Are you looking for a soapbox, or a place to chat to friends?

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Analogies are great aren’t they. They act as a shortcut, by presenting something complex or different as something familiar that we understand. We automatically draw comparisons in our attempts to understand the world around us.

Which is a blessing and a curse.

When we use the correct analogy, everything is great, but when we get it wrong (through no fault of our own) we misrepresent the thing we are trying to understand.

Let me give you social media as an example.

Now everyone knows about Facebook. It was the first (after MySpace) truly popular social network. So naturally when a new social network comes along, our automatic response is to make a comparison. ‘Such and such is like Facebook’ is the usual analogy we make.

Well, it is not true. We are making an incorrect assumption. Let me show you what I mean, by drawing my own analogies for you. You can be the judge as to whether I got it right or not!

Seeing as Facebook is such an important one, let’s start there. Picture a place in your mind where you might meet up with people you know. It could be a school reunion, a family get together or simply meeting up with some colleagues after work for a drink. That in essence is what Facebook is about. Connecting and reconnecting with the people you know. You may talk about the weather, what’s on telly or something else. The point is you are surround by people you already know in real life.

Twitter is completely different. If you were to write a message on a Post It note and stick it to a noticeboard in a shop window, that would be Twitter. If you were to stand on a soap box in the middle of the street and air your views to the world, that would be Twitter. You may find people you don’t know like what you are saying and start to follow you. Great! You’re now building an audience. So, Twitter is the proverbial soap box, where you can broadcast to the world.

LinkedIn is a different kettle of fish again. You can think of it as a curriculum vitae of sorts, but with a twist, because it is also who you know, not what you know. For instance, you find the dream job at the most amazing company in the world and as luck would have it, you know someone who works there! Brilliant. You pick up the phone and call them. They in turn can point you in the right direction, by introducing you to someone else in the company and by giving you a personal recommendation. LinkedIn enables all of that.

Lastly, the newest kid on the block, Google+ is a complex beast.

The way it has been designed means that is a bit like all of the previous social networks I have mentioned. It takes the best bits and sticks them all together in one cohesive lump. It is up to you how you use it.

However, Google+ is not just a social network, it is a social layer as well. That is the confusing part for many people and a very good reason for an analogy.

So let’s try this. When you come into the world, your parents give you a name. You carry that name with you in everything you do. Every time someone sends you a letter or rings you, it is your name they are using. Every time you make an application for something, or create an online presence it is your name you use. That is basically what Google+ does with all of Google’s properties. It binds them all together under one account, using your name.

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ so why not drop me a line and tell me what you think?

Alan Stainer