Just read a surprisingly interesting article on social networking on Business Insider, entitled “LinkedIn CEO: Does Anybody Have The Free Time For Google+?.” The article is on recent talks given by Linkedin CEO Jeff Weiner, super-agent Ari Emanuel (of Entourage fame) and Kara Swisher of AllThingsD.

Among other things, these three talked about the limitations of social networks.

I liked Weiner’s take:

“Nobody has any free time,” he said. “Unlike social platforms and TV, which can coexist, you don’t see people using Twitter while they’re using Facebook, or using Facebook while they’re using Linkedin.”

He went on to say that the social networking landscape has been pretty straightforward in recent years– people generally use Linkedin for professional networking, Facebook for family and friends, and Twitter to microcast their thoughts to an audience. But, “you introduce Google+, where am I going to spend that next minute or hour of my discretionary time? I have no more time.”

The writer then notes that “at some point social networking becomes a zero sum game. For Google+ to win in the mainstream, somebody else is going to have to lose.” I agree..

Here is my take on these mediums as they relate to social networking, in general, and to China, in particular:

Blogs. I had this discussion just yesterday with Damjan DeNoble of Asia Health Care Blog (and a summer associate at my law firm). We were bemoaning how so many of the great China blogs either no longer exist or are posting far less. I attribute this in large part to blogging having become less social. In the old days, this blog used to fairly frequently get hundreds of comments on a post. That virtually never happens anymore despite the fact that our readership is considerably higher now than it was then. Most people read blogs through RSS feeders as a source of information. They then tend to go elsewhere to communicate about what they have read.

Twitter. I was once a Twitter fan. I even did a quasi-mandatory blog post on China people on Twitter. I loved its immediacy. I loved getting five good answers within fifteen minutes of tweeting my question as to the best hotel in Urumqi for taking a deposition that could be broadcast over the internet (this really happened). But eventually, I got tired of how Twitter’s 140-character limit seemed to lead more to self-promotion than to real discussion and I shut it down. For a fuller explanation on why I am so down on Twitter, check out, “Is Twitter Relevant for China?.” I don’t think it is.

Linkedin. I have been on Linkedin since forever and I have always really liked it, both for what it is and for what it isn’t (though it seems to be trying a bit too hard to become what it isn’t). I like how Linkedin lets me keep easy tabs on “my people,” which means anyone with whom I have crossed paths and have thought something along the lines of “I like that person,” or “that person knows his stuff,” or “I am going to have to remember that person for the next time my client needs help from a shoe factory expert in Xinjiang.” I spend maybe five minutes a day on Linkedin, but in that time, I can see what has changed with my people and if one of my people has been promoted or changed jobs or whatever, I can send them a quick note congratulating them on their newest accomplishment. If you are one of “my people” and we have not yet linked, check me out here and let me know. And how cool is it that my Linkedin url is www.linkedin.com/in/chinalaw?

I also like Linkedin for its groups feature, which is my segue into making an unmitigated plug for the China Law Blog Group on Linkedin. It is a place for vibrant China discussions, Q&A, and networking. Most important of all, it is blissfully and near-religiously spam free. If you have not already joined it, you most certainly should and you can do so by going here.

Linkedin is trying to be more immediate and social, but I don’t think it has or ever really will succeed at that.

Facebook. I have never liked Facebook for anything more than stalking my two eminently charming daughters so I can surprise, embarrass and/or piss them off with my knowledge of their social lives.

Facebook is weird.

I don’t like how people I barely knew in high school ask to friend me. I don’t like how I always accept those friend requests because I don’t want to offend anyone. I don’t like how someone with whom I came to blows in college (and who pulled my hair when I got him in a full nelson) has asked me at least three times to be his friend. I don’t like how other people from my college who I do not even remember have asked me to friend them, forcing me to consult with my far more social college roommate on whether to accept or not.

Most of all, I dislike how what I say is broadcast to all of my “friends.” Both my mother and 14-year-old daughter can see me swear up a storm when I am angry, and be bored stiff when I post my thoughts on China.  I am also uncomfortable with my clients and business associates seeing me in social situations. I am from the old school and believe (and I am half-kidding here) that my clients should think that I am working on their particular matters 19 hours a day.

I have many China-related friends on Facebook, but my level of interest in what they have to say can really vary. Some of these people are real friends of mine (you all remember what real friends are, right? I mean as opposed to Facebook “friends”) and I want to know when they are off to Brazil or Xi’an on vacation. As for some of the China people whom I respect but do not consider friends, I could do without hearing about the great spaghetti bolognese they just cooked up.

Google+.  I am really liking Google+ and I am convinced just about all “China people” will eventually migrate over there and make it THE place for China discussions.

The two things I like most about Google+ are its circles feature and its newness. Its circle feature is sheer genius. Now I know Facebook allows you to form groups and divide out your friends that way, but near as I can tell, people don’t really do that. People do do that on Google+, however, because it is so easy and it is pretty much mandatory. So I have set up a China circle in which I have put all of the China people I know who I have been able to find on Google+. I put some of those people into my circle of “business friends” as well, consisting of people I know mostly from business, but truly know and like. An even more select few have made it into my friends circle, reserved for real friends.  The beauty of Google+ is that nobody knows the circle or circles in which I have put them. The other beauty of the circle thing is that on busy days I just check my friends and family circles and I skip the rest.

I am telling you, this thing is working. Good China people are already on there,  good information is being conveyed, and good discussions are ensuing.

The newness of Google+ is also a plus (bad pun intended). I like how I can take all that I have learned from other social networking sites and apply them to Google. It’s a fresh start. The people I never knew in college? They can put me in whatever circle they like, but I am going to put them in my “sandbox circle” until I have figured out where they ultimately belong.  Just as my iPhone has a folder called “unused” for those apps I barely ever use, I know I will eventually create something similar for those people whose comments I want to read only during the third year of my retirement, if I ever retire. Just have to think of the right name for it….

My grand plan is to start pushing some of my Facebook friends over to Google+ and then to shut down my Facebook account entirely. I hope to accomplish this within the next few months, but no way will I go into 2012 with my Facebook account intact. Google+ and Linkedin are all I need. Take that Zuckerberg.

I am here on Google+ (my profile is still a work in progress). Circle me if you want to know what I am saying there (pretty much nothing so far) and I will probably put you in one of my circles. Just don’t bother asking me which one.

What do you think? Is Google+ the future for those interested in China? Where do Facebook and Linkedin fit into the China discussion and into your life? Does Twitter even matter?

Photo of Dan Harris Dan Harris

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network. 

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network.  His work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

He was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), is rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (also its highest rating), and is a recognized SuperLawyer.

Dan is a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and constantly travels between the United States and Asia. He most commonly speaks on China law issues and is the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog. Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed Dan regarding various aspects of his international law practice.

Dan is licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at his firm, Dan focuses on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.