Trying to leave the disastrous Buzz and Wave launch behind, Google, THE search company, is formally making a pitch to become a major social networking force.
What is Google+?
Contrasting Facebook, Google+ doesn't focus on a massive friend list. Instead, users collect each other into groups, such as family, work and friends, called "circles". This allows for more contextual sharing and might be the sweet spot for Google+ since people tend to overshare on Facebook. There are no friend requests on Google+, you don't need to agree to be friends with one another and can see updates from others without sharing anything.
Additional services offered are Hangout, a video chat service, and Sparks, where users can find and share content around their interests. Some beta testers lauded the user interface, apparently you can drag and drop your friends into different circles.
Google+ provides value in the area of friend management. Many of us made the mistake of accepting far too many friend invitations with the result that we often don't share as much because we didn't have the opportunity to create more intimate circles. The question is: Is this enough to move some of our sharing activity from Facebook/Twitter to Google+?
What the pundits say
Technopunditry is alive and well. Here's a brief roundup:
Charlene Li (Altimeter Group)
"My take on how this will play out is that Google has the natural ability to pull together groups based on communication patterns, and to also leverage the natural groups that already use communication platforms. It will be a no-brainer for Gmail to start using Google+, a much harder sell for non-Gmail users.
The result will be unified sharing, as opposed to unified messaging, on Google platforms. This won't happen overnight and it will be far from being a "Facebook killer". Rather, it's a smart move by Google to leverage its strengths in communication platforms, algorithms, and trust of core users to move into social.
Lastly, I don't expect Facebook to stay still for long. Look for them to roll out improved friend management tools in the near future. But regardless, they will always lack the behavioral intelligence to help me truly manage my friends, unless I am a devoted Facebook user."
"Products like the one Google just announced are hatched at off-sites at resorts near Monterey or in the Sierra, and were designed to meet the needs of the corporation that created it. A huge scared angry corporation. What little is left of the spark that created it in the first place is now used to being Number One, and wants to feel that again. It's being created to make that person feel better.
Eventually they will become an investment bank and a services company. The fate for all former high-flying techco's.
"Google wants to get to know you, and help you to get to know yourself. It wants to be the go-to place where you show who you are and what you care about to your friends, your family, your coworkers and the entire world. It wants to be the key you use to unlock the Web and the internet as a whole, the passageway through which all your interactions flow. Today is a big step in that direction."
Henry Blodget, Business Insider
"In short, at least judging from the rhetoric used to launch the product, Google has given people little reason to think that the launch of + will be any different from the launches of its other social products, such as Wave and Buzz (Wave is dead and Buzz might as well be dead). And the folks at Facebook must be rolling their eyes."
Google+ feels like a Transformers review: You either hate it or love it.
All empires fall eventually. Microsoft seemed invulnerable at one point. Google seems like a cash cow that will never stop printing money. That's just a fantasy. At one point, Google will become extinct. And our kids will walk around the virtual ruins of an empire that once was.
Google's success is based on algorithms. That was a great model for the last 10 years. User demands and needs have changed in the last few years. People use social search, focus more on their social graph to get results and rely less on Google to discover content. It's hard to insert a human and social voice into an algorithm-based enterprise.
Google says Plus is not a Facebook competitor. I agree. While some people will prefer the privacy controls and selective group communication tools, we learned over the years that Facebook users are not that upset with the privacy issues. Not upset enough to move to Google+.
Google+ is a good option for niche groups. You want to talk to your baseball buddies in the US? Your book club? Your PTA group? Google+ is a nice extension of existing Google groups. It might even sneak its way into the enterprise space. But it won't make a dent in Facebook's dominance of the social space.
Should you consider marketing on Google+? Sure, test small groups and see what happens. Create your own brand group. But, don't rush out to follow that new shiny object. 2012 is early enough.
As to Google, I wish they would understand the challenge of an empire. You can't just integrate functionalities into your core product and hope to extend your search dominance for good. They need to reinvent like IBM had to when they stared in the abyss in the early 90's.
Currently, Google is following the path of MySpace. $35million anyone?
Uwe Hook is the CEO and Co-Founder of BatesHook, Inc. (www.bateshook.com) and a veteran of the advertising and marketing industry with the goal of building connections between people and brands. Uwe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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