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Google+, Day 12: Following People in Google+

Google+ lets me connect with friends and family, as well as follow and read the updates of other users I don't even know

I have already discussed Circles, the pros and cons of Circles, and why I am not a huge fan of the Circle interface. One aspect that hasn't yet been discussed, though, during this 30 Days With Google+ is the fact that I can follow other Google+ users who I am fairly sure have no intention of adding me to a Circle to read anything I might share.

It seems a little like cyber-stalking. Basically, I can add users that I have never met, and who don't know me from the proverbial Adam, and read their status updates and the information they share. Not only can I, but Google+ encourages it by providing a Following Circle by default. There is a significant caveat, though--I only see the Google+ posts those users choose to make public.

Google+ is a social network. At face value, that means a network of contacts with which I have some sort of relationship. I can add friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and other groups of people I know into various Circles so we can share status updates, photos, videos, and other information with each other.

That is the definition of the Facebook sort of social network, but there is also another popular one out there--Twitter. The following behavior of Google+ is like following someone on Twitter. For example, on Twitter Ashton Kutcher is only following 663 other Twitter accounts, while 7,436,392 people are following his Twitter account. Assuming all 663 people he is following are among the 7,436,392, that still leaves 7,435,729 stalkers--or at least voyeurs--who are interested in seeing what Mr. Kutcher shares with the world even though he has no idea who they are.

The closest Facebook equivalent is the Facebook Page. It provides that same sort of one-way communication with the general public à la Twitter that doesn't require that I first connect the recipient to my social network.

On Facebook, I have both a personal Facebook account which is connected with my social network of friends, relatives, and other contacts, and I have a Facebook Page which is followed by just under 2,000 people--most of whom I don't know personally. I can post my articles and other tech-related stories on my Facebook Page to share with whoever chooses to view them.

Google+ is working on setting up Business Profiles--providing a means for a business to set up a presence on the social network. But, for celebrities and every day average people, there is no need to have the two separate entities like I have on Facebook.

The beauty of Google+ is that I can have my cake and eat it too because I can choose who to share each post with on the fly rather than managing two separate Google+ identities. I can post an invitation to my son's birthday party complete with a linked map and directions to my Family Circle, a post to see who wants to go check out the Smurfs movie to my Friends Circle, and a link to my most recent article or some interesting tech news to Public.

The value of following someone on Google+, though, is very much a function of how much that person chooses to post to Public. For example, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leads all of Google+ with nearly 470,000 followers--yet he has not written a single post that is visible to the general public.

Google+ seems to have seamlessly incorporated aspects of both the personal social network--like Facebook--as well as the public social network--like Twitter. The challenge for some is to recognize that it is both and neither and adapt to sharing information on Google+ in whichever way is appropriate for the information being shared.

Read the last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With the iPad

Day 11: Understanding the +1 Button

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