August 10, 2011

A Brief Intro To Google+

Reading time: 6 min

*This article was originally posted on the corporate blog of Touché! PHD. 

Just in case you didn’t hear about it, last week’s big news on the interwebs was the launch of Google+, what many consider Google’s first real foray into the social web. That said, I think a lot of the big G’s products like YouTube, Gmail, Picasa and many others have embraced and helped spread the social web for years but this is the one that seems to bring it all together.

There is already a boatload of content online about Google+ but what I’ll try to here is just to talk about the basics and give my POV as a marketer well as its potential.

First, what is Google +?

Taking Google’s words, Google+ is a project that aims to make sharing on the web more like sharing in the real world. The project was to see what a Google approach to sharing would look like and to see if they could come up with a better way of connecting with the different people in all of our lives.

Key Features:

  • – Circles: Share the right things with the right people.
  • – Sparks: Get videos and articles about stuff you’re into sent directly to you, so when you’re free, there’s always something to be watched, read, or shared.
  • – Hangouts: Pop in and out of video hangouts anytime, from anywhere, with up to ten people at the same time.
  • – Instant Upload: If you opt-in, every photo and video you take on your phone uploads automatically to a secure album in the cloud.
  • – Huddle: Making group plans? Turn multiple conversations into one simple group chat.

So with the launch of Google + we now see that the +1 button was an early part of the Google+ project. The +1 button helps provide recommendations to friends and contacts on Google search. Now, in addition to +1’ing pages across the web, people can also use +1 to show their support for posts in Google+ (similar to Facebook’s LIKE button).

At the time I’m writing this article Google+ is still in alpha (or beta…its not exactly clear) phase. Most of the people who are using it are invited by Google. These users are mostly people with strong social graphs (geeks, insiders, social media stars, journalists as well as other people). Google did briefly open the gates last week only to close them soon after because of the overwhelming demand.  A solution to this is posted online that allowed users to invite friends (I love the web!). Supposedly Google is allowing new accounts activativations but we’ve seen occasions where users weren’t let in just yet.

My personal experience:

Having had some time to play with the user interface over the weekend I have to say that I quite enjoy it. Mostly because of its simplicity and because it’s just not that crowded at the moment. The lack of FarmVille invites is much appreciated but that won’t last long since social games and questions are already planned. I do however feel overwhelmed by the thought of transferring all my Facebook friends and pictures to Google+.

I’m enjoying the way Google+ handles friends and feeds. First the Circles allow you to group friends and share only to those friends or see feeds from that specific circle of friends.

Connecting over Google+ is simpler and much more akin to Twitter than Facebook. There is no “Friend Request” users simply follow other users the same way Twitter followers add each other.

Google is doing a good job of assembling all your info in one spot. If you have a Google profile page, GMail or Picasa account. Once you sign up to Google+ they are directly imported into your profile.

Why should marketers care?

As mentioned before, Google+ is still in its early stages so there is no advertising on it for now. Brands have found amazing ways to integrate themselves in Facebook and the social web is still and environment that marketers are learning to grasp and discovering new ways to use. From what we’ve see so far just with Facebook, we can expect to see creative uses of the Google+ space.

That said we are already seeing mock ups of what brand pages could look like and its certain that Google will be there help marketers find new ways for businesses to engage users within the + environment. For now, Google has informed brands to hold off on creating profiles just yet promising a unique experience as well as deep Analytics and the ability to connect to other Google marketing products like AdWords.

Facebook has done a great job with its targeted ads and they are obviously making a lot of money with them. What’s great about these ads is their deep targeting capabilities and relevancy at low-cost per click. This was something that Google hasn’t been able to duplicate. We can also expect that Google will integrate text ads with the same targeting capabilities as Facebook. User’s have already given a lot of their personal information on Facebook, time will tell if they’ll do the same on Google+ and if text ads will benefit from event deeper targeting possibilities.

Last year BING announces its partnership with Facebook to make Bing search results more social. As a search marketer I was expecting and hoping that it would also be a way to bring search ads into Facebook search thus increasing BING’s share of market, this has yet to happen at least in this market.

Google is search, they know how to fully take advantage and make money with it, a heck of a lot. We can guarantee that text ads will appear on user’s search results within the Google + dashboard and that the text ads appearing will be directly influenced by user profile information, links shared and uses of +1. Thus making search better and more personal.

Finally…for now.

I think Webtrend’s Peter Yared article raises a very good point. Twitter’s getting a lot of press and is very popular but it only has 20 million active users and unlike Facebook, our mom’s aren’t on it and probably never will be using it. Twitter is not a social network that is easy for a web newbie to grasp and it has yet to figure out a real way to make money.

It’s way too early to predict Google+’s success but it does seem like a step in the right direction. Most will see this as Google’s way to go after Facebook and that could happen but it will take a lot of work and time before they get close to Facebook’s 750+ million members. On the other hand, Twitter might want to watch its back.

Looking forward to connecting with you on Google+

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