So, I was a little nervous when I first heard about the new way Google+ is handling your +1 activity. I’ve spent the last couple of days reading everything I could find on it, and watching how it works in real life. Here’s what I’ve learned and experienced so far.
What’s New at Google+
In case you haven’t heard, here’s what’s up. It used to be that the only way anyone could see your +1 activity on Google+ was to go to your profile and click on your +1 tab. That is, if you have that tab visible on your profile.
As you can see, mine isn’t visible, which means no one had any way of knowing what content I had given a +1 to.
Yesterday, Shimrit Ben-Yair of Google announced:
We’ll occasionally highlight posts that were +1’d by people in your circles
And if you +1 a post, we may highlight it to your friends as well
Suddenly, your +1 activity wasn’t so private, or hard to find, anymore.
Here’s the way it appeared in my stream this morning:
What Does it Mean?
As with most any change, some people are really happy with the potential benefits, while others bemoan the potential consequences. How you feel about it likely has a lot to do with how you use Google+.
Facebook “Like” Comes to Google+
Your first reaction might be, “this is exactly what I don’t like about the Facebook “like” feature!” And, I agree. My news feed has all kinds of activity my friends have “liked” that I’m not interested in. It’s that “noise” that’s been missing from Google+. The exact feature that makes Google+ so inviting.
I think it’s too early to tell how disruptive this new feature will be. But, let me point out a couple of crucial differences between Facebook’s “like” sharing, and Google+’s +1 sharing. First, much of what you see on Facebook comes from people paying to have their content show up. For example:
You can tell by the “Sponsored” notation that it’s a paid advertisement. And, while the person who “liked” this link is one of my favorite people on Facebook, a job advertisement in an area nowhere close to me doesn’t belong in my news feed.
The problem is, with Facebook, the person who’s paying decides what shows up in my news feed. With the new Google+ feature, you can’t pay to have someone’s +1 show up in my stream. Google+ makes that decision.
This brings me to my second difference in Google +1 shares and Facebook “like” shares. Rumor has it that Google+ will share a +1 only after it determines that it might be relevant to you. My experience with Facebook makes it obvious that they have no relevancy requirement.
I’m sure we’ll never know much about Google+’s formula, but I trust them. They tend to do things like this right. Is the above +1’d post of the pool they showed in my stream related to the fact that I have a picture of my pool as my cover photo? I don’t know, but I love that pool . . .
Google+ Broadens the Conversation
On the other hand, your first reaction might be, “great, Google+ is connecting me with more cool people!” And again, I agree. When I comment on a Google+ post, if I see other comments I like, I’ll often add those commenters to my circles. Actually using Google+ is the best way there is to make great new connections.
So, in the example above, I have Katrina in my circles, and Katrina +1’d Lesley’s post, and that activity showed up in my Home (or “All”) stream. Since I like Katrina enough to circle her, we probably have some common interests. Combine this fact with the fact that Google+ is only sharing +1 activity that might be relevant to me, and chances are, what appears in my stream is going to interest me.
But, it gets even better. Because when I see that post from Lesley that interests me, I can immediately add her to my circles, by hovering over her name:
By the way, as I’ve talked about before, this is another good reason to get your Google+ hovercard in order. More new people are going to be seeing your posts in their streams. Give them reasons to connect with you by having relevant information appear on your hovercard.
The way I see it, if you’re a “connector,” rather than just a “broadcaster,” (and you should be), this new Google+ feature should benefit you.
What Should You Do About It?
This feature is going to appear automatically in your Home stream, no adjustments necessary. But, if you don’t like it, there are a few things you can do about it.
If You Don’t Want Your Google+ +1 Activity to be Public
You can keep your +1 activity from showing up in other plussers’ Home streams if you’re intensely private, or have some weird +1 tendencies you don’t want anyone to know about. By default, your activity could show up in your “extended circles,” which means not only people in your circles, but also the people in their circles, might see your activity.
You can change that if you want. It’s easy to do, but not so easy to find, so I made you a short video explaining how to do it:
If You Don’t Want to See Other People’s Google+ +1 Activity
As of today, Google+ doesn’t give you the option of turning this off. But, you can virtually eliminate it in two ways.
First, remember that the +1 activity is only shown in the “All” stream, which I call the “Home” stream. This means when I went to the circle I have Katrina in, I saw everything she posted, but did not see her +1 activity. I only saw that when I switched to my Home stream.
So, my advice is to rely heavily on your circles. Put the people you want to connect with into appropriate circles, and spend most of your time in your circles. (I do).
Second, remember that you can control what you see in your Home stream. Each of your circles has a settings wheel that allows you to see “More,” “Standard,” or “Fewer” posts in your Home stream from people in that circle. Just click on the wheel, and select your option:
What you can also see is the option to uncheck the “Show posts in Home stream” box, meaning no posts from anyone in that circle will appear in your Home stream. If you have people who drive you crazy with their +1 activity, you could put them all in a circle, simply uncheck the box for that circle, and view posts from those people only by going to that circle.
I think that’s a drastic remedy, however, as I suspect Google+ won’t show you enough irrelevant posts to drive you crazy.
How Will This Change Your Google+ Experience?
Most people I know and respect in the Google+ world are saying this is huge. Google+ now gives you the ability to extend your influence way beyond those who have circled you.
I hope this is true, but I am skeptical. Fact is, I spend almost zero time in my Home stream. And, most people I know who use Google+ also rely heavily on their circles. So, is anyone even going to see all this +1 activity sharing? Only time will tell.
On a more positive note, casual Google+ users, and those new to Google+, may not be so circle-dependent. Your ability to influence and connect with those people will undoubtedly improve.
The other reason I’m not willing to call it a huge success, yet, is that I don’t know how good Google+ is going to be at implementing the feature. Will they show only relevant posts? Will they limit it enough that people won’t get tired of it? If they don’t get it right, it could become as annoying as the Facebook “like” sharing.
I remain optimistic that they will get it right. Maybe I’ll even spend more time in my Home stream just to see who I can find. It’s certainly an easier way to do it than my current method of discovering people in the comment threads.
As we wait for time to tell the story, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this new Google+ feature. Will it change the way you use Google+? Share with me in the comments below.