Google+: Google’s Answer to Facebook

What is Google+?

Google+ is a social networking service operated by Google Inc. The service launched on June 2011. Google+ integrates social services such as Google Profiles and Google Buzz, and introduces new services Circles, Hangouts, Sparks, and Huddles. Google+ is available on the Web, and will be available as a desktop application, and is already available as a mobile application, but only on the Android and iOS operating systems. This is Google’s biggest attempt to rival Facebook, which is by far the largest social network.

Cool Google+ Features

• Google+’s “Circles” feature enables users to organize contacts into groups for sharing across Google services like Gmail, Calendar, documents, etc. Privacy settings allow users to hide users from others in their circles. Organization is done via a drag-and-drop interface which is functionally similar to the “Friend” function used by Facebook.
• “Hangouts” are used to facilitate group video chat with a current maximum of 10 people that can participate in a single “Hangout” at any point in time.
• “Huddle” is a feature available to Android, iPhone, and SMS devices for communicating through instant messaging within circles.
• “Instant Upload” is specific to Android mobile devices; it stores photos or video in a private album for sharing later.
• “Sparks” is a front-end to Google Search, enabling users to identify topics they might be interested in sharing with others; “featured interests” sparks are also available, based on topics others globally are finding interesting. Sparks helps to keep users posted on the latest updates on the topics of their interest.
• Google+’s “Stream” enables users see updates from those in their circles. The input box allows users to enter a status update or use icons to upload and share photo and videos. The Stream can be filtered to show only posts from specific Circles. This is identical to “streams” in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.
• Google+ has a “+1” button to allow people to recommend items to users in their circles.
• “Data Liberation” provides the ability to download one’s content from Google+.

Will Google+ be the “Next Great Thing”?

The Google+ Circle’s feature is a great way to allow users to incorporate every facet of their life under a single account. It allows posts to be sent to specific circles. This enables users to find balance between their professional and personal life on a social networks. Currently on Facebook, everything you post goes public. On Google+, you control your own information.

Google+ also combines Twitter’s strengths with Facebook’s usability and interface. Like Twitter, there is plenty of public discussion. Facebook tends to be more of a conversation between friends, which is still possible on Google+ by simply posting to the appropriate circle.

There is a lot of excitement about Google+. Almost everyone loves it, and Circles is undeniably brilliant. If Facebook fails to adapt and find an easy way to segment incoming and outgoing information, it is our opinion that Google+ has a definite chance.

Not so Fast Though…

The problem with Google+ is that there is a tremendous amount of effort required to get people to switch from one social network to another. Common resistance to Google+ (or any other new social network) can be summarized by the following: “Everyone I want to share with is already on Facebook. I don’t want to use Google+ if the people I know aren’t there with me.”

In today’s social market, everyone is quick to jump to conclusions about whether the network is going to make it. In many ways, however, this perception becomes reality. No one wants to switch to a social network that isn’t going to thrive.

Our feeling is that Google needs to act loudly and quickly in every marketing channel to get as many people on board as possible. Google is rolling the service out slowly, ensure that it works, and make it feel exclusive. We feel this is problematic. Google needs to capitalize on the hype, show how Google+ is better, and get people invested and involved ASAP. Regrettably, we don’t see this happening.

Finally, when Google+ first launched, due to “insane demand,” the service was temporarily shut down to new invites. This is a problem. Worse yet is the fact that invites are required at all (you just join Facebook!). Also, for Google to succeed as a social network, it needs to allow a person’s entire social web to move with them – not just “part of it”. This is a huge problem for Google+.

On the Viability of Google+: CF Search Marketing’s Opinion

The strengths and weaknesses in the Google+ vs. Facebook war have been examined by our social media team and we have concluded that Google+’s chance of making it in a big way comes down to its ability to leverage the power of Circles vs. heavy resistance to changing social networks.

Facebook is a company smart enough to recognize Google+ as a real threat, and we suspect that something is already in the works to give Facebook circle-like functionality. If that happens in a reasonable amount of time, it should not be expected that many people will switch.

However, don’t expect Google+ to disappear any time soon. Google has a huge advantage over most companies in its ability to integrate a social network with Gmail to create a more social version of search – whether you join or not. Ultimately, full adoption of Google Plus will depend on two things: 1) How quickly Google moves to fill up its network by promoting its (currently unique) benefits, and 2) how quickly Facebook comes up with a good answer to Circles.

Posted by on Aug 11 2011 in Social Media News

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