Monthly Archives: July 2011

Google+: The New Facebook?

By Jaclyn McNeil

If you’re like me, you’ve had your Facebook profile for a while. I created my Facebook profile sophomore year of high school; I have way more friends than is humanly possible to call actual friends. That reminds me: I’ve been meaning to “trim the fat” on my friend list.

Through the years I’ve upped my privacy controls but I still feel as though I have over-shared and overstayed my welcome on Facebook. Then along came Twitter. I was skeptical at first, but the more I used it the less I found myself on Facebook. It may be because I am pickier about whom I follow and who follows me. In a sense, I have under-shared on Twitter. Now Google+ has come along—could it be the perfect marriage between Facebook and Twitter?

Let’s go into what makes Google+ different than Facebook and Twitter. Google+ has created the concept of virtual social circles. When you befriend someone, you place them in the social circle to which they belong. There are circles for friends, family, classmates, co-workers and custom groups. When you create a post, you select which circle of friends you’d like to see it. No more worrying about offending your mom.

The Google+ Hangout creates rooms for your social circles to meet up and video chat. Once the hangout goes live, it will prompt in your friends’ stream. Then your friends can join the hangout until the maximum 10 people have joined.

One of the more interesting features of Google+ is its engine used for finding content that you are interested in called Sparks. Google+ Sparks is a collection of articles, videos, photos and other interests. Your “sparks” will show up in the stream, which is similar to Facebook’s news feed—a flow of information that is shared by your friends.

“Sparks is essentially the stuff that flows to you through the interest graph and the stream is the stuff that flows to you through the social graph,” said Andrew Tomkins, a top search engineer for Google.

If Google uses its expertise in search quality, it will be able to streamline its feeds to be more relevant and interesting to users than the Facebook news feed. If this possibility transpires, then businesses could use Google+ to target users in a more direct manner than Facebook.

But businesses need to hold out before creating a Google+ profile. In a post by Google+, Product Manager Christian Oestlien asks businesses to be patient while the Google+ team creates a unique experience for businesses.

“How users communicate with each other is different from how they communicate with brands, and we want to create an optimal experience for both,” said Oestlien.

The Google+ team plans to run a small experiment with a few marketing partners to see the effect of including brands on Google+.

Can Google capture the social media and business world? It’s not the first time the search giant has given social media a whirl. In 2007, Google spearheaded a project called OpenSocial to create a standard for social networking. The project fell short of goals mainly because Facebook withheld its cooperation.

In 2009, Google released its next attempt at the social world with Buzz, which integrated Facebook and Twitter into Gmail. Buzz created a social network from users’ Gmail contacts, which fueled fears that Google was sharing too much information about its users. This glitch, mixed with a lack of buzz about Buzz, sent Google back to the drawing boards and Facebook reined king.

That brings us to Google’s newest social media venture, and don’t think Facebook is going to take this lying down. Earlier this summer Facebook hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to run a smear campaign against Google. USA Today reports that Burson-Marsteller, a top-five public relations firm, contacted a variety of media outlets to run stories and editorials about how the Google Gmail feature Social Circle tramples the privacy of millions of Americans and violates federal fair trade rules.

Chris Gaither, Google’s senior manager of global communications and public affairs, deflected the PR firm’s attack of Gmail privacy.

“We have seen this e-mail reportedly sent by a representative of the PR firm Burson-Marsteller. We’re not going to comment further. Our focus is on delighting people with great products,” said Gaither.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it is no coincidence Facebook’s smear campaign against Google took place just two months before the release of Google+. I think the battle between the two will continue to get ugly.

Only time will tell if Google+ can successfully combine the features of Facebook and Twitter. If it can do both and create a solid platform for businesses, Google+ may rein king.

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Social media v. Casey Anthony

By Jaclyn McNeil

Casey Anthony was found #notguilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in the trial that became this summer’s most watched reality TV show. The verdict was tweeted, retweeted, facebooked and blogged, mostly with outrage and disbelief. The media and public had already reached a verdict in the case long before the trial even began: guilty.

The social media world was captivated by the case and trial. Twitter accounts were created to give live feed of the trial throughout the day including OSCaseyAnthony, managed by the Orlando Sentinel, and NinthCircuitFL, managed by the 9th Judicial Circuit Court.

News coverage of the case by reporters Greta Van Susteran, Nancy Grace, Bill O’Reilly, Shep Smith and Geraldo Rivera aired around the clock with almost all bias toward the guilt of the accused, Casey Anthony. The lack of evidence did not seem to sway the media or the public’s opinion. Although the trial is over, the social media trial of Casey is not. TIME magazine  has coined the trial as “The Social Media Trial of the Century.” The day the verdict was announced 325,283 Twitter posts about the case were made with “not guilty” appearing 20,000 times.

In the courthouse of Twitter and Facebook Casey Anthony is guilty. And that is what makes this case and trial so unique: the public has followed the case and trial through media outlets and announced their verdict in a public platform through social media.

Eric Dunning, a communication and justice theory instructor for the Department of Communication Studies at The University of Alabama, believes that social media has revolutionized the way people respond to criminal cases.

“The media creates a virtual town square, and the general public becomes an extension of the media as citizen journalists on social media,” said Dunning.

Social media allows people to gain rapid information and rapid response. The public’s disbelief of the verdict was likely a result of the misleading information from the media.

“The media made the prosecution seem better than it was, so naturally viewers were shocked by the result,” said Dunning. “Shows stir up controversy; the media needs a convenient villian and a great storyline.”

So what is the next step for Casey Anthony? Crisis management public relations expert Glenn Selig, founder of the PR firm The Publicity Agency, represented lead defense attorney Jose Baez. In an article for PR NewsChannel Selig comments on the Casey Anthony case, the potential money that may be made and defending clients to the public.

“If big money comes from anywhere, it will be from the entertainment world–movies and books–where payment is commonplace. And the less of the story that is told now, the more valuable a book or movie deal will be,” said Selig.

If the public finds out that Casey Anthony is making money off of an interview, what is the potential backlash a network may receive? Is it worth the risk?

One thing can be certain: book deals and interviews will be made and there are many candidates. Juror number 6 has hired PR firm French/West/Vaughn. According to the New York Times a network executive said the fee to talk to juror number 6 was $50,000.

“That could be a book by itself and you could make the argument that because they arrived at the verdict they did, their story is now worth more than it would have been had they found her guilty,” said Selig.

The public is fascinated by this case, and a book deal or interview with juror members would attract a lot of attention. The public backlash may be minimal for jurors since they have no direct association with the Anthony family.

However, as Selig points out, “Whoever is looking to make money on this needs to be very careful because just talking about capitalizing on the death of a child feels dirty.”

Casey will likely make some sort of formal appearance or book deal in spite of Selig’s warning. When she gets out of jail she will probably be shunned by most of the public and will run into the arms of the media. We have made Casey Anthony a celebrity, whether we like it or not.

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