Google + Impressions

I was excited when I heard about Google +.  I was even more excited when I was able to start using it.  I usually like when Google introduces a new product, so I was looking forward to being able to use this new social network.

After a week, I have to admit that I’m disappointed.  Google+ is no Facebook killer.  It doesn’t really even have the features to compete with Facebook.  No groups, no pages, no wall, no direct message.  Its more like twitter than anything else.  And I already have twitter.

I keep seeing messages saying “You’re using Google+ wrong” or “Stop trying to use Google+ like Facebook”. I see an inherent problem with statements like that.  You can’t tell people how to use a social network.  People need to be able to use it the way they want to use it.  You can direct your users through design to use it the way you might want them, but you can’t tell people that they are using it “wrong”.  They have to find how they want to use it.  And I don’t know yet how I want to use it, or if I want to use it.

So what did I want?  I guess I wanted something along the lines of Facebook, but without the games and a better privacy policy.  But that’s not what I got.  But I can’t really tell you what I got, because I don’t know what its supposed to be. I haven’t figured out a way to use it that benefits me, or even really interests me.  Its certainly no facebook killer.

What do you think of Google +?

Continued Musings on Social Networks

I’ve been continuing my musings on a social network for entertainment industry professionals. The more I think about it, the more I am seeing that the current social networks do not serve the entertainment industry well. Sites like LinkedIn are work well for people in traditional industries, but for people like actors, dancers, and other entertainment industry professions, LinkedIn fails.

Social Networks like Linkedin or Facebook become too cluttered with other information and applications and don’t provide ways for people in the industry to properly connect. I guess the real problem is that they are not focused on what people in the industry might want or need. And why should they? Sites like Linkedin and Facebook aren’t really for us. They are for other people. People who have “normal” careers.

So, what would a social network for people in the entertainment industry be? What features should it have? A few that I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Discussion groups
  • Easily updated resumes
  • Photo gallery
  • Twitter/Google Buzz/ integration
  • Email notifications (and the ability to turn them on or off)
  • Simple way of connecting with others
  • Such a network should also be simple to navigate and use. Ideally, anyone who was familiar with Facebook or Myspace would have no trouble in using it.
  • Should be focused on network rather than the social.

What other features should a social network for people in the entertainment industry have?

Is there an alternative to Facebook?

Social media has a value to those who use it. That value is found only when we can connect with people. That’s why Facebook has become so successful. As a platform, Facebook’s strength is that…well, pretty much everyone you know is on there. If one was to try and leave Facebook and go to another social network, the major problem you would encounter would be the lack of people on the new network. A social network needs people to be…well, social. Since Facebook has the people, it has a value that no other social network can match.

The problem with Facebook is the high signal to noise ratio.  You have all those people you friended because you felt bad about saying no, and all those people who are acquaintances but whom you don’t know very well, and those people who didn’t like you in high school but friended you anyway so you friended them back because…wait, why did you do that again?  Then there are the apps.  The apps that clutter up your wall, the apps that share you information with…well who its being shared with isn’t really clear, is it?  Then there’s all that abysmal privacy stuff.

I would leave facebook, if there was a clear alternative.

But that thought got me thinking.  What is the value of the social networks I belong to to me as an artist?  Aside from Facebook, what do I use sites like Twitter or Linkedin for? I mostly use twitter to either follow people I find interesting (celebrities and authors) as well as industry people (actors, directors, theatre companies, etc).  Linkedin was originally used for keeping me linked to theatre-people that I had worked with, or were in my circle.  However, as time went on, people from my Day Jobtm started to find their way onto my profile.  Now, people from the day job outnumber the entertainment people on Linked in.  That’s not a bad thing, its just not what I intended.

If there was a viable social network that was aimed at just people in the entertainment industry, I would join it.  I don’t think I would completely ditch Facebook though. It has its uses socially.  But I would probably lock down my facebook profile, make it non-searchable, and cull some of those people I really don’t know, and start a “page” to connect with people that I don’t know (I feel kind of weird about having a “fan page” considering I don’t really have “fans”, but wth).  That way I’d still have the connection with friends, but I could move my professional connections over to the new platform.

