What is it?
Google+ launched on 28th June and is their 4th attempt at ‘cracking social’. Of course, social networks are popping up all over the place and whilst some quickly become obsolete (anyone remember Hi5, Ping!?) others, like this, are worth taking note of. Google+ took just two weeks to hit 10 million users globally, with many more trying to get invites to become beta users. Having failed with Wave and Buzz, this time, their focus is on a smarter, more intuitive interface with the ability to segment your friends, followers and any other group you want to create.
How does it work?
There are 5 key components: (click on each title for a video explanation)
The bedrock of the G+ platform, this is where you form your ‘circles of friends’: you can have a family circle, a colleagues circle and so on. Many of us don’t want to share the same things with our friends and colleagues, so using these Circles makes maintaining discrete groups for all of your G+ activity easy.
You can invite different friends or Circles for video-chat: anyone in the ‘Hangout’ can invite anyone else.
This feature lets you add different areas of interest to your profile so that you can share stuff with friends. Sparks will then send you relevant information on a regular basis – similar to Google Alerts that you can share with friends easily.
Lets you coordinate with friends and family in real-time. Currently available only on mobile, Huddle allows users in specific circles to group message each other. A location feature gives users the option to include their current location to each post.
Similar to Facebook’s ‘Like’ button – if you see something that you like, +1 it.
Here’s a nice info-graphic that makes the inevitable comparison between Google+ and Facebook. Facebook wins in the ‘pages’ and games/app stakes, however we like the flexibility and easy-to-use nature of Circles and Sparks. On paper, Google+ sounds great: an improvement on Facebook, but it’s not much fun if all of your friends are still using Facebook. With close to 700M users, persuading people to take up a new platform will clearly take some time!
What do we think?
Privacy is key for social networks and whilst both Facebook and Google+ have complex privacy policies that are somewhat ambiguous in certain areas, we like the fact that Google+ allows you to remove all data you’ve shared through their tool called ‘Data Liberation’. With a few clicks, you can delete your own Google profile, Picasa albums, Google+ stream, Buzz and contacts and walk away. This has to be welcomed because with Facebook, even if you close your account, they still hold your data.
The +1 buttons could soon become as ubiquitous as the Facebook Like logo as brands realise the effect that displaying these could have on their search rankings. As users become used to seeing what their contacts have ‘+1′d’ the draw strengthens.
Perhaps what is most interesting, and what we think may be the key to its future success is that Google does not consider Google+ to be a separate product but rather, an extension of everything you can already do on Google. Information from your Picasa, Gmail and Google Maps will be integrated into Google+ so you don’t have to log in multiple times, and you have everything you need in one place. It’s that black bar at the top of your screen that is the key for both users and marketers alike. It is neat little touches like this that will slowly get users to remain constantly logged on, eventually enabling Google to combine search and social by mining data from what you do inside its social network, to create a behavioural profile for advertising outside of the social network.
With the ubiquity of You Tube, Android and the growing popularity of Chrome, there is no shortage of platforms helping to grow the new service. Ultimately much will depend on how successful they are at persuading people to set up profiles and share information in exactly the same way that they currently do on Facebook. Whilst elements of the service are undeniably great, it lacks an immediate ‘game changer’ to really capture people’s imagination. Twitter offered something very different to Facebook and saw its popularity soar as a consequence.
Larry Page, Google’s new Chief Executive recently announced that future staff bonuses would be linked to the company’s success in the social sphere. Many took this as proof that perhaps they are starting to really feel the heat from Facebook and that this might be in danger of forcing them to panic slightly.
An alternative take on all of this might be that actually the company with most to fear is Microsoft. the little black bar I mentioned earlier holds the key to what Google + is really about: moving everything to the cloud. All Google products will be integrated into Google+, including Google Docs, hosting everything in your cloud, allowing you to work remotely and collaborate effortlessly – a real threat to Microsoft’s Sharepoint, and what may well earn G+ success in the longer term, even versus Facebook.
It will be a fascinating contest but one thing is for sure, in the short term, users will no doubt benefit as a result of improvements: more competition means more pressure for companies to innovate and improve their products.
Original content from M2M (Part of the Omnicom Media Group) http://www.m2muk.com/