If you are on any social media platform for even 5 minutes it’s hard to ignore the buzz (pun intended) around the pre-launch of Google’s latest move to take on the dominance of Facebook and Twitter. While search is still a prime internet business model, with the associated advertising, it was only a few months ago that published stats showed Facebook was near equal to that market, and Facebook ads becoming a prime player. As a marketer, for certain clients, in fact I was recommending Facebook targeted adverts over Google – the ROI often beats Google.
Just over a week ago the invites went out to a ‘select’ few 10s of thousands to join Google+ (plus), provide feedback and play around. Despite a few glitches, like the server taking new, referred invites, filling up too quickly, the response from users has been nothing less than evangelical. It was announced today that over 10 million have now joined the system – and with that number, unlike Google’s previous social media ventures like Wave, Buzz and Orkut, this one is likely to stay.
On the surface, there is little difference between Google+ and Facebook. Users post links, comments, queries, photos, videos same as through a FB stream, the single difference, and here is my first critique – the design of the stream is incredibly bulky. Especially for those who use Twitter, used to seeing 30+ messages within a stream window, Google+ posts with comments take way too much screen real estate. Doing a stream justice takes a great deal of scrolling.
What is different, and immediately obvious, is how Google has made paramount organizing friends and contacts via circles. This is one feature where Facebook and Twitter played catch up post their launches using lists (many on Twitter use lists to organize often 1000+ followers, hardly anyone uses FB lists). With a default set of Family, Friends, Acquaintances and Followers it is simple enough to slot new connections as you build a Google+ profile – and easy to create new circles.
Tip: as Google+ is a brand new platform, the opportunity is there to get contacts sorted from the beginning. Think about how you use social media now, and how you would like to organize contacts, followers and those you follow based on interest. You can create your own circles, and no doubt, like Twitter lists, they will become important influence markers in the near future. (thinking Klout scores)
As Google owns online video with YouTube, arguably the 2nd most most important search engine, along with Picassa photo sharing (not as big as Flickr), Blogger (rumoured to be shutting down or revamping, and nowhere near as influential as WordPress) and a host of other services, it is likely we will see a more integrated dashboard in the near future.
One could argue that Facebook will stay as the dominant social media platform with 500 million users worldwide, and that Google has left its entrance too late. That may not fly. Plenty of users are fed up with FBs continual privacy issues, and playing around with the platform settings – oops, same is true of Google.
- Facebook does well for business and organizations with set pages, community forums and events – Google+ has warned businesses to avoid setting up profiles for the time being
- Biggest pet peeve for me is the screen area per post
- Posting links – the full url, which can be long, is shown in the timeline along with the actual ‘share’. It’s not necessary nor desired.
- If you are not a Gmail user, importing and finding connections is difficult (especially if they are not Gmail users)
- There are around 170 million Gmail users, far short of the 500+ million on Facebook
The Plus Factor
Google offers far more than Facebook and Twitter can ever contemplate. While FB has worked a deal with Skype for video calls, Google already has a phone feature and a full on video conferencing system cannot be far in the future. Then there are all the other services like Docs, search, adverts, reader, calendar… all both business and general user utilities which are (likely) easier to share on a single login platform. Combine those with a social media platform that has definitive, and supposedly, secure circles and it’s a winner.
Unlike Facebook, which tends to be reactive, Google is being incredibly proactive with the + launch – actively seeking feedback and recognizing it is embryonic.
Unlike many prognosticators who have declared Google + as the ‘final and definitive’ social media platform, my thoughts are to wait and see, It’s interesting to play around, but frankly not much different than Facebook, and it is unlikely anyone will find a new group of connections different from any other platform.If your friends and connections are on Google+, they are on Facebook. Will you take the time to double post?
Until Google makes a singular leap and provide something unique for businesses using social media – along with offering all that Facebook currently provides, it’s traction may remain limited.