Did Google Stick a + in the heart of Facebook and Twitter?

Like others in the social sphere, I’ve been playing around with Google+ since its release last week (thanks to James Herbert). Like the Google Buzz experiment, I’ve been casually playing with it to see how Google envisions their second stand in the social sphere. So, I’m a bit cautious to make any predictions as to whether it is truly the Facebook-Twitter-All-Things-Social killer.

Plus Sign

If you can imagine the cosmic dust swirling around the big bang in the world of the social cosmos, you have seen bits and pieces of Google+:

  • Wave – Do you remember that experiment? The general idea of allowing groups to share information and have a threaded conversation on a particular topic seemed like an enterprise win, but the lack of notifications and nebulous interface made all wave goodbye.
  • Buzz – It was the Twitter killer, but it ended up being the Buzz kill–for me. The privacy faux pas set Buzz’s first footing on shaky ground. Then the inbox overload was too much. For me, it was superfluous to my twitter stream, so I eventually Buzzed off.
  • Google Chat – No complaints here. The solid jabber chat interface is a mainstay for our business to stay connected. Adding video chat and eventual Voice integration will make Google Chat a Skype killer.
  • Google Profile – At first, the Google Profile was a meteor in the cosmic dust. I remember setting mine up in 2009 purely for SEO purposes, but it wasn’t apparent how it ultimately played in the bigger equation.
  • Social Circle – For some time, Google has been playing with Social Circle to provide more accurate search results. The idea that a friend’s interaction with a site is some predictor of my favor is probably not too far off, but it needs fine tuning.
  • Picassa – Google’s acquisition of the Flickr competitor seemed to follow the YouTube acquisition as a logical move into multimedia–in my opinion for enhanced search results.
  • +1 – A few months ago Google’s +1 seemed like an enhancement to Social Circle. Now with Google+ it makes much more sense.

With all of the “circling” social mass, I present to you Google+. I’m not going to recount all of the features and analysis (and trust me there is plenty). For a few nice articles, take a look at Chris Brogan’s 50 and Joshua Michele’s Google Plus, The Great Game and why Social is the One Ring to Bind the Internet OS.

Screenshot of Google Plus

Instead, I wanted to share a few of my initial observations. I think Plus is a nice collection of all of the tools that Google has developed, and I think that there are some features that it offers over the predicted enemies (Twitter and Facebook). But, I’m stuck with “why?” At its genesis, Twitter (more so than Facebook) filled a niche of apparent human need to share in excruciating detail the happenings of one’s life with a very simple interface. It was non-intrusive and non-competitive. Twitter was transparent text messaging for the world to eavesdrop. From any mobile phone, smart or dumb, a person could text about their soup, and then the users and developers built a world around this simplicity.

It seems that Goliath, er Google, has developed a very sophisticated platform that combines many wonderful sharing features. My struggle is that it’s not anything New. Ezra Pound once said that “Literature is news that stays new.” By analogy, a social network is something New that becomes Need. Quora was new but it wasn’t needed–not every day. I am struggling to see how Plus is New. For the current users, I believe there is Need.

My second issue at the core has to do with playing nice. Twitter is ubiquitous because it was non-threatening. Application developers were able to sail through the approval of Apple, Android, Web OS, et al. with no problem because Twitter and Facebook posed little threat. Google on the other hand, has experienced dramatic setbacks with many of the applications (namely Voice with Apple). So, if I understand it correctly, Google+ is going to work best as an untethered application on my mobile device. While the HTML 5 application is acceptable on the iPhone, it doesn’t have many of the features that I expect from my social networks (i.e. real-time notifications, competition between developers (for better applications), etc.). Mobile is the key, and any viable network must play nicely with “all” mobile.

Finally, Twitter is by far my favorite social network; I love it because the users have built Twitter’s sandbox. Hash tags were a result of users agreeing how to categorize information. URL shorteners thrived because Twitter users needed a way to share links in 140 characters. Twitpics (and all variations) exploded to allow users to share their images. From the ground up developers and users have tapped ingenuity to figure out how to work within a wonderfully simple sandbox: 140 characters. On the other hand, I sense some suggestion that Google+ has defined the sandbox and I should feel free to play.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I have said for years that Twitter and Facebook are the current social platforms, and there will be eventual replacements, but I am more concerned about a thousand more niche “killers” than a single atomic explosion. The coveted designer network Dribbble is a great example of a niche network that is not the 400 pound gorilla but has great loyalty.

Are you on Google+? Connect with me. If not, let me know that you want an invite in the comments, and I’ll email you to confirm the correct email address. Most importantly, let me know your thoughts is Google+ going to be a sea change in social? Also, if you don’t mind, indicate in your comment whether you’re an android user.

