Is Google’s hot new social network Google+ a serious “threat” to Facebook? Or Twitter? In the short or long term, I don’t think so. But, Google+ will certainly make Facebook, in particular, more agile and determined to continue improving its array of products.
(In fact, the first thing Mark Zuckerberg said at the start of the Facebook video/Skype partnership announcement on July 6 was,“Welcome to Launch Season 2011.” I took that to mean Facebook plan to roll out new features and products in rapid succession. Though, historically, that seems mostly the case!)
I wrote this blog post for those people who don’t “get” Google+ yet, who are not yet on Google+, and/or who might be in a place of wait-and-see. After a few short weeks, I’m convinced Google+ will become a *major* player in the social networking arena. (Stay tuned for my post shortly after this one which will be a tutorial with marked up screenshots: 10 Simple Steps To Getting Started On Google+). Also, those businesses that want to get a head start must pay close attention to what’s happening on this rapidly growing new social network.
The growth of Google+
I joined Google+ on June 29, the day after the site launched, thanks to an invite from a friend. Since then, I’ve been actively using the site daily, studying member behavior, and reading as many articles as possible about the platform. (My own blog post is certainly long overdue; I’ve had many posts about Google+ sitting in draft for the past few weeks, but have been so busy on all these social sites along with completing my next book!) Well over 14,000 Google+ members have added me to their circles. (There’s no limit to how many peeps can circle you; but the max you can add to circles is 5,000). Yes, the growth is unprecedented.
It’s fascinating to watch the incredibly rapid growth of Google+, the depth of sharing, the availability of heads of companies, the web celebs, the nuggets (and the noise!), and the amazing accessibility and responsiveness of the Google+ team. Not to mention that the user interface is so cool!
As you can see by the graph below, it took Google+ only 16 days to reach 10 million users. Whereas, it took Facebook 852 days and Twitter 780 days to reach the same milestone. Amazing! Of course, Google+ has the advantage of (finally) entering the social world now that this arena is more established by Facebook and Twitter. Not to mention the pre-existing large userbase Google already has from its array of excellent products.
Do we need another social network?
As much as I love Facebook, I have to say that I’m extremely excited about Google+. In fact, I haven’t felt this excited about a social network since I first joined Facebook in May 2007. Facebook will always be my “first love,” and the site is certainly here to stay. I plan to continue building out and maintaining an active presence with my Facebook personal profile, my Facebook page, and on Twitter.
To me, it’s a both/and world. It’s taken me many years to build up and nurture my communities on Facebook and Twitter; I’m not about to abandon them because a shiny new toy arrived on the scene. Obviously, there are only so many available hours in the day for social networks, though, and now my intent is to simply divide up the same time between these platforms. (And, I’m not here to tell you what’s right and wrong; individuals and business will need to reassess their own approach to social networking now and find what works for them).
There’s room for ALL the popular social networks to co-exist. People will simply choose the social network(s) where the bulk of their friends hang out, and/or the social network(s) with the coolest features. It’s early days yet, but with the sheer size of Google’s existing userbase of all its products, at some point I can see Google+ overtaking Facebook as the #1 social network in the world. Yep, it’s that good. Kudos to Google: I do believe they’ve finally cracked social. (Businesses, pay close attention!)
Google+ vs. Facebook?
For now, I highly doubt we’re going to see any kind of mass exodus of Facebook users to Google+. For many people, it can feel like a foreign land and foreign language to have to learn a whole new social network. Many users on Facebook are still getting to grips with the (constantly changing) features on the platform. Besides, if the average user on Facebook uses the site to connect with family around the world and to play games, they will stay there so long as they can still reach their loved ones and play their games.
I understand games are coming to Google+; I do hope Google tries hard to differentiate and we don’t start seeing “farm” and “fish” updates pouring into the stream!
Some major advantages Google+ has over Facebook include integrating with all other Google products, specifically Gmail and search/SERPs (search engine results pages). Google+ was designed to PLUS all other Google products.
Unless and until Facebook bites the bullet and launches a killer search engine – it’s certainly sorely missing! Yes, I know Bing has some Facebook integration. But, wouldn’t it be great to easily search fan pages (your own and others) at the click of a button? There is such a plethora of content on our pages and it would be awesome to have a way to easily archive and search this valuable content (you know, like a blog?!).
However, for now, as a social network, Facebook has the upper hand with its long-established user behavior, length of session time, amount of game players, social ads, and business pages.
What about Google+ business profiles?
Regards the business side, it’ll be interesting to see how everything shifts when Google+ starts offering business profiles. Currently, Google+ only allows profiles in the name of individuals; business profiles are coming soon.
