Saturday, May 19, 2012

Communication's what you need

Long time visitors to the Japanese Verb Conjugator website might remember the original comments box that used to be on the home page. This was a plug-in from Google Friend Connect.  I am a big admirer of Google (for most things); I don’t use anything else for Search, why would I?  The maps are brilliant as is their blogger which I’m using to write this message.  So a few years ago I decided to use the above mentioned Google social feature.  It did the job of providing a way for users to leave comments which could be shared with and responded to by other users. The best feature, however was that you could see the pictures of all the users who’d logged in. If you wanted you could view their profiles and send a message. Slowly but surely the membership built up until I had over 500 “faces” of members on the home page.

However on 1st March 2012 all the comments and faces disappeared – Google had “retired” Google Friend Connect on all non blogger sites. GFC obviously hadn’t taken off and they were putting all their efforts into their new Social platform Google Plus. There is apparently the ability to export your community data and send a newsletter to members. Google’s advice is to create a Google Plus page and invite your members to sign up to that.
Presumably Google’s  aim  is to challenge Facebook’s  dominance of the social media world. Now I don ‘t  know what the stats are but I don’t get the impression that’s happening.  I put Facebook ‘Like’ buttons and a Google +1 badge on my site at roughly the same time. At the time of writing I have 554 ‘likes’ and 64 ‘plus ones’, which says to me that Facebook is about 9 times more popular with my visitors than Google plus.
Leaving aside the fact that I’ve been burned by having the plug pulled on Google Friend Connect and the same could conceivably happen with Google Plus,  I decided to look around for other alternatives to make the site more ‘Social’ before rushing into the Google plus solution.
The first place to look was Facebook.  If I wouldn’t use anything else but Google for search, why would I look further than Facebook for social ? They have a massive user base and now have a useful ‘Facebook for websites’ feature that I’ve been trying out on the home page. I’ve also added Disqus comments to the individual verb conjugation table pages.  The advantage of Disqus is that it allows a number of ways of logging in, including anonymously as a Guest, as well as through Facebook , Twitter and Google accounts.
I’ve also created a Facebook page for this website where people can leave comments. This may attract visitors, and apparently there are quite a few, for who the Internet is Facebook. The problem with this is I’ve now got several places to check for comments: Facebook, the website (Facebook and Disqus comments) as well as this blog. I may still add a Google Plus page but will see how I get on with these methods first.
Which method of communication is best ?  Post a comment on one the above and let me know what you think!

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