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February 19, 2012

It's Not Social If You're Not Engaging

What does it mean to "be social" or to participate with people online, including family, closest friends and colleagues, but strangers as well? Is sharing a link social? Is telling somebody where you are or what you ate social? Is showing a photo of your kid social? It can be - and it can also not be. An action becomes social when you engage with others and provide value through your sharing and interacting beyond the action itself. This is something that's often missed.

Google+ was designed to aid you online doing what you already do offline - sharing stories, swapping jokes and links, hanging out, sharing photos and videos, with different groups of people. Of course, you can always share publicly if you like as well, giving everyone who runs into your content the option to see it and engage.

As communities grow, both offline and online, cliques and factions emerge. You can see it in small groups, like family reunions or church events, or notoriously high school. Google+ is no different. As people post fast and engage fast, it's possible that feelings get hurt, people misinterpret what you meant, assume something untrue, or label you based on one comment alone. It takes effort to move past that and not let those perceived slights take hold. It also takes effort to make sure you're contributing beyond your initial share. 

Unsurprisingly, I often get questions about what it takes to "be social" and to get visible or, at least, not feel ignored, on a network like Google+ or a blog. I wrote about some of those ways in 10 Great Ways to Get Discovered on Google+ (http://goo.gl/LyzJ1) and in July's The Secret 10 Step Guide to Giving Good Social (http://goo.gl/12drA), but the most critical part of being social is to be yourself and do what comes naturally.

My Social Contract With You Is As Follows:

1. I will always share content I think you will find interesting.

Not every share is for everyone, and if you're not using circles, instead sharing publicly, there's no doubt that not everybody shares your interests. I share what I think is interesting to a good chunk of you, which probably hasn't already entered your view.

2. I will always give you the benefit of the doubt - at least twice. :)

Sometimes, people are out to be trolls. But just because you don't always agree with me doesn't put you on my bad list. Even if you say something cross to me or someone I know well, I'll do my best to figure out why that is and I'll engage with you to see if the problem can be cracked. But if you keep going, that negative experience isn't something I'll want to make part of my life.

3. I will make every attempt to engage with you - no matter your visibility.

You'll find people on Google+ (and elsewhere) who don't do a great job of responding in comments, following mentions or acting elsewhere in the network. If anything, I may over-engage. I always participate in comment streams, well beyond my own feed, and I try my best to find when you're addressing me, no matter if you've got 1 million followers or 1.

4. I am always smiling, just like my avatar.

Take yourself too seriously and you lose. I have fun, and that means hanging out with people around the world, sharing music that I enjoy, posting pictures of my kids, and being sarcastic or humorous. When I stop having fun here, I should quit.

5. I will not get pigeonholed.

If you catch me posting too many Google+ centric posts in a row, apologies in advance. We're just updating so frequently, it's practically a necessity just to stay on top of things. But I haven't changed from the same guy who many of you have known for years. I still care about baseball and electronic music, and obscure trivia, TV and tech outside the Googleplex. So if you follow me, expect more.

Hitting 100,000 people having me in circles is pretty cool. It's a big number, and probably my last big number for a long time. After all, I'm not on the recommended users list - and that means you're finding me through word of mouth or through the content I bring here. It's almost 500% what I've seen from Twitter over 4 years and more than 600% the subscribers I had on FriendFeed. But just think, we've only been here just under 240 days, so this place is growing pretty fast. What's next for Google+ and for all of us? You'll have to wait and see, but now you have more of a hint of what you'll get from me.

To the next 100,000.

/via My Google+ Profile.