Google+ was designed to be fundamentally different from Facebook and other social media in that it's meant to support both selective, private sharing and public sharing on the same platform. Those are two uses that other social media struggle to mix.
"You would share a lot more stuff if you would just have a bit more control over who saw it and if that was really built into the product, and not just a secondary afterthought feature," said Google+ engineer Joseph Smarr in a recent video interview.
Google+ has been criticized for being a "Facebook clone." (See, for example, CNN, Business Insider, and Atlantic Wire.) But mixing public and private sharing is a significant distinction between Google+ and Facebook. And it distinguishes Google+ from Twitter.
Sure, on both Facebook and Twitter, it's possible to mix public and private sharing. But it's not easy, and it often fails.
On Twitter, the default is for everyone's posts to be public to the whole world. There are private accounts, but most people don't bother with those. Twitter Direct Messages are completely private, but it's easy to slip up and make a public message out of one that was intended to be private, as Anthony Weiner did.
On Facebook, most people think their posts are private, but the privacy settings are just plain confusing, so things the user thought were private can end up public, and vice versa. And Facebook is not set up for completely public sharing.
By comparison, Google+ is designed with selective sharing built in from the ground up, using its Circles feature. Whenever you add friends, Google+ encourages you to add those friends to specific Circles. And whenever you post to Google+, the service asks you explicitly and prominently which of your Circles you want to see the post, or whether you want to make it public. When you share a post with a specific Circle, only friends in that Circle can see it.
This mix of public and private sharing will have significant implications for brands once they are allowed on Google+. It will be relatively simple to segregate followers into specific groups and send them targeted messages.
Marketers will also need automation tools to take full advantage of Google+. And Google is working on such tools, specifically comment filters for threads with hundreds of comments, along with application programming interfaces for third-party applications, Smarr said.
APIs are crucial to Google+'s growth, but Google wants to be sure the service retains its spirit, he said. "One of the things people like about Google+ is that it's 100 percent authentic. Every piece of content was created on Google+ by a real person typing and deciding who to share with."
The way I interpret these comments: Google+ wants to make it easier for you to import content from your blog or Flickr account, but it wants to avoid a situation where many accounts are robots, fed by automated applications with nobody actually monitoring the account and replying to followers.
Smarr's interview was only 11 minutes long, but it was dense with clues to the future for people watching Google+ closely. Watch it here.
Later in the interview, Smarr talked about the possibility that Google+ will permit pseudonymous accounts. We wrote about that Monday.
— Mitch Wagner , Editor in Chief, The CMO Site
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