For years, Google has had an inconsistent social media strategy involving missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential. Orkut, as a platform, had great promise but never saw the necessary backing and investment. Buzz was a first step that stumbled through a series of initial privacy concerns after the product was forced on all Gmail users. There are also Google’s Open Social, Google Wave (defunct), Latitude and Huddle. Among these, Google Wave was an advanced feature rich platform that few understood and even fewer adopted.
The landscape is shifting (dramatically) and Google is in the process of launching a revolutionary social media platform that is likely to change at least part of your online strategy, search engine optimization (SEO) and the way you interact with various social groups. It’s called Google+ (Google Plus).
Why is Google+ ground breaking? A number of reasons …. as a platform, Google+ is:
- Integrated – have you noticed the new black Google bar? No matter where you are in Google, you’ll have the ability to access Google+ and share information. Chat, voice, post, share, photos, translate, videos, conference calls, location services, etc… all available and used through one interface. There’s also Docs, Chrome, Chrome OS and Android which, when integrated with Google+, will provide a powerful collaboration and sharing tool that is platform independent. Note that Android already has a Google+ app.
- Real-Time – Google+ will enable you to chat and video conference live, post/broadcast real-time video from your Android phone. Timing is important and Google+ enables you to deliver what you want when you want.
- Scalable – Twitter goes down all the time. You can bet that Google+ will not. Further, for enterprises, we’re likely to see offerings that will support any size organization. After all, the first corporate user of this product is Google.
- Intuitive – Google+ fits in with the Google tools you commonly use and operates in a manner that is graphical.
- Adaptable – like other Google products, Google+ will adapt according to how it is used. Google is data driven which means user behavior through time will be used to improve the product.
- Comprehensive – in one short article it is impossible to succinctly outline the entire system. I’ll hit the highlights but if you want more information here it is.
This is a system beyond Facebook and LinkedIn because it lets you collaborate, video conference and share information – based upon rules – with specific groups you build and define. The age of organized social media is upon us and Google, an information provider, may be at the forefront.
Google’s integrated and organized service directly threatens the big social media networks but also provides unlimited photo storage
Before I continue, you’re wondering how to sign-up? Click here to be added to Google’s list of those interested (yes, for now the service is exclusive). Drop me a line and if I get invites I’ll send one your way.
Here’s how it will be done. Your Google account provides the log-in to Google+ and your profile will become the hub of your new social network interface – but only if you configure it.
Fundamentally, Google+ is a social network that has been built from the ground up around the concept of circles. Each circle, which you define, is a group of contacts, friends, acquaintances, and/or family that you categorize in a certain way. The benefit of this system, as compared to Facebook or LinkedIn, is that it enables you to share information that is specific to each circle.
For example, using LinkedIn or Facebook you may have hundreds of “friends”, all of whom are privy to each post, picture and update you make. Through Google+, you’ll be able to tailor the information shared in a way that is most beneficial to your relationships. For example, your circles might look something like this:
- Health Club
- Business / Work
To be fair, Facebook does include “Friend Lists, which allow you to define specific groups of friends but it does not allow selective information and content sharing.
If you are a Gmail users, creating your circles will be straight forward. It not, Google+ will provide import utilities although I doubt Facebook will give up its clenched fisted protection of your lists of friends.
No Google Buzz
Given the failed growth of Google Buzz and the bumpy first month of operation, it is not a surprise that Google+ will operate completely separate from it. The implication of this is that your Buzz contacts (if you are one of the few using the service), will transfer to Google+.
You may have seen Meet the Parents, a comedy featuring Ben Stiller as a young bachelor who runs into considerable challenges with his soon to be father-in-law Jack’s (Robert De Niro) “circle-of-trust”. In a sense, Google+ enables the definition of groups based upon varying degrees of trust and openness that enable a significantly improved method of communication.
Common Interest Common Cause
The circle concept enables communication that should eventually form into social microcosms of individuals according to their interest, cause and/or experience. At this point, businesses may find opportunity and touch-points with those who would most benefit from their product and provide the best feedback for future product and marketing strategies.
Similarly, social organizations should see improved communication channels that are peculiar to those most likely to respond as well as their trusted friends.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and even BuddyPress have information streams that enable you to follow status updates, locations, posts, photos and the activity of your friends. Google+ has a “Stream” that let’s you follow all of these, segregated by your previously defined circles.
This is core functionality for every social networking system.
Through your stream, you’ll be able to share video, photos, posts and comments in a manner similar to Facebook and Twitter but in a more sophisticated blog-like manner.
Google engineer Matt Cutts’ has a public Google+ account that illustrates some of the capabilities. I’ve captured a screen shot here and note that a Google search of his name brings up a link to his Google+ profile.
As with other Google products, the interface is streamlined down to the core features used by 95% of users. The cluttered interface attendant with many CMSs is absent.
Google’s core technology relates to finding and displaying relevant information. Sparks builds on this competency by locating things (articles, discussions, and media) of interest to you. I don’t know how well it will work but offer a few points to consider.
First, Google+ will know a lot about you – if you let it. Your interests will betray themselves if you post, follow specific news sources and search/browse under Google’s watch. Second, Google knows information and content. The scale of knowledge aggregated by Google is difficult to comprehend considering web, news, patents, scholar, books, blogs and real-time search categories. Google knows most languages and is data hungry.
Connecting you (based upon an abstract assessment of your interests) to the right information at the right time should be exactly what Google delivers.
How does it fit into your daily routine? Sparks suggests items (stories, photos, videos) of interest, you select stories to share and Google+ creates a post for you to stream … easy. Then, Google+ learns from the experience and makes better future suggestions.
Now, when and if Google+ begins to influence search results, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will be transformed.
Google+ includes Huddle, a group messaging experience that lets everyone inside the circle know what’s going on, right this second. It sounds useful but usability is everything.
The drawback of current instant messaging is that you never know when someone is merely online versus when they are available for a chat. Tempering this statement is the status message some IM services provide.
Hangouts enable a group video chat session with up to 10 participants. One person defines a hangout and those in the “circle” can join. I’m looking forward to trying this feature as a potential replacement for the video conferencing service I currently use.
This feature drew a stark reaction from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg who promises a Skype chat service more “awesome” than Google+ Hangouts.
A question for Zuckerburg – will your chat system translate? Google does have the best translation service on the planet and it integrates with Hangouts.
In addition to this speculation about Google+ in its current guise, it would appear that Google is already developing concrete plans to build out Google+ as profile tool for businesses in the future. While details are extremely thin on the ground at this point, there has been an acknowledgement that work on business profile pages has already begun. Jeff Huber, Google VP of local and commerce, has said: “We will have (SMB) business profile pages on Google+… I can’t announce a date yet, but we want to make them great, and we’re coding as fast as we can.” Watch this space.
On the other hand, some are quite pessimistic:
I think Google+ is going to do the same as Google Wave, and sink!” predicts David Bashford, director at SITEFORUM. “In order to be successful it must prove that it can offer a new dimension to existing social networking sites, which I doubt very much that it will. Instead, it seems clear Google is trying to force a platform on consumers, leading it to already fail in competing with Facebook which had the first move advantage and was launched and developed ahead of consumer demand.”
“Watch this space” is apropos – the concept is well targeted and the platform is comprehensive. However, is it usable, does it fit your business/personal work flow and does it meet a currently underserved need?