About three years ago I was lauding Google Plus to anyone that would listen. I loved the ‘circles’ feature for its ability to tailor your online content and personality to match the situation - like we do in the real world. Context.
Circles provided control over the reach & visibility of the things you put on the Google Plus platform which was excellent.
Unfortunately Google got almost everything else about it completely wrong and today although it exists, Google Plus is dying a slow and painful death.
Now, guess which platforms are doing the exact opposite of dying a slow and painful death? Messaging.
WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Line, WeChat, KIK, Slack and Blink have been experiencing a boom. They’re just some of the options available if you want to quickly communicate with someone, but increasingly frequently they’re being used for much more.
Messaging platform are being used to share files and photos much like many social networks but the killer feature for me, is crystal clear audience control. You know exactly who’s going to see it.
You can have a group of users sharing content and discussing it whilst being quite sure that unless one of them decides to leak something, what gets said stays exactly within that small world. Never to be taken out of context.
Much like real life.
The mental model of a message is such that you feel it’s only meant for you. It’s a private-by-default medium. I’m not sure that everyone is conscious of that but I believe it to be true.
Take a look at your Whatsapp groups. You have lots of them with different purposes but some of your contacts will crop-up in multiple groups. Each time they are behaving differently depending on the subject and the rest of the audience in that group.
Tailoring aspects of your personality is important in real life so consider how much more important that might be online, where records can be surfaced years later without understanding or context.
Groups, Channels, Teams or Conversations are all akin to little circles of visibility and they give a user a sense of confidence and control.
I do think it is interesting to consider whether these factors are playing a bigger part in users choice of platform than they may currently appreciate.
Chat groups are where I’ve alwauys socialised online so perhaps I’m biased but I think messaging is the future (or past!) of this stuff.. at least until advertisers get into these closed conversations.