Thursday, March 28th, 2013...10:14 am

“+1” for Google+?

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Well, as so often happens with me, my goal of posting every week this month fell through.  But for this, my last post, I want to look at social media.  One of my first projects when I was hired as the Educational Technology Librarian last July was to set up our social media presence.  Instinctively I started with Facebook and Twitter, expanding a couple months later to Pinterest.  But there I stopped.  As strange as it would sound to some people, actively keeping up three social media accounts takes a considerable amount of time; and too often you find businesses and professionals with social media accounts that have clearly been created because they thought they needed it, but they haven’t touched the accounts in months or even years.  To me, that’s a blatant example of jumping on the emerging technologies bandwagon just because it’s new and popular, rather than with a well-thought-out purpose in mind.

I hate to be too self-promoting here, but if you’d like to hear more about our experience with social media so far, I did just publish an article in this month’s AALL Spectrum, detailing both our experiences and the results of a member survey on social media in law libraries.  It’s actually reaction to that article that has inspired this post.  Immediately after the article came out, I started getting emails from LIS students all across the country who had questions about our experiences and my research into various social media.  One student was particularly interested in the survey result that showed such low usage of Google+ by law libraries, and was curious whether I had come across anything in my research that would show why it’s been so slow to catch on.

To be honest, the article was not research-based!  It was one-part personal reflection, one-part survey results.  However, his question did get me thinking.  Before I was even hired in this position, I had a curiosity about social media use in law libraries, and had taken it upon myself to see what types of social media other libraries advertise.  By far, the most prevalent, unsurprisingly, were Facebook and Twitter, and from there, as with the survey results I reported in my article, usage dropped off, scattered among Google+, Digg, and a few others.  So when I was hired and tasked with creating our social media presence, I’ll admit that I didn’t even think about using Google+.  I’ve been using Gmail as my personal email service for years now, but even with my integration into all things Google, I personally hadn’t ventured into Google+ either, so it frankly didn’t cross my radar.  But after receiving this question, I began to wonder why.

Google+ certainly isn’t a failed project.  From our law library Twitter account, I knew that Google+ Hang-outs were popularly used by the White House and the UN.  And from my involvement with various technology groups and publications, I knew that this world, too, commonly used the Hang-outs feature.  So to begin my research, I did what I so often do in these situations – I bit the bullet and signed up for a Google+ account so I could explore it myself.  While I found the layout to be very foreign, there were unsurprisingly many familiar features: I can “Share what’s new,” much like sharing my status; I can “+1” someone’s post, much like “liking” something; I can share photos and videos, create events, join groups (“Communities”); it even has hashtags that are trending.  From my initial exploration, I was not particularly blown away.

So I started reading some articles about Google+ and became a little more interested.  While it’s been slow to catch on, its popularity is growing, due perhaps in part to Google’s efforts to integrate Google+ into all of its other products, as well as Google+’s use by high-profile entities like the White House.  A recent Forbes article discusses just how quickly Google+’s popularity has grown, making it the second most popular social media site (behind Facebook) as of January.  The article discusses various reasons for this surge in popularity, the most interesting to me being Google’s “promise[] that Google+ profiles will factor more in search rankings over time.”  That is a very powerful proposition that will certainly cause people to rethink their views on Google+.

My research will certainly continue, but I cannot say that I’ve been convinced either way as of yet.  I am glad that I personally have forayed into Google+, given that nearly every article I’ve read at this point suggests that those who use Google+ are more technology-oriented, a good crowd for me to run with in my line of work.  However, I will need a little more convincing before I decide to start a page for our library.  If I had to predict, I would say that eventually we will make this addition to our social media presence, but I’m not sure it’s the right move just yet.  I’m open to being convinced, however, so if you have thoughts on this, do share!

With April incredibly already here, this will be my last post for a while, however, I will be at CALI and AALL this summer, and I look forward to seeing and meeting many of you then!

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