Social Media’s Newest Phenomenon: Google+

Gillian Slattery, Interactive Producer, Palio

Everyone seems enamored with Google’s foray into social media, Google+, a social platform that enables users to segment followers and friends in circles and promises a richer social media experience. Unlike current online social models such as Facebook and Twitter, users can easily tailor messages for specific segments, resulting in greater control of their social networking participation. Google+ also incorporates video conference technology, enabling people to create “hangouts” using their webcam to chat with up to 10 members of their circles. And, it integrates a variety of online resources – RSS feeds, blogs, Google Reader, email, etc. – into a single interface.

Online enthusiasts and techno-geeks have embraced the new service in droves – Google+ has about 4.5 million users so far – and the service is still in beta. While I can respect that a beta version of anything needs to work through the kinks, I’m not yet sold on the value of this new platform.

Sure, people are snatching up invites as quickly as they’re made available, but that may be indicative of human nature’s need to access and try anything new. If it doesn’t deliver a better experience, users are going to stick with what they know. Tech writer Robert Scoble has praised Google+, yet he admits that it’s not likely to gain widespread adoption and doubts your mom will move from Facebook to Google+.

Several prominent technology pundits have professed their abandonment of other social platforms, but that may not be the smartest move for most people. Here’s why:

Your friends are not yet on it. Unless you work in or have friends with a deep love of technology, chances are they haven’t heard of this new service or they don’t see the reason to try it. Not everyone jumps to the next new shiny object. And, if your friends and colleagues aren’t on it, what’s the point? Even if they are, you may already be using LinkedIn for work, Facebook for friends and Twitter to blend the two. Do you really need another social network?

Control is subjective. Yes, you can control who you share content with, but you can’t edit the title and comments of videos and links that you post on Google+. On Facebook, you get much more control of how content is presented.

Video chat isn’t for everyone. If you work at home or “socialize” online in the evenings, you may not be camera-ready. Does your boss really need to see you in your bunny pajamas at two in the afternoon? While Google is pushing this as a revolutionary advantage, group chat is a bit reminiscent of 1992 and the option of adding a video component doesn’t make it more appealing.

Having everything in one place isn’t always a good idea. Sure, it’s convenient to have centralized access to all your information, but do you really want a single service knowing who you chat with, what you’re searching for and everything you deem sharable? Plus, in the event of a disaster, is it prudent to keep everything in one place?

You give up your right to ownership. Facebook has gotten a bad rap for using user-generated content, but if you’ve read Google+’s fine print, you know you’re selling your soul. Google owns the right to everything you post and has the ability to redistribute it as it sees fit. So, if you’re a budding photographer, you may not want to post your original images because once you do, they belong to Google, violating any copyright hold you may have on them (and thus limiting your ability to profit from content you share).

Maybe I don’t like Google+ because it’s the new kid or maybe because I’m not suffering from Facebook fatigue. While I’m dabbling around and still learning the nuances of Google+, I’m not yet ready to abandon the investment I’ve made in other social platforms.

Have you tried Google+? Will it be a category killer or go the way of Google Wave?

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.


1 comment

  • Rick Noel July 15, 2011

    Hi, very well-written post on a hot topic. Sorry in advance for the detail comment, but your post struck a chord. We are using it just to get a rubber meets the road feel for it so that we can advise clients from a first hand perspective. I agree on all points made but have to say that 4.5M is not a bad beta test! Given that we use a ton of Google Services to promote our business, Google+ was a natural testdrive for eBiz ROI but can count the number of connections we have on one hand vs several hundred on Facebook and Linked in particular. It is interesting that Videos from profile are not integrated with YouTube, yet anyway.

    The last data shoes Google gets 156M uniques (US traffic) vs facebook 143M (Source: May 2011 – but Google audience is comprise of searchers not socialites like facebook users. Google will require a solid, unique feature/benefit set to lure facebook users away from their established social networks. Only time will tell if video is enough, but don’t underestimate how quickly facebook will follow this feature.

    Long term, businesses won’t care until there is an audience on Google+, Some limited industry agencies will pay attention due to the SEO benefits they seek as Google+ will no doubt become a key search signal for Google in efforts to compete with Bing, who has access to facebook data, which Google currently lacks. Google already has the search audience, now the challenge is to merge search and social with a value prop that compels users to abandon facebook or be forced to use both which seems unlikely given the overlap in how Google is position Google+.

    What is interesting is that Google would pull out a full frontal attack against facebook during an anti trust investigation by the US government.


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