Why Google+ Is So Good For Facebook

I'm posting this week from sunny San Francisco, where yesterday's earthquake was only a 3.6, rather than a 5.9 back home in New York. Ah, the irony!

Still, in keeping with our earthquake theme, something seismic is happening, and it concerns how competition is actually proving good for Facebook, and by extension, all of us who use it. At the risk of reading too much into it, yesterday's announcement by Facebook that it would revamp its privacy controls -- often with the result that those controls would be, well, more controlling -- looks like it was prompted by the degree of control users have when they use Google+.

Consider: Facebook has rarely changed its privacy settings to be more conservative without a user outcry demanding it be done first. Second, some of the controls mimic Google+, especially the one that makes it easier for a person to choose who a status update is meant for. That's the very feature at the core of Google's latest attempt at being a play-ah in social media: a simple button at the end of each update allows users to decide which Circle gets to see it.  

While it's unlikely that Facebook will ever adapt a structure in which friends are automatically grouped into -- in Google+ parlance -- Circles, this change means that Facebook is coming to terms with its biggest flaw: that it just isn't natural to share everything with everybody. While Facebook has had Groups for a long time, most people I've talked to rarely use them. I'd have to conjecture that it's because Groups are not the default on Facebook; sharing everything is, as befits a service that once upon a time was composed of one oversharing Circle known as college kids. It's also well worth mentioning that generally, you have to approve being tagged in a photo from hereon in. While there's little about me, at this point in my life, that produces online photo embarrassment, allowing users to exert control over what's posted about them is a long-overdue step for Facebook. 

Additionally, Facebook is making it easier to change privacy controls. The new settings allow users to make changes directly from their profile page, and to see their profile page as others see it. I don't think the latter feature has ever been available on Facebook before; the former has always meant wending your way through specific Account and Privacy Settings pages that people seldom visit on Facebook day-to-day. To be honest, it's not as though changing settings has been as difficult as building the pyramids, although it has often been described as such. Still, since many of us suffer from acute settings fatigue, it's a relief to know this will be made easier.  

The end result is a kinder, gentler Facebook, one that does a better job of keeping the threat of Google+ at bay. What that means for Google+, I don't know, but I do know it's good news, in the long run, for Facebook -- and for all of us who spend time using social media.

2 comments about "Why Google+ Is So Good For Facebook".
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  1. Radiah Givens from Freelance-Social Media Consultant, August 24, 2011 at 4:55 p.m.

    To be Honest Google Plus is not a threat to Facebook at all. For some people, Google has failed before they even got out of the gate because of the invitation issue. Individuals don't like exclusion, and because of that not so intelligent marketing move they will pay the price..... some don't think so, but mark my words they will...

  2. Barb Chamberlain from Washington State University Spokane, August 24, 2011 at 5:09 p.m.

    Respectful disagreement with Radiah--Gmail was once invite-only and now it's ubiquitous. Facebook started with the same approach of privileged access and it didn't stop them from opening the gates to let in the floodwaters since that's where the market potential lies.

    Testing with tech-savvy early adopters to work out the kinks isn't a bad strategy; it only fails if the product doesn't have enough appeal to ride out those early bumps. I haven't fully tested the capabilities of Google+ but Circles are intuitively appealing, as are the many sharing mechanisms, built-in video, etc. I tried the FB List function and could never make sense of it (and I'm one of those early adopters).

    Catherine, I've had the ability to see what my FB profile page looks like to others for a long time. I don't remember when it first appeared but I do remember checking it after updating privacy settings following the big outcry quite some time ago following one of the first big media hits on them for privacy violations when they lowered the walls and we had to raise them ourselves. Since they seem to roll out features inconsistently maybe that's new to some.

    Definitely good news to have them thinking of what *users* want. May the trend continue.


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