Is Google+ the answer to social networking behemoth Facebook?
Google have unveiled their latest attempt at cracking the world of social media, titled ‘Google+’. After previous attempts such as Google Buzz turned out disastrously (and even resulted in privacy scandals), it is particularly important for Google to get it right now before they lose an irreclaimable amount of ground to Facebook.
In fact, Google+ looks very promising. The tool will be baked in across the entire suite of Google products – search, maps, GMail, Reader, YouTube and many other successful services. A notification drop down similar to the red icon you see on Facebook will be accessible and omnipresent across all of these services, ensuring that take up and continued usage is high.
Google have presented some innovative ideas to the status quo of social networking. They noted that granular sharing is ‘tacked on’ in many current social services, like ‘Friend Lists’ on Facebook, to which you can restrict access to your posts. Google wants to slip this on its head and make their social network reflect reality – hence their ‘Circles’ feature. A fun interface will allow you to drag and drop you friends in and out of your different social ‘circles’ – like ‘University friends’ or ‘Colleagues’ or even ‘Gran and Grandpa’. You can then explicitly decide who you want to share your posts with – some photos might be suitable for your college buds, but maybe nan best not see.
To encourage sharing and discussion through their new social feed, Google have also introduced a new recommendation service called ‘Sparks’. The essential gist of the service is that you can add your interests to a list and Google will feed you articles, images and videos for you to look at when you have spare time. You can then share items that you enjoyed with your friends.
Google noted that group chats had not really taken off on the internet, and set out to pinpoint why. They realised that the concept of the online group chat was rather artificial – you wouldn’t go round to three different friends’ houses in real life and drag them all to one spot to have a chat, but you might drop into conversation with your friend if you pass them in the street or see a group of friends in a bar. Hangouts seeks to recreate this more natural flow of conversation online. You can set your status to ‘hanging out’. Your friends will then be made aware that you are ‘hanging out’ and can join you in a video chat. Others can join and leave at will. You can limit the hangout to certain social circles so that you don’t end up with an awkward conversation between you, your boss and your ex-boyfriend. The genius of the product is that there is nothing forced about it – even the conversation itself flows more naturally, with the video feed automatically switching to the face of the person talking at that moment.
Huddle is essentially a mobile text-based group chat service that allows you to avoid the woes of texting individuals. For example, if you want to go to the cinema with your ‘Colleagues’ circle of friends, you can just open a chat with them and start planning. Everyone in the circle can see what has been written so far and no one gets their wires crossed.
Google will instantly upload photos taken on your phone to a private online space, from which you will then be able to share the photos with circles instantaneously when you are ready.
But what about my brand?
Google+ seems very much focused on the individual and smaller, more granular ‘circles’ of friends. It will be interesting to see where Google goes with this. Will they introduce brands into the mix? The interaction with public figures and organisations seems to have been very successful on other networks so I would be very surprised to see Google miss this trick.
How can I join in?
The Google+ project is in testing and is opened to a limited number of users. Try pulling some strings to get an invite, or sign up at http://plus.google.com. If you want to read more check out the Mashable and TechCrunch articles.
If you’re interested in utilising existing social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Areatrade. We also provide search engine optimisation services, which tie in ever more with your social media strategy. Our other main services include professional website design services and pay-per-click advertising management.