Recently I was interviewed for the Excalibur, York University’s newspaper. The full article is reproduced below:
York’s Google+ page is devoid of students. Is this a sign that Google+ doesn’t matter anymore?
December 1, 2011
If York students are using Google+, they’re not involving York University.
The vast majority of the users in York’s circles (or who have York in their circles) are not undergraduate students. Most of the users are professors, York employees, alumni, and other university brand pages.
There has to be a benefit to students to want to add York to their Google+ circles, says Cheryl Williams, a graduate student in York’s communication and culture program. Williams’ work specializes in digital media.
If students are following York or any other university on Facebook and/or Twitter, they may not be interested in making the move to Google+.
The university tries to cover all their social media bases. York also has a Facebook page, Twitter account, Flickr stream, YouTube and Vimeo channels, and a WordPress blog.
“It is important for York to show that it is willing to connect with students and employees in non-conventional ways,” says Williams.
If Facebook and Twitter are where students spend their time, Williams argues, they can see messages without going to York’s website for new information.
Social media can be a great way for a large institution like York to open up a communication channel, Williams says. Students and staff can send and receive feedback. This helps put a face to a university of 55,200 students.
Google+ launched on June 28, 2011, seven years after Facebook. The launch coincided with a reported—but disputed—drop in Facebook users during May 2011.
“The media pounced when they saw a story about a drop in Facebook numbers but ignored the other reports that showed steady traffic,” says Williams.
Williams has Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts, but she rarely uses her Google+. If Google+ is to thrive, she goes on, it will need to give consumers a reason to use it in addition to Facebook. “They need to offer something that Facebook can’t.”
Although their “circles” concept was interesting and useful, Williams says, Facebook easily replicated this functionality in a matter of weeks.
Google is starting from scratch and only has ideas to add onto ones previously created.
There is debate whether Google+ was meant to compete with Facebook. “I don’t think that’s what Google had in mind,” says Navneet Alang, a technology columnist for the Toronto Standard and York PhD candidate. He doesn’t think Google+ wanted to be a social network in the same way Facebook is.
The big difference between between Google+ and Facebook, Alang argues, is that Facebook is a destination; it’s a site that users go to to check what your friends are doing. Google+ is more like a layer that sits on top of your Google web activity.
Alang also thinks that Google+ was an unfinished product. While Google has gotten away with releasing an unfinished product in the past, Alang thinks their decision to launch the network in beta-testing phase when Facebook’s features had already been established, might be the reason behind the cold reception to Google+. “Google probably should have released a more polished, finished product,” Alang says.
Google+ in one form is the future of Google, Alang argues. There won’t be Google’s traditional search business and another product called Google+; Alang believes it will all be integrated and Google+ will aggregate all Google users’ activity online.
“It’s not a question of whether [Google+] is going to survive… it’s Google’s future.”