So you just started getting the hang of how to promote yourself and your business with the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Now, this little startup named Google goes and tosses a monkey wrench into the works by introducing their very own social network, Google+. I mean c’mon, really? Who do they think they are? It’s not as if we don’t have enough things to do without being distracted by some shiny new object.
Should you be an early adopter and dive in headfirst while it’s still in test? Wait to see if it catches fire before committing your energies? Why waste your time investing in a platform that will never go anywhere, right? Facebook is already a juggernaut. It’s been going unchallenged for several years now, and it’s not like Google hasn’t had their share of missteps – with the failures of Orkut, Google Wave, and Google Buzz.
How Is It Going to Be Different This Time?
The quick and simple answer is: Circles. Google+ changes the way we share information with each other. Unlike Facebook, where both parties have to be connected in order to share or re-share information, Google+ allows you, the user, to decide which information you want to share and with whom. While you can do this with Facebook, the Graphic User Interface (GUI) is simply not very intuitive. With Facebook’s GUI, it takes too many clicks to get where you’re going, so even advanced users get frustrated quickly. So most people share information shotgun-style, without targeting who gets it.
In A Perfect World…
In a perfect fictional dream world, there would be one piece of software that does everything you want it to do, quickly, easily and for free. But face it. It’s a myth. Rather than strive for that Utopian technology, Google, as well as others, realized that the path to success is focusing on best-in-class offerings. Bloated, feature-rich interfaces are so 20th century, and were a contributing factor to the failure of Google Wave. The adoption and implementation of clean back-end coding, cloud computing, and HTML 5 has re-energized and propelled technology creators to the next level when addressing end-user wants and needs, and Google is at the forefront. Google+ is just the latest offering.
The Quiet Revolution
Over the last several years, Google has quietly evolved from being a just search engine into a “Software as a Service” (SaaS) company with an a la carte ecosystem. Their software works beautifully, with interfaces that get out of your way, so you can do what you need to do and get on with your day.
Some examples of recent Google innovations:
- Gmail to compete with Yahoo and Microsoft’s Hotmail
- Chrome to compete with Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox
- Maps to give us an alternative to Mapquest
- Places to compete with Yellow Pages
- YouTube to compete with television, radio, Netflix, and Hulu
- Docs to compete with Microsoft Office and Open Office
- Translate for communicating with your global teams or customers
- Checkout as an alternative to Paypal and other merchant services
- Reader to compete with traditional news services
- Voice and Talk to compete with Skype.
- Hangouts to compete with Skype
- Huddle to compete with GroupMe and Beluga
Google+ brings this entire system together and makes it the one-stop shop for your social commerce, business collaboration, and entertainment needs. Overlapping these traditionally siloed business functions and online consumer behaviors will lead to hybrid and hyper real-time engagement/interaction, while getting Google back to their bread and butter: answering questions. Remember Quora?
In the near future, Google’s ecosystem will embrace the burgeoning mobile market (Android, anyone?) with these additional innovations:
- Google Wallet to decrease the amount of plastic in our pocket.
- Google Offers to compete with Groupon and Living Social.
- Google+ Hangouts will expand to compete with WebEx and GoToMeeting.
- Google Docs will expand to compete with 37 Signals and ZoHo offerings.
Are You Starting to See a Pattern Forming?
You should. Google is looking at Google+ as the next logical step for taking Google, the business, to total domination of not only the internet, but the ways people and businesses interact with each other. Google+ is changing the way we do business – period. And the growth of Google+ will only strengthen the staggering statistics of the Google brand and its products as a whole.
Google Is Free, and Free Is Good
Most of Google’s products are free, a perfect example of what Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson calls the “freemium” model. Their revenue comes from having the maximum number of eyeballs on-site for the longest amount of time, while increasing the number of return visitors. You could even say they “have an app for that” in yet another useful product, Google Analytics. Okay. It really isn’t that simple, but time spent on site or decreasing the bounce rate influences where decision-makers in the advertising industry spend their money. Google+ creates the ultimate demographic tracking grid for marketers and advertisers to pull from a ready-made Management Information System (MIS) to drill down their target audience without the necessity of a focus group. Creator of MySpace (and huge Google brand advocate), Tom Anderson, reinforces that sentiment in his article: How Google+ will succeed and why you’ll use it whether you want to or not.
The Sleeping Giant Under Our Noses
Sure you have Twitter and LinkedIn, but they have continued to coexist because of unique offerings to the niche consumer market place. However, Google+ is big news because it directly competes with Facebook for the most active users and eyeballs that marketers want to influence. For the last several years, tech industry pundits have been asking, “Who will be the next Facebook?” Guess what, it’s right under our noses. Everyone, especially Mark Zuckerburg, should have seen the writing on the wall when Google subtly announced that they would start including social engagement from the aforementioned social networks in its search results. Now, much like Facebook’s “Like” button, Google+ has the “+1” button, which populates organic search results when an end user types a query into Google, the most popular search engine in the world. We are already seeing these results show up in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Not So Fast
The fact of the matter is, Google+ may still be in the shiny new object category. There is plenty of room for improvement. Two major hurdles remain:
- Google+ hasn’t made business pages yet (coming soon)
- Google+ disallows anonymous profiles.
Google is getting a lot of pushback from users who want to create Google+ profiles with pseudonyms, as opposed to using their real identities. (Because political dissidents, domestic violence victims and others could put themselves in danger by using their real names.) Google chairman, Eric Schmidt sums up the policy on anonymous profiles succinctly, saying: “G+ is completely optional. No one is forcing you to use it. It’s obvious for people at risk if they use their real names, they shouldn’t use G+. It is meant as an identity service for reputation management.”
This is actually a sentiment that has long been popularized by personal brand advocates like Dan Schwabel, in his book, Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success. Currently the only other network that has a system to verify profiles for authenticity is Twitter. Google is slowly rolling out its own verified profiles.
In my opinion, the pseudonym issue is a moot point, but I agree with Silicon Valley writer Mike Elgan who writes, “Google’s window of opportunity for Google+ to succeed is very small and closing if not made a free sign-up service for everyone, very soon.” Fortunately the project team led by Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz is very responsive to user feedback, rolling out changes to current features and implementing new ones. They are doing a great job considering that the name on the door is Google, but people need to keep in mind it is a massive undertaking. I would even go so far as to use a cliché and say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Social Media Is Not Going Away Any Time Soon
Conversational content marketing is extremely important to an online strategy. Because, no matter the tools, end users are looking for value-added information to consume and or convert. This blog post will probably be a dated, irrelevant pile of drivel a year from now because the specific tools and platforms will have changed, but content publication cycles will stay the same.
As a consumer or business owner it is important to understand human behavior and adapt to proven technology trends rather than put too much focus on the tools themselves or any one channel of engagement opportunity. Angela Hausman, an Associate Professor of Marketing at Howard University, gives her take on popular blogger and author, Jay Baer’s commentary on whether or not technology is ruining the online community. There are literally hundreds of new tools and open API driven plugins, using the freemium model, being released every day to compete with Google and for your attention.
If you keep this mindset, and not skillset, in your box of ammo you will undoubtedly reach your goals and grow your business and or personal brand. Let the cream rise to the top.
So I have one question for you… Where do you go when you’re not sure of the answer to a question?