Would it be possible to have some social network just for people in the entertainment industry?  Its possible that I could create a social network using Open Source software that could be intended for people in the Entertainment industry.   The software to do this exists right now in the form of Elgg, or  maybe Diaspora (provided that’s something installable) when its completed.  The problem in starting such a thing up, would be the whole issue of what makes a social network valuable: people. It would take time to grow, and if people did join, it could only be valuable to them if they invited their fellow colleagues as well.

So, I pose the question to other people in the entertainment industry: do you find Facebook useful professionally?  Would you use a social network focused on actors, directors, writers, casting directors, etc?

Social Media: yes you should tweet

Warning: I’m going to talk twitter.  Not about things that happened on twitter, but about twitter in general.

Let’s face a sad truth: most actors don’t have a publicist.  Heck, most actors don’t even have enough of a following to need one.  Most actors don’t have a following at all.  Using social media can help.  Oh sure, chances are that you won’t be the next Wil Wheaton, but you can gain a bit of a following.  And even more importantly, you can use social media to network with other actors and other industry types.

I’m going to skip over Facebook, since it seems that practically everyone on the planet is on Facebook, and those that aren’t have decided not to be for some very good reasons.  On the topic of Facebook, I will say this:  since “practically everyone on the planet” (if you’ll excuse the gross exaggeration) is on Facebook, refusing to make use of this social medium may limit your ability to connect with both other people in the business, and with people who might want to follow you.  Maybe I’ll cover this in another post.

But for the moment, I’ll cover Twitter.  To get the basics out of the way, wikipedia describes twitter as: a social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers.

So why would you want to use a “microblogging” service that limits you to 140 characters? Isn’t there a massive signal to noise ratio problem?  Well, the honest truth is, yes.  But you control who you follow, and if someone annoys you, simply stop following them.  The benefits of the medium far outweigh the detriments.  A social medium like Twitter works best when it is considered a two-way communication.  That should be your goal: communication.  People who follow you will do so because they find you interesting.  The best way to keep them around is to be interesting (I know, no pressure).  So, how do you do that?

Well, first off, I’m not an expert.  I’m not a “Social Media Guru” (a phrase thrown around quite a bit these days), but I have been on twitter for three years, so I know what I like.  And more importantly, I know what I don’t like.  Here’s what I don’t like:

  1. Over-sharing. Don’t share things that you wouldn’t share with acquaintances.  Or things that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to know.
  2. Staying “on message”. There are a lot of politicians who try to use twitter, but fail because they don’t consider it a two-way communication.  Check out Jack Layton or Michael Ignatieff.  These two politicians use twitter as a broadcast, just sending words out into the ether, all of them words that stay on their political message.  There is no insight into the individuals behind them.  That makes for bad tweeting.
  3. Infrequent updates. Just like a blog*, you need to update often.  If you only update every week or so, I’ll forget about you.  Worse, there are many users who will purge tweeters that don’t update very often.  You need to make sure that you update regularly to keep you followers engaged.
  4. Flooding. While it is important to update regularly, it is possible to over-tweet and essentially spam your followers.  Nothing is more annoying than a flood of tweets, especially if those tweets don’t present anything new.  Much as I love the Ontario Arts Council, their twitter feed tends to flood its followers.

As you can see, there’s a fine balance.  Tweet regularly, but not too much.  Don’t just broadcast but engage with your followers.  Retweet when you find something interesting that you want to share (its a way of saying “this is cool” about the person you’re re-tweeting).

So, why is this important?  I stated earlier that you could use twitter to build a following.  That’s true.  You can also use it to network with other actors/directors/people interested in theatre.  As a Canadian actor, you know that we don’t really have stars here. We don’t have a machine that makes people “famous”.  If you want to put the word out about the work you do, maybe get a bit of a following, you should use every tool you can.  And twitter is one such tool.

On its own, it won’t make you famous, but it could help.  And it definitely can’t hurt.

* This is me, throwing stones at my glass house. Yes, I know I don’t update my blog as often as I should.