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I can’t help myself. For those of you reading over the past few days, you’ll note that my posts have been firmly fixated upon Google+, and I’ve tried to immerse myself in it to work out what it means for us all in terms of Google’s move into the social media sphere. I promise, I’ll shut up about it for a while after this post.
From my initial playing with the service, if you couldn’t already guess – I’m largely excited by Google’s offering. Although I’m not generally a late adopter when it comes to web products, I did manage to avoid Facebook for some time before biting the bullet, Google+ however grabbed me from the get-go. Not least because I think it will play a massive part in their algorithm going forward. That said, some of the features that Google+ brings to the table have got me reinvigorated about the web as a social platform all over again – with the killer one front and centre to the service.
Privacy, and controlled curation of content.
Google have nailed it when they realised that Facebook’s weakness was privacy. If you get any internet savvy executive in a room and ask where their weakness is; privacy would be the obvious answer. Facebook have started life as a privacy disaster, and their various pivots to correct the problem have been sticky plaster implementations.
Consider how difficult and painful this is for users, compared to Google’s circles option. Whereas Facebook give users the below option via a popup window, but make you customise who receives what content on every post, Google have simplified this down to a single tag, available on every share of your stream.
Content control is centric to Google’s approach, and one that much more closely reflects everyday life. After all, you aren’t going to have the same conversations with your boss as you have with say your drinking buddies. Twitter had a go at solving this problem with lists, but again, the actual implementation largely let them down, I’ve listed many people, but can’t remember the last time I viewed a list to filter my stream. Circles allows a simplistic implementation of this that I think is going to help not only grow the usage of the service, but actually result in migrations away from other platforms.
Facebook recognised early on that implementing relationship status as part of their social dataset was massively important in the adoption of the service. It’s an optional setting, but one that a massive number of users openly share, making Facebook as important in the dating sector, as it is in the realms of social media, particularly for those Generation Y users that care about such simple things. Google again, have trumped them on the privacy concerns that such information creates as they allow custom sharing of this with particular circles.
One of the other benefits of this level of control is of course, the volume of the content that is produced. Whereas I personally have held back at what sort of content I have shared on Facebook for fear of offending, or alienating people – now the ability to create circles for the sort of content which I could only share with those who know the context together with my personality. It will actually lead to more information flowing throughout the network. With the ability to categorise people in circles defining what they mean to you; the content you share can be much more tailored and impactful when they see it as well, increasing the likelihood that they will actually engage with it.
The Android application is also impressive, with a focus on location based data ‘nearby’ I can easily see at a glance the sort of thing I ordinarily would have turned to Twitter for. It takes elements and strengths from each of these networks and has perfectly implemented them together. Huddles for example, have pretty much eradicated the need for me to ever send a text message again to my friends on Android platforms using Google+.
Hangouts, are going to be one the strongest advantages Google+ have over the competition in my opinion. Video is a fantastic way to interact with others, and with hangouts, I can see logging into Google+ to communicate with others both on a professional and personal level. I use Skype for these sorts of interactions currently, and with the multiple participants available for free, (Skype currently require a subscription for this) will find motivation to switch.
We haven’t seen any indication – how they will play the game with regards to turning Google+ into a platform, with no announcements on an API, or developing on top of the social features, but you can bet your bottom dollar it will happen, and propel and encourage adoption with the service in the same way social gaming has made a difference with adoption at Facebook. The acquisition of Slide was a strategic one for Google, and no doubt we’ll see this come to life as it develops.
Can I see mass migration from younger users over to Google+? Probably too early to say. However, one thing worth mentioning in this review significantly lacking is critical mass. The staggered rollout whilst they try to make sure everything is perfect is somewhat limiting in terms of who I can invite and interact with. Right now, my stream is significantly quieter than both Facebook and Twitter and there’s a risk that the excitement and buzz around the product will rapidly fade if they don’t open up to other users quickly.
Here’s hoping that happens sooner rather than later, and the product has a chance to flourish, but right now, from first impressions I think they are onto a winner.
CNet have produced this pretty awesome video review of the Google+ service. Well worth a watch if you haven’t already managed to get into the service.