By now, everyone has heard the buzz about Google's entry into social media. Known as Google+ or Google Plus, this new social media platform has been available by invitation only (or in tech-speak, to those who have access to go behind the "digital velvet rope") but has attracted widespread attention from the mainstream media as well as by technophiles. As one reporter wrote, Google+ is like arriving at a party hours before it is scheduled to start but no one else has arrived. Thanks to Google, have we reached the over-saturation point in social media, or do Facebook and Twitter need to be worried?
Here are the features of Google+:
- Groups named as "circles" can be created consisting of specific people so that you can share content only with family or only with school pals or only with co-workers because in the words of Google CEO Larry Page, "in real life, we share different things with different people"
- On the main page named the "stream," posts can be viewed by everyone or only by members of the circles that have been created
- Places where groups of ten or less people meet to chat are called "hangouts"
- News can be found based on any number of topics – in what Google+ refers to as "sparks"
- Video and voice chats can be held with specific people in circles – some have said that this capability is even better than Skype
- The sites that you indicate you like (+1) can also be included as part of the Google+ profile – these are the sites that, according to Google, "you like, agree with, or want to recommend to others"
- Privacy settings are more user-friendly than other sites, for instance, anything on the profile can be set for public viewing or private viewing (e.g., who appears in circles, posts, about, photos, videos, +1’s)
There may be some very unique uses for Google+ that are not appropriate for Twitter or Facebook. For instance, tech super stores (Best Buy, Apple, Dell, etc.) could use hangouts or circles to address customer service issues. Businesses with a large number of telecommuters or international teams could use circles for brainstorming in more than 140 characters. While there are some things that can be stated easily in less than 140 characters, it’s sometimes necessary for making a long story even longer, and Twitter is not the place. College courses may use circles or hangouts for course discussion or exam preparation.
But, the big question yet to be answered is, how will Facebook and Google+ co-exist? Since Google+ has not yet launched to the public or been opened to brands, there is no easy answer. Google+ may be intriguing for the points stated above, but there will always be a loyal Facebook following. And while many Facebook users may dislike lists, the constantly-changing interface, and lack of attention when it comes to privacy, there is still much that appeals to over 500 million active users.
One thing to note, if you already had a Google Profile in the pre-Google+ days, that page automatically appears as part of your Google+ page. Again, in the pre-Google+ environment, the key reason for having a Google Profile was to make sure that you appeared in Google searches for your name and also to create a page where you could control content about you – that Google found.
So, if you have not joined the Google+ party and are on the fence, answer these five questions. Your answers will make the decision for you. But, if you decide to join Google+, visit my page at http://gplus.to/debbielaskeymba:
- Do you have time to allocate to another social media site?
- What are your objectives as you build your presence on Google+?
- How does Google+ fit into your annual marketing plan and overall social media strategy?
- Are your customers and competitors already on Google+?
- How will you measure your success on Google+?