectrum. At the other, most intimate end of the circles, you can group close family members. The ability to group contacts with respect to the minutest gradations of acquaintance level is possible because a user can continue to create an infinite number of circles.
Real World Applications
It’s one thing to talk about how Google+ could work theoretically in the future. But the real world applications possible in the present are the most exciting. In work situations, the Google+ circles allow targeted messaging to specific colleagues. In the context of group projects, the ability to group team members in specific circles means that a social media network can actually be used effectively and efficiently in the workplace. The hangout, a sort of sophisticated video chat, offers the ability to video conference. And the abilities of Google+ in professional networking and in business extend into other areas as well.
The uses of social networks in education have been limited. Teachers use LinkedIn for networking and Facebook for informal teacher-to-teacher communication. Students use Facebook almost exclusively as a vehicle for informal casual communication. But Google+ has potential for much more. Because of the Google+ circles, teachers have the ability to group classes into specific circles for assignment instructions, questions about homework and class discussions.
The same scenario could work well in the context of college. College students could likely benefit even more than secondary education students from the ability to interact with peers and professors alike. And for students getting a degree online, being able to interact with other students in class projects could be exceptionally handy. The fact that Google+ is growing so rapidly means that its streamlined platform could quickly move from a novelty to an integrated element of work and education rather than remaining a purely informal social chat site.