Google+ Challenges Both Facebook and Twitter

Quick, what existing social network is Google+ most likely to displace in terms of people’s time?

Another Try by Google to Take On FacebookClaire Cain Miller, New York Times

This isn’t a Facebook-killer, it’s a Twitter-killer.Yishan Wong, Google+ post

A hearty congrats to Google for creating an offering that manages to be compared to both Facebook and Twitter. The initial press focused on Google+ as a Facebook competitor. But as people have gotten to play with it, more and more they are realizing that it’s just as much a Twitter competitor.

I wanted to understand how that’s possible. How is it Google+ competes with both of those services? To do so, I plotted Google+’s features against comparable features in both Facebook and Twitter. The objective was to understand:

  • Why are people thinking of Google+ as competitor to both existing social networks?
  • How did the Google team make use of the best of both services?

The chart below is shows where Google+ is more like Facebook or Twitter. The red check marks (?) and gray shading highlight which service a Google+ feature is more like.

Google+ Challenges Both Facebook and Twitter

A few notes about the chart.

Circles for tracking: Twitter has a very comparable feature with its Lists. Facebook also lets you put connections into lists; I know because I’ve put connections into lists (e.g. Family, High School, etc.). But I had a hard time figuring out where those lists are. in the Facebook UI. Seriously, where are they for accessing? They may be available somewhere, but it’s not readily accessible. So I didn’t consider Facebook as offering this as a core experience.

+1 voting on posts: Both Google+ and Facebook allow up votes on people’s posts.Twitter has the ‘favorite’ feature. Which is sort of like up voting. But not really. It’s not visible to others, and it’s more a bookmarking feature.

Posts in web search results: Google+ posts, the public ones, show up in Google search results. Not surprising there. Tweets do as well. Facebook posts for the most part do not. I understand some posts on public pages can. But the vast majority of Wall posts never show up in web search results.

Google+ One-Way Following Defines Its Experience

When you look at the chart above, on a strict feature count, Google+ is more like Facebook. It’s got comment threading, video chat, inline media, and limited sharing.

But for me, the core defining design of Google+ is the one-way following. I can follow anyone on Google+. They may not follow back (er…put me in a circle), but I can see their public posts. This one-way following is what makes the experience more like Twitter for me. Knowing your public posts are out there for anyone to find and read is both boon and caution. For instance, I’ll post pics of my kids on Facebook, because I know who can see those pics – the people I’ve connected with. I don’t tend to post their pics on Twitter. Call me an old fashioned protective parent.

That’s my initial impression. Now as Google+ circles gain ground in terms of usage, they will become the Facebook equivalent of two-way following. Things like sharing and +mentions are issues that are hazy to me right now. Can someone reshare my “circle-only” post to others outside my circle? Do I have to turn off reshare every time? Does +mentioning someone outside my circle make them aware of the post?

Google has created quite a powerful platform here. While most features are not new innovations per se, Google+ benefits from the experience of both Twitter and Facebook. They’re off to a good start.

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Hutch CarpenterHutch Carpenter is the Vice President of Product at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.

This entry was posted in Innovation, Management, Social Media, Strategy, collaboration, marketing. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Google+ Challenges Both Facebook and Twitter

  1. Pingback: Blogging Innovation » Google+ Challenges Both Facebook and Twitter « Blogging Future

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  3. Emil says:

    I see plus as something that both Google and the end user needed. FB, as well as twitter have a slue of options and purposes but I believe + has one distinct advantage, it was behind the curve. In this case, with these technologies, it paid and will pay to have lost in the beginning. It’s great to be able to use what works, kick what does’t and except that it’s a game yet to be perfected. Twitter FB have some humble learning to do…Though they still have a lot to teach.

  4. Nice comparison – it will be interesting to see how FB v G+ looks in a few months time. If FB are consistent then they’ll try and incorporate some ideas like they did when Twitter became a lot more popular.

    Hutch, would you consider Facebook’s ‘share’ button on images and links is a kind of resharing? It is limited but it’s still there.

    Also, I had thought you could follow people on Facebook by adding them as a friend but the person never adding you back. You just can’t interact with them on posts with likes or comments. I would have thought of that as a one-way follow.

    My 2c :)

  5. Steve Johnson says:

    I would like to add contacts to my Following circle, but such contacts tend to be very prolix. How can I arrange for posts from those I am following to not pollute my home Stream? I guess I need a separate G+ account to get the equivalent of a Twitter stream,
    without polluting my lower volume Facebook-similar G+ stream.

  6. Emil -

    Good point about the second mover’s advantage here. Google clearly studied what worked and what didn’t here.

    I will note that this is not a Christensen-like attack from below. Google+ is quite full featured. Twitter actually occupies the simpler, lower end of the spectrum.

    What wil be interesting is to see how both FB and Twitter respond to Google+.


  7. Andrew -

    You know, a couple folks have brought that up over on Google+, where this post was shared:

    I guess there is sharing, but it’s inconsistent and not something that’s apparent. And I think the most common activity, wall posts by others, are not shareable.

    On Facebook, you can follow people’s “pages”, but not their profiles. Vast majority of people have profiles.


  8. Steve -

    I’d love the option to designate certain Circles are eligible for my main stream. This would let me hold back some circles from the main stream, only accessing them when I want to.


  9. Facebook Lists:

    I’ve been using these heavily for years. Facebook did move their access, but I still use them exactly as I use Google+ Circles.

    As with changing anything in FB, it’s not exactly user friendly. But, you can filter your Facebook wall by list by clicking the drop-down arrow next to the Top News • Most Recent ▼ at the top of your News Feed. I even made a “Watch List” that I pretty much use as my main feed instead of everyone.

    You can also choose to share something to only a certain lists or custom lists & people by clicking the lock icon to the left of the Share button.

    You can edit the lists by clicking Account ▼Edit Friends. Then just click Edit Lists ▼ to the right of the peoples’ names to change their list(s).

  10. Pingback: Comparación de Google+ con Twitter y Facebook

  11. Thanks for this am sharing your article Hutch. Good comparison. Just a quick thought – on point four – Facebook also has share possibility. Though you have rightly mentioned in one of your comments that sharing is not possible at all times – which is correct.

    Thanks once again.


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  15. Cato Aune says:

    It could be interesting if you expanded the chart to also include LinkedIn. I think Google+ (in the future) could let you have both your personal and professional social networks in one place, but still keep them apart.

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