It’s all about the conversation, the digital age. With enthusiasm I embrace every time the new online goodies that facilitate those conversation go online. But now, I increasingly face a dilemma: because of the growing number of really attractive tools, the conversation gets splattered all over the place. Question: should I start consolidating my digital network, or just wait till Google gets the algorithms and search engine in place, so I can continue to focus on the conversation?
My thing is China. That makes my problem a tidbit special, since the country itself is hiding itself increasingly behind a national firewall denting Google’s popularity severely; my discussions are in English, while most of the Chinese tend to speak Chinese. But apart from those extra challenges, I expect that many other conversation managers, community managers or whatever nice names we give ourselves have a similar problem. I focus in this post on all things Google. Of course I have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LindedIn and a few other I might have forgotten, but let’s not make the problem too complicated, since we cannot expect those major competitors are really going to coöperate to make my life easier.
How does the Google-side of my digital life look like?
- Traditionally, the core of my activities was my weblog the China Herald. Powered by Blogger and originally, before the social media emerged in force, my key platform to discuss China-related issues (like this weblog is mainly for non-China related issues). Some people have abolished their weblog for Google+, but I’m not yet that far.
- Some years ago, we set up our China Speakers Bureau, with a related website. It is not really meant to focus on conversations, but more a window to showcase some of our more famous speakers. That is powered by WordPress (a preference of my partner who is doing the technical operation). We try to include those speakers where possible in other operations, debates and conversations, wherever that is appropriate. Well, it is the way we make some money too.
- So, when Google+ took off, I was one of the first to sign up for a personal account. As things go, it offers a mixture of things: some work-related, some focusing on my previous media past, sometimes more personal issues. I would have split off China-related conversations in the beginning if other tools would have been around, but now it is what it is. It would be hard now to leave out my China connections here.
- Then we got the Google+ business pages. Good idea, so I started the same day my China Speakers Bureau page. Later I added a page for China’s investments abroad, since that seemed a possible new business. And (but we will come to that later) My China Weekly Hangout page.
- Of course, I embraced the Google+ Hangouts, as soon as the Hangouts-on-air were possible, linking them directly to my YouTube account. The big idea was to use his beautiful system as a marketing tool for the China Speakers Bureau. I could discuss and record discussion with my speakers, one-to-one or small groups, and plaster them on my websites and social media accounts. That did not yet work out very well, because of the slow adoption of our speakers to Google+. But fortunately, there was also a plan B, setting up a weekly open forum with whoever want to have a say on China-related issues. That is also a great way to educate more people in using the system, as I blackmail them into hangouts one by one. Part of the conversation is also directed to the YouTube page.
- To announce those China Weekly Hangouts, I use of course the events page, like here, an upcoming one on education in China. It is a very useful tool to invite people and get additional conversations going. You can show your hangout in this page (and you can do it on different websites, YouTube and other channels). During the hangout, I mostly limit myself to this page, to stop my from getting crazy. I know there are apps to consolidate diverse conversations during the hangout, but that is only a limited solution to my real problem.
- Of course, I embraced the Google Communities tool as an excellent way to support the China Weekly Hangout. So, I started the China Debate community. Only later I realized that apart from having a new asset, I also had yet another spot where conversations could be going.
You get the idea? It was illustrated a few weeks ago when James Fallows of The Atlantic pushed an unprecedented stream of traffic to our China Weekly Hangout on pollution. Mostly we get up to 500 viewers for our hangouts, but are now already close to 2,000. Nice, and you do not hear me complain, but none of those viewers had a clue how to participate in the conversation, if they wanted to. They could see the hangout, get to our YouTube account, but had no easy way to join the debate splattered over more than half a dozen places.
It looks like some consolidation on my side could be a solution, although I see not much overlap between my account, my business pages and communities. But I would not exclude that Google is also working on this dilemma, that might hinder more of their users. It would not be the first time to spend a lot of time in trying to find a solution, just to discover Google is providing a (mostly better) solution. How do you deal with this dilemma?