Jeremy Floyd

Jeremy Floyd is the President at FUNYL Commerce. Formerly, he was the CEO and President of Lirio, Bluegill Creative, a marketing and communications firm in Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition to managing the digital strategies, Floyd was an adjunct professor for the University of Tennessee Chattanooga MBA program teaching digital strategies and social media. Floyd blogs at jeremyfloyd.com and tweets under the name @jfloyd. Jeremy is licensed to practice law in the State of Tennessee and holds a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from MTSU in English and Philosophy.

  • May I please have an invite? Then I’ll come back and respond to your post…but as of now, interesting thoughts. I like the “let’s get to the why behind all of this.”

    When Google releases this, I think everyone is curious, but it would be a LONG term strategy to run start having users migrate…I don’t see anyone jumping from our Twitter sandboxes any time soon.

  • Cannon Turner

    Nice review, Jeremy…looking forward to seeing how google improves on the social media concepts we have all grown to NEED.

    Hook me up with an invite. I’m on an iPhone. Apple for life.

  • Tara

    I think the success of Google+ will depend on how many people jump on board, and how those people use the network. Really, it’s just a wait-and-see scenario.

    I would LOVE an invite though…and I love my Droid. 🙂

  • Let me see what magic I can work… 🙂

  • Anya

    I’d love an invite, Jeremy. Thanks!

  • Billy Rivet

    Great post and great insight Jeremy. In my mind, great ideas produce changing social movements, but it is the society that makes them movements, not necessarily the idea generator. The idea, the platform, or the execution of said, were all secondary to the society implementing it.

    I’m not looking for an new way to conduct my online social life, but an innovative way to streamline it. If Google+ can do this, then the masses will come. If not, it will go away like Google Wave.

    Think of the uprising caused through Facebook that over took goverments through societies coming together via the platform provided. Think of the followers that tried. Not nearly as successful, though I’m not international government thinker either. Point is, you use what the society uses and not what Goliath says is best, so we’ll see.

  • @Tim – I always have to follow the money. I guess I’m a skeptic. Google is interested in a social network if it can figure out a way to monetize it. At this point, I don’t see a real differentiator from the other failed experiments.

    @Cannon – Thanks. Working on it!

    @Tara – That’s all we can do…wait and see.

    @Anya – Si senorita.

    @Billy – great observations. I’m dubious that it is as powerful, but we’ll see.

  • In my opinion, +1 is what will keep Google ahead of Facebook in the ads arena. Improving search relevancy will always keep me googling as opposed to clicking on ads in Facebook. I’ve been a huge fan of social recommendations for a long time, let’s face it, if you want to find a plumber, you would still ask a friend and +1 brings that to the search results. I’m always skeptical about trying to go head to head with Facebook but I suppose Google doesn’t need to win the war, it just needs to get enough people to defect to make it worthwhile.

    I’m on WebOS on my Palm Pre but will soon be moving to an Android based device simply because my service provider isn’t going to support the Pre line. It’s a shame really, WebOS was really a solid competitor for core features and implementation.

    I’d appreciate an invite if you still have any available, the geek in me is super curious! Thanks.

  • Yep, I believe that social referrals can be more accurate than search. I think that was the huge shift that FB’s *like* button allowed a social footprint across the web. It is understood and used. I just wonder whether Plus is another experiment or whether Goliath is all in…

    WebOS is brilliant. I was a longtime Palm believer…I mean they were the godfather of the smartphone, right? Too bad they lost the battle of relevance and profitability.

    Thanks Donnie!

  • mike

    I disagree with the “let everyone on board now”, argument. They have to have a controlled roll out or else too many people will end up in the sandbox with no one to play with….good insight on the google+ platform. thanks for sharing.

    i am an iphone user

    would love an invite!

  • Good point. Zuckerberg was so careful in the “roll-out” of Facebook to make sure that they had 10x storage and bandwidth before users.

    Do you think that the app will get through Apple’s approval?

  • Here’s an update on the invites. No one has been able to use invitations all day. As soon as they are enabled again, I will send them out. Thanks for everyone’s comments so far.

  • Okay, Invites are back! I just sent invites to all the commenters!

  • Frank

    Nice review.
    Dying to join, an invitation much appreciated.

  • Charlie Pierce

    If you still have any invites, I’d appreciate one, I’ve been wanting to try it out.

  • Would love invite, thanks, Jeremy.

  • Matthew Reynolds

    Great post! I’ve been trying to get more info on Google + and this helps a bunch. If you have any invites left send me over one!

  • DAvid More

    need an invite please. I think they are full now thought.

  • Interesting read Jeremy! I am curious as to how this will take off (or crash). A great deal of initial hype, but I agree…is there really a need? With other social networks (for personal and business use) established, it will be interesting to see if Goliath/Google will fill a “void” of by providing an integrated one. I am curious. If you have an extra invite, please send it…you know I’ll play/work!

  • Google+ is so new that it’s unsure what it’s going to be yet. I don’t even think Google knows. For now we can hope that it will be a close equal to similar networks, but we’ll know soon enough. Thanks for offering an invite!

  • Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!