Social Handshake

Google+ and the Social Handshake

by sjledet on August 24, 2011

One of the thing’s I love best about Google+ is the way it facilitates the social handshake.

Just like in real life, that first contact is very important. A good, firm handshake breaks the ice, establishes an initial impression, and gets things started.

Online, you also want the first impression you make on people to be a good one. Frequently, it determines not only whether someone chooses to further engage with you, it also greatly influences the strength and depth of the resulting relationship.  If you treat your profile right, you can stand out and be remembered.

Whether you are using the web for business, personal, political, or non-profit reasons, you are probably trying to communicate with others. Even if you are more of a consumer than a publisher, it’s still polite and useful to let others know a little about you.

Google+ vs. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

For many people, it can be awkward to meet new people. That is true in real life as well as on social media sites. Most people have been at a party or dance, and remember the awkwardness of not feeling like you know anyone but feeling too shy to introduce yourself.

Facebook can make you feel awkward sometimes. I often find myself asking “Do I know this person well enough to friend request them?” Facebook, it seems to me, is actually structured to discourage using it to meet new people. It asks you if you know the person outside of Facebook and tends to contribute to a culture of “Don’t use Facebook to reach out to new folks.”

LinkedIn is a little better, as people tend to realize it’s a business network and they tend to be a little more open there. LinkedIn does try to focus the social graph around real world relationships, but by it’s very nature, people just tend to network more there. It’s still not a great place to meet new folks, but it’s certainly better than Facebook, in my experience.

Twitter is easier because you can follow people, see their tweets, and learn a bit about them, and then direct mention them if you want to engage. Hardly anyone is offended by that, unless your comment is directly commercial, and it’s a great way to meet new people. But it’s just not nearly as informative and you need to do some homework if you want to get to know people. It’s a good networking tool, but not a great one.

Google+ is the best at this. You can initiate one-way relationships with little or no awkwardness, and your profile can be very rich indeed with links, photos, videos, and more. Even wallflowers can establish an impressive profile without a ton of effort. Google+ just lends itself to new social relationships much better than other networks. The culture and structure of the service makes it a norm.

Your Google+ Profile

Think of your profile from the perspective of the people who are going to be viewing it. What might they want to know about you? In my experience, the most difficult question to answer about someone is not “Should I put them in a circle” it is “What circle should I put them in?”

Try to make it easy for people who view your profile to answer that question. It’s not an easy one to answer, but if it’s hard for you, imagine how much harder it is for people who may know you, but not that closely, or for people who want to get to know you better. A Suggested Circles for Me section on your profile is very useful to people who visit your profile, and you’ll find it greatly increases the number of people who circle you.

Social Handshake Etiquette

Everyone hates spam, and obviously, social media has a problem with that. But Google+ does a good job at combating that (the best of any social media network I’ve experienced so far). Profiles I’m interested in are those that don’t over emphasize the business aspect. Sure, I want to know what people do for a living, but I also want to know more about them as individuals.

Most people on Google+ are looking to circle people who are engaged. Your profile can show that if you take the time to set it up right. It doesn’t have to be slick and commercial. In fact, it can be more effective if it’s personal and individual. It’s like your foyer. It’s a place to make people feel welcome and invited, and a place to screen who you want to invite in for a closer look.

One particular pet peeve I have is people who post “If you want to know something, just ask.” That comes across just wrong and immature, in my opinion. As an addition, inviting more engagement, it’s fine, but only on a profile that shows that someone has taken the time to at least make a proper introduction. As a substitute for an introduction though, it’s ineffective. I can’t imagine people who do that get much positive response from it. I’m asking by the very fact that I went to your profile. I’m not going to do the hard work of figuring out what you have to say that might be interesting. I actually find it kind of rude that you’d expect me too.

When you meet someone, it’s polite and effective to engage. Make a comment on one of their posts. Introduce yourself to them. Be Bold. I have a post on Google+ I specifically designed as a place for people who circle me to introduce themselves to me and each other, and it’s been quite successful.


