This is a guest post by Shannon Evans Suetos.
We live in a time where we learn more about our friends and family through Facebook updates than through any other form of communication. Twitter usually scoops news outlets like CNN, and LinkedIn can open the door to your new dream job. In June, comScore reported that one out of every six minutes is spent on a social network. Think about that; you spend more time on Facebook than if you ran a half marathon.
The newest social network de jour is Google+. Available by invite only (for now), Google+ has taken the social networking scene by storm. Live for just over a month, Google+ has already hit 10 million+ users, and it’s still not open to the pubic.
Shiny New Toy
For those of us who spend more time online than the “normal” user (i.e. Internet marketers, PR pros, tech journalists, etc.), Google+ is like a shiny new birthday toy. Not only does it have the exclusivity factor, but Google+ also is Google’s third attempt at a social network. Wave and Buzz were nice efforts, but at a first glance, Google+ seems to be Google’s best shot. After all, they say third times a charm, right?
There are already hundreds of posts on how and what Google+ does, so I’ll spare you any regurgitated news. If you don’t know the basics, check out the terrific guide by Ben Parr of Mashable.
Learn About Google+ on Google+
If there is one thing for certain, Google+ is a great place to find anything written about Google+. Most of my circles (friends and followers in non-Goggle+ speak), are marketers, PR pros and tech journalists, so it might be skewed, but it seems as if most are only talking about Google+. What it does, how to use it, any updates, why it’s not going to beat Facebook. Honestly, if it was written, chances are you’ll see it in your stream.
What You Won’t See
One thing you’ll notice is non-industry folks engaging on the network. Most people who do get an account merely sign up and that’s it. They MIGHT throw up a picture, but then they are done. Why? I can’t speak for everyone, but my first reaction is, what’s the point? If my friends are on Facebook, why would I share on Google+? What is in it for me if I switch?
Google isn’t offering anything new. If I have learned anything in my time as a marketer it’s this: always ask first, what’s in it for my clients? Why is my product/service better than the rest? What makes my client’s work so special? I ask the same of Google+ right now. What are they offering that Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn isn’t offering? With my short time on Google+ I don’t see anything new and valuable. However, not everyone feels this way. A few days ago Crystal Vilkaitis, Director of Social Media for SnapRetail, asked her Twitter followers how everyone liked Google+. After telling her my thoughts, her response is below.
Vilkaitis has a great point, but it’s still not answering my question of what Google+ can do for the masses. Tamar Weinberg has given her two cents on Google+ below (with related discussion here):
Experian Hitwise reported that Google+ traffic on the week of July 18th saw a 3 percent decrease in traffic. This isn’t earth shattering news for Google, but they need to keep people’s attention if they want to compete with other networks.
One thing Google+ does have going for it is the same thing that could hurt it: industry people engaging. If anyone is going to make or break a social network, it’s the early adopters. If you wow them, they will blog and tweet write articles about how great your service is. Which is what Google is probably betting on.
Google+’s circle feature is something other networks don’t have — or at least not in such a straightforward way. When you want to add someone to your network, you are automatically prompted to put them in a certain circle of your choice. This way, if you want to only post family pictures, you can easily post to only your family circle. This is what Vilkaitis was referring to above, and something Facebook has never encouraged.
Since I use social media to market my company, and myself, I personally am struggling with this feature. I do categorize people within my circles, but 95 percent of the time I am posting to the public, not just one circle. The point of social media in my mind it to find exposure, and open the door to someone who may not have initially found me. But I think this is a feature non-marketers have been craving.
Is it Too Little, Too Late?
With minor differences between other social networks, has Google already lost its grip on the social market? Honestly, it’s too soon to tell, but Google is going to need to step up their game a bit. Is Google+ leaps and bounds better than Buzz? Yes. Is it better than Wave? Absolutely. But what about their competitors? It’s going to take a lot for most people to use more than one social media medium if they aren’t in the online industry. I don’t see my grandma jumping over to Google+ anytime soon, but she loves Facebook.
This is Google’s best attempt at social yet, but it may be too little too late. Most people don’t like change and have already settled on their preferred social network. When Facebook came on the scene and slowly overtook MySpace, the majority of users weren’t engaging as often on any social networks. We spend almost 17% of our online time on social networks—a huge leap from where the public was just a few years ago.
I’m not counting Google+ out completely. With much less “noise” on this network, I have already made great connections I may not have on other networks. It has helped me find new and smart people and also it allowed me to engage and be heard. I got this writing gig, because I saw Tamar’s post on Google+ asking for guest posts (editor’s note: I’m still looking). It’s going to take a while to see how Google+ evolves. Google has disappointed us before; let’s hope they keep up the great work.
Shannon Evans Suetos is an online marketer living is San Diego, and the owner of What’s Your Two Cents? WYTC is a blog dedicated to reporting the latest trending news topics to spark a conversation among readers. You can also follow Shannon on Twitter @ShannonEvansSM.