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?

  • I agree it’s a zero-sum game. Initially I was sceptical about G+ because of this, and because of its muddying of the FB/Twitter distinction between info and socialising, but its ability to do proper conversations looks like a winner. Unless Twitter gets more Weibo like, it might start to lose out.

  • Any thoughts on Sina Weibo? It wasn’t mentioned in your article – not that it’s really gaining traction stateside, but seems to be getting quite popular in China.
    I personally don’t use it (don’t really have the time to put into another social networking service) but I’ve heard good things; seems like a decent mashup of Twitter and Facebook. I don’t think it has an equivalent to ‘circles’ on Google + (but I could be wrong).
    Would probably be good for people outside of China who want to keep in touch with Chinese friends & colleagues, but may not be ideal for all the broader types of discussion surrounding China issues (it’s subject to content control).
    Inside of China, it seems like one of the better social networking options available for those without VPN access.
    IMHO, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are mostly distractions for me. Sometimes they are fun; and sometimes they serve as a way to point to interesting content. Not really a replacement for good blog content, however…it’s more like another layer of things to read.

  • Too many for Social Networking – I’ve to spend more time on these sites.

  • Chris

    Of course, for those of us in China, Google+ blocked. Keep on blogging 😉

  • Good point. Facebook scares me. Google+ is very interesting. Not sure if this is because of the newness of it or because it’s Google or because it’s actually different though. I DID like Facebook at the beginning, until about the point everyone and their mother started knowing what the hell you were up to. Will the same thing happen with Google+?

  • Keane Shum

    Actually I read it first on the Business Insider thing you took the lead from. Jeff Weiner knows what he’s doing.

  • Marshall

    Tom from MySpace just tweeted this viral video about Mark Zuckerberg’s reaction to Google+
    Thought you guys might like to check it out.

  • Rebecca M.

    Google+ is the place to be and the real question is whether people will completely shut down their Facebook accounts or just check them way less frequently.

  • martijn

    I personally think that LinkedIn will be feeling the heat soon enough.
    All it would take is for Google to add a standardized “My CV” tab and the possibility to share this with just the people in your “Job related” circle.

  • Vincent

    I can’t wait! In the mean time, we all want a +1 button on your chinalawblog! Cheers, Vincent

  • Dan,
    As a GC based in Beijing, I am an avid reader of your blog and am impressed you managed to get a hold of a G+ invite.
    Any chance of sending one my way so I can “circle” you?

  • Well said, Dan. I was just telling a friend of mine that I encounter several interesting articles each day on + that I wouldn’t have found otherwise; the signal to noise ratio is just so much better than on Facebook or even Twitter.

  • Julie C.

    Google+ is where the China people are heading. I also think you are right about Twitter. It was fun for a while, but now it is just a bunch of people using it to link over to whatever it is they have said elsewhere, and all just to improve their SEO. Also, so many of the interesting China people have abandoned it not by signing off completely but by not posting much of anything any more.

  • Twitter is fun, and I got to know some great people thanks to this platform. I am on Facebook, but my account is inactive. Linkedin is convenient, but there is too much spam to my taste.
    Google Plus is very well thought out, I agree with you. If it pushes its members toward sharing and commenting more (than Facebook/Twitter/Linkedin), it will probably become the platform of choice for professionals everywhere.

  • DaMn

    Are you saying if I post a comment in reply to a contact’s message in Google+ it will not be shared with everyone in the groups they specify; people I may or may not know and have no way to judge the appropriateness of my replies?
    At first glance it seems Google+ just packaged what people are actually using the mediums for without the pretenses.

  • Ed

    I tried to have a look at your Google+ profile, Dan, but as far as I can tell, it isn’t accessible in China. Oh well.

  • Dave

    I am like you in that I started out liking Twitter but by the end I realized that the only people still tweeting about China were the unemployed and the “consultants” without much work and so I quit it. I have never liked Facebook for all the reasons you gave. I’ve been on Google+ for a couple of weeks now and I really like it, though of course I have to use my VPN to get to it.

  • M.

    It may be the future for those interested in China but working outside of it. 1990s-era internet snail speeds + government attacks on Google + government attacks on VPNs = not terribly helpful to those of us within the country.
    But to be fair, that’s also what makes a lot of us stay off Facebook.

  • Vobar

    If you mean for the English speaking China set, I completely agree with you. But if you mean for the Chinese speakers, then I think you are dead wrong.

  • wannabeyourpal

    I was the guy who pulled your hair in college. You didn’t really have me in a full nelson, by the way, you were just kind of, well, groping.
    Anyway, don’t you think it’s swell that I’ve put all that behind me and want to make friends with you now on facebook? Don’t be a sourpuss, accept my invitation. It will prove that, like me, you’ve moved on.
    -your future friend

  • AS

    I agree with you. I like G+, but I hate using G+ in China!

  • Phil

    I just found your blog today, for the first time, by clicking on a facebook ad. Ironic. I really don’t see the point of Google + unless everyone I know and care about switches over. I just don’t see that happening. Google +and Facebook are more or less the same, I am certainly too lazy to duplicate everything. So until everyone leaves Facebook, I’m staying there.

  • Steve M.

    Once again I think you are ahead of the curve. When you abandoned Twitter I was both angry and sure you were wrong. Now I realize you were absolutely right as it has continued to go downhill ever since. It really has been reduced to little more than a bunch of quasi-employed consultants doing little more than linking to whatever piece of drivel they have just written on some obscure site somewhere. I haven’t been on it for at least two months.
    Like so many, I have been sick of Facebook for quite some time. Now I just need to get a Google+ invite. Would you send me one?

  • Your opinions about the social networks echo my sentiments, although I have not invested any time into LinkedIn. I found your blog when I was studying China in grad school this spring at University of Colorado Denver. I’ve found your blog posts to be very insightful and educational. I keep coming back to see what you’re saying because the continually evolving mysteries of China have captured my curiosity – and you always have a view that enhances my understanding.

  • Dan

    @Patty Craven,
    Thank you so much for your kudos. They are very much appreciated!

  • I am glad to hear someone else echoing my sentiments about these mediums.

  • Sun King

    I agreed with you when you wrote this, but I am getting the sense that Google+ is petering out, both overall and for we China people. I note that you don’t go on there much at all.