Google Plus Sliders: Uncluttering Social Media

By | Aug 24, 2012

A little-discussed but growing challenge in social media is handling the sheer clutter. Hollywood executives may boast about having thousands of close personal friends. But most of us can't handle that many. And now Google Plus is doing something about it. The social site's Sliders function will provide finer-tuned control over incoming and outgoing notifications.

For the IT community at midsize firms the challenge of social media clutter has wide-ranging implications. It does no good for a firm to collect millions of friends or followers if those users end up tuning out the company. IT by itself cannot fully solve this problem, but IT managers will need a full understanding of how social media works in order to provide the best tools and techniques for working with it.

Unclogging the Social Stream

As Dara Kerr reports at CNET, Google Plus (or Google+) has taken a step toward giving its users greater control over the notifications they get from their "Circles" of friends and associates. The new features also provide fine-turning of outgoing notification, giving users more control over what they share with others.

Sliders as such are not new to Google's social network. But sliders are now more powerful and flexible. According to Austin Chang of the Google+ operating team, moving a specific circle's slider all the way to the right will trigger direct notifications of all incoming content in that stream.

Moreover, an "also send email" check box is provided for those high-priority circles so that circle members will be notified of your own outgoing messages. On the flipside, we can "mute" notifications from individual circle members. These may be people whose streams we want available, but who send out so much that we don't want notifications of every news snippet.

Lost in the Crowd?

The sliders functions in Google+ have elements in common with Facebook's "hide stories" feature. And as the reach and scope of social media continues to expand, we can expect all of the social sites to add more such functionality.

This is out of necessity. As anyone who is active on social media can testify, the sheer volume can readily become overwhelming. Any discussion thread about Facebook will include some people saying that they have bailed on the site because it just got too cluttered with traffic from casual acquaintances.

Social media runs the risk of becoming like Casey Stengel's legendary description of a nightclub: "No one goes there anymore: It's too crowded."

No purely technical solution can fully solve this problem. All the same, because social media involves online technology, IT managers at midsize firms are the designated experts on how to handle the social graph.

For the firm's own pages, this will mean selecting settings for outgoing messages. Even more importantly, it will involve understanding--and anticipating--how customers may respond on social media, and how best to ensure that relevant messages from the firm reach them, instead of getting lost in the clutter.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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