Both of these groups are wrong.
Sure Google+ has some social components, but it is far from a social network, rather it’s a means to make search smarter. Sure it’s 40 million user-base is dwarfed by those of Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn, but none of them have the user base of Google. Think I am wrong? Think again.
If you have used Google search, YouTube, Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Docs or Google Voice, you are a Google User. Chances are that you rely on one if not more of these (or other Google products) products on a daily basis. In a way Plus is an extension of those products and is a connective thread that allows you to interact with all of them without leaving a single dashboard.
Despite this convenience, Google has two problems. The first is that the network is still in its infant stages and has some maturing to do in terms of features and user base. The other is that the network has an identity problem because it is being looked at as a social network. And yes, I did hear that audible grunt from you with hearing yet another social network.
If I was a member of the Google product or PR team, I would spin the product as search evolved and simplified, mainly because everyone likes easy and everyone knows Google beasts search.
Sure Google laid some eggs in Wave and Buzz but this new network has already shown a few features that have me thinking that Google+ is like an MLB slugger ready to break out of a slump including:
Circles – have you ever shared something on Facebook and heard about it from a co-worker or family member and regretted it? It’s ok to admit. Even with their new lists it is easy to screw up. With Circles, Google allows you to share an experience, story or image with a certain circle of trusted friends. Heck you could even tell your boss, co-workers and drinking buddies about that recent conference in Vegas in completely different ways.
Hangouts – the hangout feature of Google+ is a lot like Skype, but on steroids. Not only can you have multiple people on the chat but you can also record or live stream. Once you’re done, you can simply discard or share on YouTube.
Photo Integration – I don’t take the world’s most awesome pictures. The new photo integration of G+ allows users to edit photos before uploading them. So while it isn’t Photoshop, it still offers some fixes for straight from camera shots.
Brand Pages – The new brand pages still need a lot of work, there is no question about it. The one thing that I think shows promise is that companies of all sizes can cater a content experience to users by segment by using the Circles functionality. As the pages evolve, brands that cater to a mixed crowd won’t have to man multiple pages but can have either product specific or customer segment specific Circles without the fear of putting off one with heavy messaging for another.
YouTube Integration – I love services like Pandora or Spotify, but at times get a craving for a particular artist after hearing one song. Instead of having to build a new playlist or waiting for an artist to pop up, by simply typing an artist’s name into the YouTube box, you get a generated playlist. I must admit that I have used this a few times and am addicted. An added benefit is that you won’t have to worry about potentially over-share like another service hooked into Facebook.
While I do see these five features as building blocks for Google+, only time will tell if the plethora of Google users will adopt the platform. Until then, I think it’s too early to be playing grim reaper, but still wouldn’t be running to the store to pick up a book telling you how to use it for business. Play around with it and see how it can benefit you or your clients. What are your thoughts of Google+?
Image – flickrized