Thursday, July 28, 2011

Google+ or Facebook?

So I've been on Google+ for a little bit now. I'm liking it. I definitely concur with the folks who say it looks like Google might have finally found a firm toehold in the social space. The Google+ circles are much easily to navigate and make much more sense for organizing the people you socialize with than Facebook's clunky friend lists. I've seen some savvy figures in social media saying they're going to dump Facebook for Google+. Might be too early for that, I think.

In any event, local marketing types and other folks who make it their business to stay on top of social media are organizing panel discussions and informal get-togethers to discuss the relative merits of the new social network. They've seen how challenging Facebook marketing can be. They figure they'd better start scouting Google+ now, before it goes from testing to general release. "To be at the forefront of the evolution of a platform gives you a real advantage when it comes time to use that platform for business," says Lyell Petersen, an internet marketing director and familiar face around local social media circles.

He's helping organize a get-together next Thursday at 6 p.m. where people wanting to know more about Google+ can explore and experiment with it together. They're calling it a "Google+ Hack Night" -- not the illegal variety, of course, but hacking in the sense of digging into the features to see what they can do. He's got questions of his own: how does Google+ integrate with the rest of the Google universe? How does your data and information, your Picasa pictures and Gmail contacts, get shared with Google+?

I also see a challenge for the new network: the simple matter of time. We don't have enough of it. How will we squeeze another social task on to-do piles already overflowing with Facebook statuses and Twitter updates and blog posts? That alone gives Google a higher bar to clear than perhaps Facebook confronted in its infancy, when teens and college students were about the only ones on social networks.

I hope Google+ sticks. Competition's a good thing. Maybe it'll even rescue the much-abused and totally degraded word "friend" from the ravages of Facebook.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Anthony verdict sparking jokes on Twitter

We hear all the time about all the good social networks have done. They've been credited with everything from helping overturn repressive dictatorships to reconnecting long-lost friends to changing forever the way information gets shared. When people talk about any negatives, criticism tends to focus on privacy risks inherent in sharing personal information across a public medium.

What we hear less criticism about is the vile behavior this newfound communicative freedom brings out in some of us. You can see a good example right now in a popular hashtag that has been trending this afternoon among Charlotte's Twitter users: #caseyanthonyplaylist. People are making jokes about what songs would be on Anthony's hypothetical iPod playlist now that she's been acquitted of murdering her young daughter. Some of the songs the internet jokesters have suggested: "You Be Killing 'Em," "All I Do is Win" and "Smooth Criminal." Someone suggested "Have You Seen Her" by the Chi-Lites and quickly added: "I'm goin' to hell for that one."

Social networks -- correction, people on social networks -- have a tendency to turn public tragedies into public spectacles, public sport. Everybody wants to join in the "fun" and show how clever they can be and maybe even get retweeted to their own 15 seconds of Twitter fame. (To be fair, the word "speechless" was also trending in Charlotte this afternoon, ostensibly from all the people tweeting about their disbelief over the not guilty verdict. That much you might expect, given the wall-to-wall coverage the case has received in the media).

Nevertheless, I suspect the Casey Anthony playlist meme is the one people will be talking about at the water cooler. "Some of y'all have me dying (no pun)," someone tweeted. "I feel terrible for laughing."

You should. We're better than that, people. At least I hope we are.