There’s a new social media platform in town – and one that we should probably take notice of because it is owned and run by Google. If you have not yet heard about Google+ you have probably been on Planet Mars for the last few weeks (or maybe just on vacation).
I thought that in this post I would try to give a brief explanation of what all the fuss is about:
Google+ : The basics
Google+ is a new social networking platform. It takes the best functionality of Skype, Facebook & Twitter empowering users to interact through video calls, on a social (with your friends and acquaintances – like Facebook) or public level (like Twitter feeds). It has massive reach because it also links and interfaces effectively with your email account. As a social media management package is it the most complete offering out there at the moment. It also seamlessly integrates the platforms that Google already has in its portfolio (Picassa/YouTube).
What does it replace?
Actually, nothing. Google+ is not a killer app that currently will destroy all in its path. Simply it does a lot of things better than any one single app. It has greater functionality. It may well reduce traffic on some other sites and time will tell if Google can continue to upgrade the offering to tempt people away from their other lifelines like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, email and Skype. Currently, even though I am enthusiastic about Google+, I am not yet prepared to switch totally to this platform.
Who, then, is most at risk?
In my view:
- Skype: Google can probably offer a comparable service at lower cost. I think a lot of other businesses have caught up with Skype over the years and Google has much more firepower than any previous competitor. The hangout feature, however, might just be something that tips the balance (see below).
- Facebook: Google+ has only just opened up in Beta form and has more than 10 million subscribers (I was probably number 9,867,235). It took Facebook 5 years to get to 600 million. Google+ trumps Facebook on two levels. Firstly, it has email capability – not to be underestimated, people still use this antiquated form of communication, believe me – and secondly the cirlces feature of Google+ is simply an inspired evolution of the social media landscape (see below). I do not see multitudes shifting allegiance, but this will dent growth and the total number of Facebook subscribers.
- Blogs: Who can be bothered today to sit at a desk and actually write something longer than 140 characters? As Twitter has shown, micro blogging is more efficient and fun. I think we will see less people writing lengthy blog posts as soon as Google+ takes hold with a wider audience.
- Flikkr: These sort of photo sharing sites lost out to Facebook and as Google owns Picassa it’s no surprise that Google+ has Picassa powered photo and video functionality. These will lose more traction because with Google+ there is really no reason to go to them.
Who has nothing to fear from Google+
Some platforms have nothing to fear:
- LinkedIn: The segmented commercial focus of LinkedIn will protect it from Google+ unless they start to make everyone pay for the service. Otherwise, I see only a positive impact for LinkedIn as it will integrate with Google+ feeds.
- Email: Google has nothing to gain from reducing email traffic. They own Gmail, which is one of the biggest email platforms. There is no reason to rock this boat. After all, they can double up on advertising revenues by serving both Google+ and Gmail.
- You Tube: In as much as Facebook has helped You Tube grow because so much more traffic is sent their way, Google+ will do the same. Moreover, Google owns YouTube now and is very interested increasing traffic travelling it its direction.
What’s new in Google+
There are a couple of outstanding social media evolutions in Google+ that really make a difference and make it worth using:
- Circles: In LinkedIn I can segment my contacts in upto 50 categorizations. This is great for targeted messages. I could never do this in Twitter or Facebook – net result, lots of friends and contacts end up getting a lot of content that it irrelevant to them. With Google+ circles I can much more effectively manage my content, both outbound and inbound. I can share what I want with whom I want, something that has been sorely lacking with the other social media platforms to date. The others will follow I am sure, but they will find it hard to do this as elegantly.
- Hangouts: So much of our lives are carried out on-line today, but until now we could not casually drop in on friends if we saw them online. This new functionality allows users to virtually hang out with their friends on line by offering video conferencing for up to 10 people per conversation. It will not be for everyone. For early adopters it is going to be the reason to move from Skype to another platform – especially because it’s possible to plug in a direct feed from YouTube to the hangout.
Currently, Google+ is not set up for business use. It is coming fast. For many businesses it will be acceptable to wait a year or so and assess if it is necessary to add this channel. For any business that claims any sort of expertise in social media, multi-channel or communications watching this space will be essential.
My concluding thoughts?
Google has done a good job with this platform – but them it has tried and failed in social media before, twice. I like what I have seen so far and think that the level of interest indicates that there will be a large enough critical mass to elevate Google+ from a nice to have to an essential interface.
For the CRM industry, I think that Google+ represents an excellent opportunity – why and how? Because anyone using Google+ will have to start thinking in terms of segmentation, targeting and positioning.
It will be interesting to share any experiences through this web site.
This post was first published at Thinkaboutcrm where I am a contributing guru