Just like we manage our communities on both Twitter and Facebook and our own blogs, (and for many businesses, also LinkedIn and YouTube and other platforms), at some point (soon!) I see that we will be “forced” to also manage a business community on Google+ to cater to those customers and prospects who simply prefer this network. Plus, you’ll need to include Google+ when managing and monitoring the reputation of your business/brand. There’s much that businesses ought to be doing right now to get a headstart though; I’ll cover this in a forthcoming blog post Don’t Wait For Google+ Business Profiles – 7 Actions To Do Now.
It took some time before we saw major brands integrate calls to action such as, “Find us on Facebook and Twitter” on TV, radio, magazine, and billboard ads. My guess is it will be a while before we see Google+ added to the mix. And, it will be added. It’s not going to replace Facebook and Twitter. (I know, I know – look at MySpace, Friendster, FriendFeed, Plurk et al. But Facebook and Twitter are too long-established, imho.)
What’s cool about Google+?
Here’s a rundown of what I’m loving about Google+ so far, in no particular order, and why I think you should jump on board now too:
- The energy is fresh and most people are excited to be on the platform.
- User response is faster and more thoughtful compare to some other networks.
- Much like Twitter and Facebook, we have to earn our followers by being follow-worthy. I’m not hearing about ways to ‘game’ the system on G+ so far (thankfully!). Though with the numbers on socialstatistics.com, a few users have blown way past the 5k circle following limit, no idea how… or why.
Easily make “friend lists,” keep spam to zero
- G+ users seem to love the circles and the ability to post specific messages to specific groups of people. For me, so far, I’m making 99% of my posts public and using G+ more like a combo of Twitter, my Facebook fan page, and my blog. (Though I remain active on all those platforms too. As mentioned above, I’ve no plans to quit my long-established other social profiles!)
- So far, the amount of spam and junk is very light and manageable. If someone posts more frequently than you prefer, just uncircle them. Or, focus on curating content from select circles. (My circle strategy is in progress; I change it recently per this post).
Longer posts, format, and edit
- We can write much longer posts – it’s like “instant blogging!”
- On posts and comments, we can easily add *bold* and _italics_ (-and strikeout-) for emphasis. (I keep going to do this on Facebook – oops! I hope Facebook integrates the formatting feature at some point).
- We can also easily edit posts and comments. (On Facebook, you can edit posts made with a photo or video at any time. But status updates can’t be edited. With comments, you have about a ten second window to edit comments: click the “x” as if to delete and the text field opens back up).
- I love that we can tag anyone in our conversations whether they’re in our circles or not. I hope we can do the same when business profiles arrive, I’m sure we will. Facebook makes it challenging to keep a conversation going and alert fans in particular know that you’ve responded.
Group video chat
- The ten-person video chats (Hangouts) are awesome and a wonderful way to add more intimacy to real-time connecting/social networking. I’m seeing and hearing about many cool, creative uses of Hangouts, such as: cooking demos, live tattooing, seven-hour concerts, pizza parties, and live news broadcasts. The possibilities are endless. (At some point, with the new Facebook + Skype partnership, we may see group video chat on Facebook. Perhaps that’s one of the paid features Tony Bates, CEO of Skype, alluded to?!)
Access to leaders
- One of the top benefits I’m seeing so far on Google+ is the unprecedented access to heads of technology companies, web celebs, and industry leaders. Power G+ users are posting frequently and garnering vast, instant responses. And, these leaders are engaging back. It’s not as though they’re just pushing out content and letting everyone have at it. Everyone is genuinely engaging. I’ve never seen this level of intimacy on Facebook or Twitter. (Again, businesses – take note!)
- You can easily join a Hangout with people like Michael Dell and chat directly with him! Tom Anderson, founder and former CEO of MySpace, is super active on G+ and posts a ton of amazing, thought-provoking posts.
Another cool feature is Sparks – where you can search and easily find content on any subject or categories of subjects and instantly share with your network. I have only just dabbled with this feature so far and have not found it to be that useful yet. Google will be adding improvements. In addition, I understand the mobile G+ app on the Android smartphone rocks. I’m an iPhone gal; the G+ iPhone app is somewhat rudimentary and slow… but a better one is coming.
I’m enjoying reading articles about potential interoperability: the option to interact with our friends in their preferred network on our chosen network. (At the rate Facebook is booting out friend list scrapers – and banning Google+ ads – I may question its desire to be open. Still, it’s a good protection for users to be able to choose what happens to his/her email address/contact info).
Back in the bad old days, customers of one phone network couldn’t call customers of other phone networks, then people couldn’t email out-of-network. Today people can’t be social across networks, but few people mind because everyone they care about is on Facebook. [Google] Plus is a big push to change that. – Marshall Kirkpatrick
If Google+ is brand new to you, stay tuned for my very next blog post: 10 Simple Steps To Getting Started On Google+ with marked up screenshots. Meantime, here are a few quick tips to getting started on G+:
- You’ll need a Gmail account. [UPDATE Aug 11, 2011: You don't have to have a Gmail account per se; but you do need a Google account which you can create with any email address. I do recommend a Gmail account, though!] Then you’ll need an invite to Google+. With the recent release of invitation links, you may find plenty here. (I’m sure Google+ will open the floodgates shortly anyway and do away with the invitation process).
