I am a self-professed social media nerd: I’ve tried every emerging social network from Diaspora* to The Necter. I still even login to my MySpace and Bebo accounts from time to time. So when Google Plus (or Google+) was introduced, there was no question that I would be harassing someone on Twitter for an invite.
Luckily, I didn’t have to harass anyone. My fellow #usguys pal Jeff Reidy (@jeffin140) was kind enough to share his invites before Google+ exceeded its bandwidth. Nonetheless, I logged into Google Plus with skepticism rather than excitement. Well aware of the intentions of this “Facebook Killer,” I put on my loyalty pants (did I mention I still logon to MySpace?) and began social networking away.
What Separates Google Plus from Facebook and Twitter
One word: originality. Facebook and Twitter were both revolutionary social networks because they went where no social network had gone before. As opposed to MySpace’s stronger appeal to anonymity, Facebook focused its interactions based on real-life relationships. Twitter created a public environment to connect users with both similarities and difference by putting a twist on the old chat room format. Twitter became successful by making the world a little bit smaller each day and building real-time relationships.
So how does Google Plus stack up against its predecessors? Well, if the Winklevoss twins could sue over the concepts behind Facebook; I’m sure that Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr would all have a case against Google Plus.
Let’s examine a few features:
- Plus One (+1) Button: This is the Facebook “like” all over again
- Circles: while the interface is much easier to use, this is definitely a cop of Twitter lists and Facebook friend categories
- Share: Again, this has been done already by Tumblr (reblog), Facebook (share) and Twitter (retweet)
- Profile Layout: Again, not that impressive. Both the status updates and visual flow are similar to older Facebook layouts
- Hangout: Similar to Skype for Facebook. Interface is a bit easier to use; however, the main aspects are very similar.
- Suggestions: Again, both Facebook and Twitter have friend/follow suggestions. Only instead of running off of pre-existing social relationships and algorithms, it suggests email contacts. Mind you, most of the people I email are NOT friends. Rather, they are spam or corporate newsletters.
- +/@ Mentions: At first, I thought “+” was the answer to the Facebook/Twitter “@”. Upon further investigation, both symbols work on Google Plus.
Perhaps Google Plus will come up with more…well…innovative features in the future. Not only that, they forgot to add in a “Poke” component!
Google Plus Security and Access: Who Sees What and Why
One of the first things to jump out at me about Google Plus was that anyone can add you to a circle. OK, I get that…it’s like have Twitter followers—only in reverse. When you follow someone on Twitter, you see their feed in your stream. In Google Plus, if you add someone to your circle you begin pushing your feed to their stream. The conundrum? MAYBE I don’t want to see your spam in my stream without choosing to.
Granted, Google Plus does allow you to mute someone’s posts after the fact. In my opinion, it gets tedious when spammers jump on the bandwagon and start mass following. Eventually, I’ll be sitting there manually muting users one-by-one. I prefer the mutual approved sharing of a Facebook friend, or the opt-in feature of a Twitter follow, over the circles feature.
Additionally, Google Plus’ limited access and shut down of invites due to bandwidth concerns have left some early adopters turned off by the emerging social network. While I had no problem getting an invite, many of my coworkers and colleagues missed the cruise ship to Google+ Island. Perhaps Google should have prepared for a high demand accordingly. How do you expect to win over the masses if you lack the capacity to do so?
Every emerging social network has security concerns and loopholes as well. A recent blog post explored the first Google Plus’ privacy flaws, citing that by re-sharing a user’s post to any of your circles, you are opening that user’s profile up to your entire circle despite what their privacy settings are. Again, this is the first security flaw to be pointed out; however, I have a sneaking that it won’t be the last one.
The Google Plus Matrix: Big Brother Is Watching
I’m going to preface this section with this hilarious (yet a tad bit frightening) cartoon from Current.com.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist or a victim of paranoia. Nonetheless, I am an online marketer that understands the inner workings of how most social networks and search engines are monetized—and the plethora of information they have access to. That being said, I enjoy that Facebook is untouchable by Google. My Google search is not influenced by my offhanded comments and information shared with Facebook. I like to refer to this as my online separation of church and state.
For this reason, I don’t want to use Google Plus as my primary social network for fear that my online presence will be monopolized through one corporation. Google already has access to my tweets, my emails, my searches—do I really want to sell my soul to Google Plus? The thought alone makes me want to signoff of all social networks.
Oh, and did you know that Google collects your billing information and can share it with their employees?
Using Google Plus for Businesses and Marketers
From what I can see, there is no way to create a corporate account for businesses on Google. What that means is that businesses and social media marketers lack a way to communicate (without paying) to Google Plus users. At first, one might see this as a great way to keep the marketing aspect out of social networks and be true to the description.
Think again. Google Plus could possibly use this platform as a way to force more businesses of all sizes to invest in Google AdWords. Whereas Facebook has a separation of Fan Pages and Ads, there seems to be no free use of the service for businesses. Basically, Google will have massive amounts of information about consumer sentiments at their fingertips and—rather than allowing users choose what brands they want to like—will force businesses to rely solely on their paid and organic search results in Google.
Why Google Plus Hasn’t Won Over My Facebook Loyalty…Yet
There is a reason why Facebook has over 700 million users: it has been around for 7 years, it was revolutionary at it’s launch, and Facebook is constantly evolving. That being said, I am skeptical that Google can successfully launch a new social network in such a short period of time without any standout qualities. Seven years online is like dog years for social networks, perhaps making it too little too late for Google Plus.
Additionally, it is highly unlikely that Facebook, the largest social network in the U.S., will allow for future user integration with Google Plus. Being a member of Facebook since 2005, I personally have no urge to turn my back on six years of my life recorded online to switch over to using solely Google Plus. I’m sure a sizable chunk of those 700+ million users have similar sentiments. As I mentioned before, I still login to MySpace as there is pre-Facebook information on there that I like to reference (and am too lazy to backup).
Final Thoughts on Google Plus
At this point, Google Plus has to build its support network from the ground-up. While Google will be occupied trying to win over users, Mark Zuckerberg probably won’t be sleeping for weeks as never-ending Facebook hackathons ensue. Remember when Tony Stark built Iron Man to fight off the bad guys, and then the bad guys were even more motivated to make a bigger, badder Iron Man? Just saying.
What are your thoughts on Google Plus? It is really a Facebook Killer, or will it sink just like the Titanic (and Google Buzz)?