“It’s like a reverse Fight Club, where the first rule of Google+ is that we only talk about Google+.”
I must admit: this quote definitely summed up my first week on Google’s newest contribution to the social networking field. No one was quite sure why they were on Google+, but by golly they were going to talk about how empty it felt, or how it was sort of like Facebook (but not really), or how they were packing up all their other online identities and becoming devoted Google+ disciples. I joined to satisfy my curiosity, finally have a social network I felt comfortable enough on to connect to everyone I know (instead of only friends or only family), and to see whether Google+ really is the end-all, be-all to social networking for both businesses and individuals.
So far I’ve joined, made a few circles (closed networks-within-networks that allow you to pick and choose whom you share posts and information with), posted links and videos to my “stream” (the centralized place where friends’ posts pop up), +1’d (a wordless affirmation of someone else’s post akin to “liking” something on Facebook), checked in at a location, changed my profile picture (no small feat), used the mobile Google+ app, and participated in a “hangout” (video chat for up to ten people).
Some things I like:
- Selective sharing: It’s nice to be able to let only my family know I’ve touched down safely after a flight without polluting my friends’ “streams,” or to share a work link with coworkers.
- Integration with other Google products: If someone shares a YouTube video with me, or I come across a fantastic article thanks to news-aggregator Google Reader, I can reshare with the click of a button instead of having to sign into Facebook and post it manually. I’m someone who’s increasingly reliant on Google for reading the news, sharing and editing documents, and chatting and emailing with my friends, so I appreciate this seamless integration.
- The idea of “starting over”: Facebook is bloated with information we didn’t post ourselves because we can tag our friends in posts, photos, videos, and more, which means there’s information on Facebook that’s extremely hard to control. Google+ gives us a chance to recreate our online identities from the ground up with the wisdom of five or six years of learning about online privacy via other social networking. Maybe I’ll finally be able to run for president now that my social network doesn’t show a picture of me with a box on my head from a theatre production I was in from high school.
Some things I don’t like:
- Unintuitive user interface: It took me ten minutes to figure out how to change my profile picture because of all the ways there are to share information on Google+. I certainly acknowledge the learning curve, but Google+ isn’t without its frustrations around posting and interacting with your friends.
- No businesses allowed: Google+ is only allowing people with Gmail addresses onto the site right now (along with a few lucky businesses, like Ford), which means it’s much harder for businesses to set up pages and start plugging. As a marketing professional, this is frustrating: I want to reach the people, and this is where the people are going! (As a consumer, though, this friends-only feature is pretty delightful.)
- Is it really more private? Sure, you can control who sees what better than on Facebook, and it’s touted as protecting your information better. But Google is just as savvy (if not more so) about reading our emails and posts and targeting its services at us. I always find it a little eerie when Google suggests a product to me or tells me to add an event to my calendar based on the contents of my email. We’ve already passively allowed Google into our private lives: is that why it’s easier for us to laud its privacy controls while continuing to fight Facebook’s?
Google+ isn’t a fully-realized networking site just yet, but it gives us a great glimpse into the future of online interaction. How might our time on the web be different if we could both work and play on one network while keeping these lives in separate “streams”? How many more people would we be able to actively interact with if Google+ becomes a “trusted” social network?
I think the marketing impact is pretty negligible at this stage. Many of the early adopters to Google+ are technically-inclined social media gurus already inundated with information via Facebook and Twitter: no need to target them a new way, especially since there isn’t enough critical mass on Google+ just yet. If Google+ continues to keep businesses out, Google+ could become a resource for friend-generated recommendations without corporate bias. I’d certainly rather learn about a trendy new restaurant or concert because a friend +1’d it instead of a targeted, impersonal Facebook ad. As of right now, though, there simply aren’t enough people on Google+ to warrant an all-out marketing barrage (to the relief of TCG’s Marketing Director), and I doubt Google will keep businesses away from the table for long.
But what about fundraising? How would the power of an ask change if it were face-to-face via Google+ hangout instead of by phone? Is Google+ intimate enough to act as an external database, to keep track of and ultimately engage donors in a way Facebook and Twitter can’t?
In the meantime, are you on Google+? If so, find me so we can continue to learn about its capabilities together. After all, what’s a social network without a gaggle of people to interact with?
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About the Author
Blair translates her off-air talents as a theatrical stage manager into project management at Collins, where she helps keep her clients and co-workers focused on the finish line.