The shiny new thing in social media this month is Google+ (aka Google Plus or G+). It launched in beta/invite only mode at the end of June, since attracting an estimated 18 million users. Will it kill Facebook? Twitter? It’s too early to tell and that may not even be Google’s end game, as Rick Liebling wrote on SocialMediaToday.com:
“One of the effects of Google+’s controlled roll out, primarily to tech geeks and social media nerds, was an avalanche of ‘Google+ will-be-a-(fill in the blank) killer’ posts. Twitter – dead! Facebook – dead! Twitter and Facebook – dead! I’ve tried to hold off on such pronouncements because, a) that’s the easy way out, and b) nobody knows what effects exactly Google+ is going to have on the online media habits of millions of people. Let’s not forget, while 10 million users in just a couple of weeks is impressive, it’s still a relatively small sample size.”
G+ is Google’s fourth attempt at developing a top social networking site. Its first in 2004 was Orkut, a Facebook competitor that is very popular in Brazil and India. According to Wikipedia, Orkut has more than 100 million users worldwide, but it has failed to click with North American audiences. This is a chink in Google’s advertising and search armour that can’t be tolerated, so they tried again with Google Wave in 2009, which users failed to grasp, and in 2010 Google Buzz, which fizzled amidst a huge controversy over address book privacy breaches.
Kudos to Google for continuing to throw spaghetti at the wall in the hopes something will stick. As Miguel Helft said in the New York Times last year, “Google is known for releasing new products before they are fully ready and then improving them over time.”
Spaghetti may stick
So along comes G+, Google’s latest spaghetti-toss. This one may actually stick.
Google+ is kind of a Facebook/Twitter hybrid with one feature that may turn out to be the killer app – “Circles”. Circles are how you categorize people in G+, like family versus friends versus acquaintances versus co-workers and so on. You can create as many circles as you like (no limit I’m aware of) and name them as you please.
John Jantsch, of Duct Tape Marketing, fame blogged:
“Instead of blindly building followings, people seem to be using the Circles tool specifically as a way to meter the stream of information and perhaps focus on smaller numbers in an attempt to limit the eventual overwhelm and uselessness that comes with large unfocused followings.”
Quality over quantity seems a useful feature in a social network.
Not only do circles filter inbound communications, they also filter outbound, meaning I can target a post about the family picnic to my family circle and so on. This reduces the “spray and pray” mode of publishing common on other networks, especially Twitter.
Other features that are appealing include long form posts (versus Twitter’s 140 character limit). This can be both a blessing and a curse, but on balance I like more info in fewer clicks so depth is added to the conversation. The hangout feature allows you to open a video chat room (a shot at Skype), the Sparks feature suggests content it thinks you might like (a la LinkedIn News), and the Huddle feature allows you to open a group text chat (another shot at Skype or maybe Yammer).
Back to the original question, will G+ kill Facebook or Twitter? According to a photo-essay by Vincent Wong (@fttechfounder), that’s doubtful, and is focused on the wrong battle. According to Wong, “G+ is about moving everything into the cloud.”
Into the cloud
It’s a compelling argument. When you log in to G+, there’s your mail, calendar, documents, photos, blogging software and more all in the top toolbar. As Scott Payne of EastSideMedia.ca recently posted on G+, “I’m not entirely ashamed to say that I have 4 Google tabs open right now: Gmail, Gcal, GDocs, and G+. The Googlization of my world is pretty well complete.” It may be assimilation is imminent and, as the saying goes, “resistance is futile.”
In Wong’s view, it is Microsoft and Apple that should be afraid as Google moves to be the new desktop, office suite, app store, photo sharing and, oh yeah, social platform.
I give that a +1.
Doug Lacombe is president of Calgary social media agency communicatto. Feel free to circle him in Google+, but please, not in real life.
This article is compliments of Troy Media and appeared on the Troy Media website earlier today.