- Fill out your bio, links, and add a profile photo to your new Google+ profile. Remember, you need to use your real name for your profile, not a business name. (Note: if you previously had a Google Profile, this is now your Google+ Profile).
- Then get familiar with the circles: they work similarly to Facebook friend lists insofar as you can view your stream of content filtered by these lists and you can publish content to specific lists. Begin to create a few circles. You can find people to follow here and here. Feel free to circle me.
- Think about content curation as one approach to G+; create a circle with select individuals that post on topics of interest to you. When you view your stream, this makes it easy to skim and share content with your own followers. (I’m choosing to share 99% of my content publicly vs. only posting to certain circles).
- If the stream from your circles gets unwieldy, don’t be afraid to either uncircle individuals or simply place in a “Following” circle. Then, stay focused on the streams of your smaller circles, not your main stream.
- Browse the following mega list of tutorials and tips:
- The Mother of All Google+ Resource Lists (thenextweb.com)
- Google+ The Complete Guide by Ben Parr (mashable.com)
- Getting Started With Google Plus (chrisbrogan.com)
- How to Get Started With Google+, Your Complete Guide (socialmediaexaminer.com)
- 31 Essential Google+ Resources (mashable.com)
- 40 Google+ Tips and Tricks for Power Users (pcworld.com)
- 20 of the Best Google Guides (freelancefolder.com)
- 15 Google+ Sites & Services for Power Users (mashable.com)
- Google Plus Resources (updated list kept on G+ by Johnathan Chung)
- Google+ Resources (updated wiki kept on Google Docs by Mariva H. Aviram)
- Google+ Shortcuts and Tips (kept updated by localseoguide.com)
- +Simon Laustsen‘s G+ Cheat Sheet
- Find People on G+ (directory of 9.6M indexed users)
- SocialStatistics – Google+ Statistics complete with leaderboards and top posts (from +Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten who brought us TwitterCounter.com)
- Group.as – (cool site to become a “groupee” lol!)
- PLUS, see Pluserati – Guy Kawasaki‘s top Google+ users featured on Alltop.com!
- G+Me Chrome Extension – allows you to collapse/expand posts and comments (a must have!) and a few more bells ‘n’ whistles.
- Replies and More – adds Reply to Author to all posts and comments. Also allows easy sharing of content on Twitter and Facebook.
- Usability Boost – adds several visual features to enhance readability, among other nifty features.
- Plus One Anything – adds a nifty +1 button to your browser toolbar for plussing any website whether they have the +1 button or not. Any webpage you +1 shows up under the “+1″ tab of your Google+ profile.
Google+ widget for your blog:
- Google Plus Widget – place a widget on your blog/site to display your follower (people who have circled you) count and realtime rotating updates.
In conclusion (for this post!), I just love this nugget from Tom Anderson, who is one of the most active and most followed users on Google+:
…more than anything, I think, you need to remain flexible and pay attention to how the Internet is evolving. There’s no one-size fits all strategy, and you’ll probably want to modify your own strategy as it suits your needs. ~Tom Anderson (former President, founder and first friend on MySpace) excerpted from this guest post on TechCrunch.
I know this turned out to be an uber long post, and there’s even more to share about Google+. Stay tuned for the following two posts coming right up:
- 10 Simple Steps To Getting Started On Google+ [SCREENSHOTS]
- Don’t Wait For Google+ Business Profiles – 7 Actions To Do Now
SO, are you active on Google+ yet? What do you think so far? Do your friends and colleagues use Facebook more, or Google+ more now? If you’re not yet active on Google+, why? Do share your thoughts with me in the comments below:
Remember, Facebook is still home to 750 million active users, half log on daily for an average session time of 55 minutes. Well over 250 million users access Facebook via their smartphones and these mobile users are twice as active as web users. There is a massive captive audience on Facebook and if you’re serious about taking your business or brand to the next level, you owe it to yourself to truly understand and tap into all that Facebook offers. Come join me for the Facebook Success Summit 2011! It’s entirely virtual, no travel or hotels. Learn from 19 Facebook marketing experts as they share exactly how you can maximize your marketing on the world’s #1 social network. Featured presenters include Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, Jesse Stay, Paul Dunay, Mike Stelzner, myself and many others! Tickets are currently half-price, but you can also try before you buy with a free online class lead by yours truly: Facebook News Feed Optimization: How to Dramatically Increase Your Visibility and Engagement.
[Yes, I know; it's ironic plugging a Facebook program on a post raving about Google+; but, like I say, Facebook is here to stay and there's massive business to be had by using the site properly!]