In the past few weeks, news about Google+ has been dominating both my Twitter and Facebook newsfeed. I’m an early adopter for all things social, so I was eager to experiment with another platform that could potentially replace or complement Facebook. Don’t get me wrong – I have been loyal to Facebook for the past seven years, and I was one of the first 20 people to join the now revolutionary social network from my university. The platform has been a blessing when it comes to keeping in touch with friends, employees, old classmates, family, and acquaintances over the years. However, like many other Facebook users, I have been overwhelmed with all the irrelevant information posted from people I rarely speak to and I didn’t like that I couldn’t control the information I shared with different people.
When I got my Google+ invite, I was hoping for a refreshing change to my social media experience. After playing around with it, I could immediately see why more and more users were jumping on the Google+ bandwagon. Google has yet to announce its actual user-base numbers, but there is no denying that Google+ has grown tremendously since its launch on January 28, 2011 that started with an invite-only testing phase. The user-base could surpass 10 million users, an estimate that came from a “surname-based analysis” from Ancestry.com founder, Paul Allen. Users are trying out Google+ for various reasons: to be an early adopter for another social networking platform, Gmail users who wanted to test out the waters, and even those who are exhausted from other platforms such as Facebook and want to reboot their social network life.
The new platform borrows functionality from Twitter and Facebook, but has unique features that help differentiate it from the established players in the social space. Similar to Facebook, Google+ shares status updates, photos, articles, and videos. Unlike Facebook, however, the platform allows you to send different updates and information to different groups under its “Circles”, a feature that helps the user separate their friends in different categories and also helps control how information is shared.
With “Circles”, users can separate their co-workers, friends, family and even add additional Circles of your choice into categories. An example of a category I could include would be a Paid Search industry circle, where I can share information relevant to other leaders in my industry, or a networking circle where I could provide the latest networking event updates to that circle. Facebook had a similar functionality with its “lists” feature to help separate friends, but it was challenging to send information to different groups and you would have to share information with all of your “friends” that could be irrelevant to other friends on your list.
The platform’s “Sparks” feature makes it easy for users to find interesting information through Google and share with their circles. Sparks filters information to help users get the most relevant content based on the interests that users choose. This feature is in keeping users updated with any of their interest field. For example, a Paid Search marketing team who uses Sparks to find new information on Google+ can create a discussion about how the industry’s news affects their clients and overall industry.
Another powerful feature unique to Google+ is “Hangouts”. This feature allows users to video chat with up to 10 people at once. Hangouts is an excellent option for group video chats and would be ideal for personal and professional use – such as group family chats or for to encourage collaboration between employees from various cities.
With its full integration of all the free services, Google overall has the potential to make their entire online experience social without having to leave the site to go to a separate social network destination such as Facebook. By incorporating the services, Google+ makes it easier than ever to view and post YouTube videos, share status updates, posts photos and tag friends in photos, upload documents, and retrieve and share articles.
After using Google+ for a week, I believe the platform has a lot of positive features in comparison to the existing popular social networks out there. The fact that Google serves over 1 billion users per week can really affect how big Google+ can get, but that is all dependent on Google + gaining critical mass. Until there is a significant user base on the platform users won’t feel compelled to use it, no matter how great the features are. Sending status updates to three people or trying to use the hangout feature when there isn’t anybody online will quickly push users back to where their friends are.
Are you using it? What do you think?