By now, you may have heard the name Michael Lee Johnson. He’s a young web developer who recently tried to promote his presence on Google+ by taking out a Facebook Ad. What’s wrong with that? According to Facebook’s terms of service, only everything. And while I don’t agree with Facebook, simply because of my personal and professional stand on Friction vs. Fiction, they are, of course, simply protecting their market share.
It is very easy to see why they don’t want to do battle with megalith Google over anything more than ad sales. One has to wonder, however, where the users come into play. Although diligently trying to evolve every single day, there’s absolutely NO guarantee that Facebook will not become the MySpace of tomorrow. (Meaning that they become a great neighborhood that nobody lives in or even visits any more – sort of the Three-Mile Island of Social Networks.)
This isn’t the only example of what I might call “random” censorship either. Meetup.com is notorious for ripping down local Meetup Groups that don’t fit their user terms (which change at will if you’re of a certain political slant). The bottom line is that social networks are NOT democracies. They are autocracies, and your participation is permitted and censored, at will, by the owner of the club. Simply building walls and creating friction will not protect them.
So where does this leave Google+ ??? Growing. By leaps and bounds in my estimation. Why? Because it addresses all of the issues Facebook created – over exposure, brand and personal comingling, general insanity and finally, the issue of demographic. (And right now, it’s a hotbed for techies.)
As I addressed in my recent Social Media eBook, the problem with ANY network is that you can only reach THAT network’s users. So while you can break demographics out further, you can only operate within the umbrella of users actually ON Facebook, for example. Who are THEY? Mostly, on Facebook at least, they’re people with free time. Yes, I have a ton of “friends” on my Facebook Page, and I value them! But I think Google+ and it’s Circles concept will provide a segregation which will eliminate having multiple Pages, Profiles, Groups, etc., etc. that ALL have to be updated.
Another service worth watching which addresses this, on the opposite side of the spectrum (the personal side), is Proust.com. Proust is a social network designed to connect MORE intimately than Facebook (as if that were possible), by connecting close family members and allowing them to commemorate events and share life stories. With the boom in genealogy that’s been created by the digital revolution, this is an idea that just might take off.
Final thoughts: We have seen some extreme reverberations to the social media age (which is a subset in itself of the digital age). Facebook overtaking MySpace (almost to annihilation) is only one example. There will be a backlash to the autocracy though, you can guarantee it. Because the internet may be a place of freedom – but social networks are NOT. A good example of this backlash is hacker group Anonymous. Even THEY are starting a social network (called “the Revolution”). Their platform? No censorship. This might seem to lean toward the shadow side of things we might all like to avoid … but in reality, is it the Michael Lee Johnson’s of the world and a simple Google+ banner ad that we protect? A question well worth consideration, at least.