Friday, July 29, 2011

Google Plus: One Month In

In just one month Google+ has gained an estimated 20 Million users, becoming the fastest growing social network in history. The service is easy to use, intuitive, and fills a need that other social networks so far have not -- on Google+ you can put your contacts into "circles" and share only what you want to with each circle.

I blogged last week that its my belief that Google+ is more a threat to Twitter and LinkedIN than it is to Facebook and I still feel that way. Facebook has reached critical mass with 750 Million users. Facebook is not going to go away, even if Google+ becomes phenomenally successful. There are just too many people on it for businesses to give up on their pages, and even individuals who would like to abandon Facebook will find that it remains the only place to stay in touch with some of the people they care about.

Its my belief that Google+ has an opportunity to build a more "mature" social network. By that, I mean a social network that accomodates the needs of people over the age of 22. People who have entered the workforce, have familes, and are building and maintaining careers.

In other words, I think Google+ has the opportunity to capture people for the last 4/5ths of their lives.

If Google+ can avoid some of the middle-school cheesiness that exists on Facebook ("relationship status," "interested in," "poking," and "John just answered a question about you" apps) while providing the same (or better) ability for individuals to connect and communicate with friends, family, clients, associates, industry professionals, and potential employers, it can become the social network people move to when they grow up and need to present a more professional, grown up image.

Likewise, if Google+ will focus on creating the ability for businesses to easily and securely connect and transact with all those more mature people who have resources, it could be very powerful.

On the other hand, if Google+ decides to mimic the features that originally made Facebook popular with college students, and compete for that audience, I think it faces a steep uphill battle.

About the author: Scott Crider is Vice President of Interactive Media at Compass Media, Inc. in Gulf Shores, AL and a longtime social media professional. You can find him on Google+ at http://www.gplus.to/ScottCrider 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Google+ First Look: Nevermind Facebook, its Twitter and LinkedIn That Have Reason to Worry

After a week of kicking the tires on Google+, here are my thoughts. While it seems everyone is focused on talking about whether or not Google+ is a "Facebook killer" my experience thus far leads me to believe that Twitter and LinkedIn have much more reason to worry than Facebook does - at least for now.

Don't get drawn into the hype that Google+ can "kill" Facebook. It won't kill Facebook anymore than PCs killed Mac. They coexist and each of those products has found its equilibrium. The same will happen with Facebook and Google+. A certain type of people will be attracted to each platform, and businessess will (or should) utilize those platforms in ways that best serve the customers they engage with there.

Yes, Google has the power to make business pages on Google+ extremely valuable extremely quickly through the way it scores content and sharing through Google+ and applies it to search results. But it remains to be seen if these pages will be more valuable than business pages on Facebook.

I think Twitter and LinkedIn, however, face a different challenge. Let's talk about Twitter first.

The fact is, in the days since I started playing around with Google+, the time I spend with Twitter has dropped dramatically. Why? With almost no effort on my part I began to find the people I follow on Twitter - and their content - on Google+. Not only that, but Google+ functions a lot like Twitter (it has public and private "streams," and you can re-share worthwhile content with other groups of people in your network.

Its also easier to share content on Google+ and it lacks the whole "I follow you/do you follow me?" dynamic that just feels ridiculous on Twitter.

LinkedIn has a different problem. Yes, like Twitter, its easier to share content on Google+ than on LinkedIn, but the real challenge I think LinkedIn is going to face is, as Google + grows, there really isn't going to be much reason to maintain family, friend, and professional networks in three or more different social silos.

Google+ has an elegant categorization system that lets you drop individuals from your networks into "circles" you create - and to communicate exactly the information you want to communicate (and only the information you want to communicate) with each circle. And no one knows what circle (or circles) you put them in (or if you did or didn't).

On Google+ you don't suffer the awkwardness of an unwelcome invitation to connect on LinkedIn. You don't experience the feeling of obligation to follow someone back on Twitter. And there is no sting of being "unfriended" or the awkwardness of a boss's friend request on Facebook.

Which brings us back to Facebook. I think Facebook will do more than survive Google+, I think it will continue to flouish. If I had to guess right now, I'd say Facebook will continue to be the most popular social network among high school and college-aged "kids" while Google+ will hold more appeal to everyone else (sounds a bit like Mac vs. PC, doesn't it?).

I think both Facebook and Google+ will both be large enough that businesses will be compelled to maintain a presense in both. But based on what I've experienced up to this point, I don't see much reason anyone would continue to cultivate separate networks in Twitter and LinkedIn.

Twitter has just 56 million active users out of a total number of 175 million users - most of whom aren't worth following anyway. LinkedIn just reached 100 million users, but admits that few of them are active.

Google+ plus already reached 10 million users in just three weeks - and it hasn't even officially launched yet. In all likliehood, the number of active Google+ users will soon far outpace Twitter and LinkedIn combined.

Given that, I think a lot of people are going to boil the social sites they visit frequently down to two: Facebook (because its still huge and you have to) and Google+ (because its growing, its important to SEO, and it makes your life easier by reducing the amount of network maintenance you have to do).

I've already begun offering Google+ invites to my Twitter and LinkedIn networks.

About the author: Scott Crider is Vice President of Interactive Media at Compass Media, Inc. in Gulf Shores, AL and a longtime social media professional. You can find him on Google+ at http://www.gplus.to/ScottCrider 

Monday, July 4, 2011

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Will Google+ Go the Way of Google Wave?

Google launched a new social network competitor to Facebook this week called Google+. At first glance Google+ is designed in an unabashedly Facebook-like fashion. It offers basically all of the functionality of Facebook, too, plus several notable extras.

In fact, as noted by Mashable, Google+ has enough extra features that “it’s easy to get confused about what Google+ is.” That comment reminded me of the now defunct “Google Wave” online collaboration tool. I was invited to be an early tester of Google Wave and I actually found it to be a brilliantly thought-out tool. It was very time-consuming to learn how to use effectively, however, and failed to find an audience.

To help introduce Google+ and some of its core features, Google created several videos (see below). The videos are helpful but also troubling, I’d think, for Google’s developers. They continue to build products that are impressive, but not intuitive enough to use without laborious instruction.

Did you have to watch videos to figure out how to use Facebook? No.

All that said, there are a couple of Google+ features I think could be pretty exciting:

“Circles,” which lets you easily organize your contacts into different groups so that you don’t share everything with everybody, and “Hangouts,” which lets you jump into video chats right from your Google+ page.