The recent launch of Google+ has provoked some pretty extreme reactions, and in only a few short weeks since launch it has seen already 10M plus users and over 1 billion items shared each day.
There are people who have sworn against it and people who have binned their Facebook account in its favour, and although for the last few weeks I have been like a kid outside a closed sweet shop window waiting for the lemon sherbets, I finally got an invite and a chance to look inside.
I’ve talked before about not being early to the party or a ready convert to most things social media; I have a fondness for LinkedIn which I use really as an online cv and testimonial depository, I understand that Facebook helps me keep up with friends’ and relatives’ leisure exploits and growing children, and I suddenly and urgently ‘got’ Twitter with all its lovely buzzing business potential, generosity and ideas sharing only at the beginning of this year.
So in my social media landscape, where does this new Google offering fit in? There has been an amazing amount of hype already, and especially a desire to be one of the ‘chosen’ limited users, with pressure to keep up with contacts and other people already on there and feeling their way around, and of course the first ‘experts’ have arrived to set up stall. If it’s to be more than a threat to your own sanity and time management abilities, how can it be made a useful part of your online estate?
On setting up an account, I was offered the chance to reach out to friends on yahoo or hotmail, and there is a not-too-complicated way of importing a csv file from other email accounts, but as I am pretty sure almost of all of my online buddies don’t yet have an account, I skipped this bit for now, searching on and adding a few people to see how it’s being used by them.
Logged in, I can see the different bits of Google+, features that include Stream (a newsfeed), Sparks (a recommendation engine), Hangouts (a video chat service), Huddle (a group texting service), Circles (a friend management service) and Photos. All of the functionality and immediate things you can do with Google+ can be found in Mashable’s complete guide, offering a first map of the new unchartered landscape.
Some of Mashable’s users have dubbed Google+ the grown up version of Facebook, without the distractions of adverts or add-on apps – but surely that is just a matter of time until the audience increases or the advertisements kick in. When I joined in it was looking like tumbleweed city for most of my friends and business acquaintances, but there is a lot of energy and earnest conversations going on between technology enthusiasts who are exploring the platform and pushing its limits whilst discussing its benefits and comparisons – but it really needs to go beyond being its own subject matter before it runs out of steam.
I read a great article by Jeff Bullas on why Google+ is driving ‘hyperactive engagement’. There’s a desire to be first to describe or own this new toy, to show you know best and first just what to do with it, all down to the types of user already engaged there.
But like all these things it is the business or the cultural drivers that will determine Google+’s future, it isn’t the technology of or for itself, but the size of the audience and the nature of the content that will be shared there. Looking forward, the promised launch of a business version of the site is surely the best carrot to get individuals to sign in and get to know the neighbourhood already, though it remains to be seen how valuable this will become to bottom lines.
So whether Google+ is a threat to Facebook, a rival to Twitter, or a brief driver of early adopter engagement and narrative, it’s story will only be told over time. If the unpredictability of Google’s privacy and copyright position doesn’t faze you and you don’t fear the day when the bunch of people you put in your ‘losers and freaks’ circle see how you grouped them (well Google didn’t promise to keep this your little secret forever), then you may well want to give the site a go, read some of the valuable opinions and truly meaningful discussions that are taking off there; you can always hang out and wait for the business audience of your dreams to show but until then I wouldn’t give up Facebook and or Twitter in its favour – it will become like all these things what its users are prepared to make of it.
After all, no-one thought on the invention of the telephone that it would move beyond a broadcast medium, why would people want to talk to each other using such a thing?
If you would like an invite and you don’t have any friends there, please leave a comment below or email me and I can help; otherwise you can check out my profile at http://gplus.to/sarahwood – and that was one vanity url much easier to get than Facebook!