In essence, what one tends to get out of relationships is a direct consequence of what one puts into them. Take the time to flesh out your profile and ask yourself some questions. It’s time well spent in developing new and existing relationships, no matter what type of relationships you’re interested in.

What do you think of this article? You can comment here, or on the social network of your choice. Tweets and reshares are appreciated, so please and thank you!

  • Hi 
    I totally agree with you about Facebook seemingly discouraging you to meet new people, on a personal level this is why I have a Facebook account just for friends and family that I know well, and another one for new contacts but it is still the most difficult.  Google+ is more carefree in that respect, its funny as you find more “influential” people circle you than on Twitter and are more conversant.  Very interesting .. 
    I love this idea “Suggested Circles for Me” Thanks 🙂  

  • Ah, this reminds me that I need to add some pictures to my Google+ profile. It’s still rather empty. I’ll have to put this on the list of to-dos.

  • Really good you take the time to compare each other (Google+ vs. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) as it really helped me to understand Google+ advantages and stronger points. Thanks 😀

  • This comment pretty much nails it in the head “In essence, what one tends to get out of relationships is a direct consequence of what one puts into them.” — just like anything, you get what you put into it!

  • Thank you for this post. I have been scratching my head about how best to communicate using Google +. I love the hangout feature, but I must admit I haven’t really examined how I can use the circle function more efficiently. Love this post!

  • Anonymous

    I’m now inspired to give my G+ a bit more attention. Firm handshakes are the best. Thanks for sharing! 

  • I really am not convinced Google+ is where I need to be and even more people whom I don’t know want to connect with me there – it’s like I have no privacy… I consider my facebook friends people I care about and my Facebook Page – my community – although they have my attention – they are in their own circles… 

  • Excellent article, Sterling.  Definitely the cool stuff!!

  • You nailed it Sterling. Once I figured out how Google+ worked for me I really got into it and love the environment there. I’m excited about Google+ vs other social networks that I immediately joined that’s saying a lot. This is a great write up and so accurate. 

  • I have put so much of my heart and soul into Twitter it’s hard for me to spend time in Goggle+. I feel like I’m missing out and yet I don’t care. It’s time for me to live offline more.

  • Anonymous

    Still getting use to G+.  It can be quite time consuming and can take away from other social networks.

  • What a terrific analysis of the various social networks and how one can easily navigate them…ALWAYS great information…though it’s hard for me to invest too much time in Google+ now I know why I should give it another look…thank you!

    • I agree. I love the term “social handshake.” What a great way to express the concept of the virtual intro!

  • I’m just not loving G+.  Twitter and Facebook are established platforms where I’ve worked hard to establish myself.  These are the virtual handshakes of the new business world.  I like the analogy.  


  • Sometimes I get confused and still trying to find my way around it…

  • I always enjoy a good “hangout” whereby I give a web handshake as well. 😉

  • I have Google+ and would have to agree with you in that it does a good job at trying to block out spam. But I’m sure the more it grows (like Facebook), the more harder it will be to control spam.

  • Great article, Sterling!

  • Sterling, your comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of the different networks. Good point about the awkwardness of deciding to approve certain “friends” on Facebook! I haven’t really used Google+ enough yet to get the full engagement from it, but I agree with your summary. Thanks for the analysis!

  • Sterling, GREAT info.  I have not been a fan of G+ since the beginning, and it hasn’t changed.  I feel like everyone on their is shouting “Look at me!” and giving very little in return.  It’s also harder than Facebook for a social media manager to toggle back and forth between pages (although I’m happy they added this feature).  To me, it’s a necessary evil, given the search results it helps Google return.  But I’d rather be involved in two-way conversations on Facebook any day.

  • Thanks for this terrific summary.  I’m trying harder to get to know Google+.  I like some things about it.  BTW – Facebook now allows people to SUBSCRIBE to personal posts without being FRIENDS with someone.  Thanks, Google, for adding a little competition to the mix!

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