Monday, 4 July 2011
Google+: Social networking grows up
Google+ launched last week. The demand was so great that Google were forced to shut down invites within a day. Having been lucky enough to get in as one of the first though, I've been playing around for a few days now and can't help concluding this is a service that really is going to be a game changer both for consumers and for brands involvement in social.
The service has variously been touted as a Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Myspace, Skype (and it goes on) killer. I'm not going to speculate here about whether it will kill any of those, but suffice to say it does many things that all of those brands should be wary of. I believe after my first dalliances, there are four aspects that make this service amazingly strong.
First and possibly most importantly is its core strength. Google+ pulls together all of Google's services seamlessly. Your Google+ alerts are sent through Gmail. The photo upload is through Picasa. The event scheduling is through Google Calendar and so it goes on. As there are currently over 1 billion Gmail customers alone, let alone the other services, when the service comes out of beta it could well be hugely dominant.
The second is the Circles feature. Circles is an incredibly simple and intuitive way of building your friend lists. Contacts can be dragged and dropped into one or as many different circles as you like and then any content you share can be published to any of those created circles or, if you wish, made completely public making privacy simple and easy. This group function is far simpler than either Facebook and Linked In Groups and arguably far more baked in to the service than Twitter lists and therefore far more likely to be integral to its usage. It also fundamentally inverts the privacy pyramid back in favour of the user.
The third is Hangout. Hangout provides group video calling to anyone with an enabled webcam. Rumour has it that Facebook could be releasing something similar this week but the ease with which it is to fire up a Hangout is frightening and frankly Skype could definitely be under threat.
The fourth is the photo and video sharing. This sounds like the classic me to service and it would be easy to copy existing models, however Google has created a drag and drop experience which is Apple-like in its ease. You simply drag any photo onto a box and it uploads instantly. Working similarly to the recently launched Google images preview function, you can then scroll through gallery lightboxes seamlessly. The user design in this area really makes you feel this whole new proposition has been amazingly well thought through. Added to this great functionality, the upload interface with Android on the mobile side is seamless and if there are some fence sitters out there, this will definitely provide great reasons for choosing Android over the Apple iOS.
If we were to pick just one killer app over everything else it would have to be Circles, this puts privacy absolutely in the hands of the consumer and as such this really sees social platforms growing up. This is the reason we think that Google+ is a game changer for brands. Brands are going to be forced to look at more complex metrics than simply followers or fans, as it has been easy to rely on up to now. Engagement is going to have to be based around much more solid content interaction strategies if brands really want to spread through the Circles structures. This social platform is putting the power back in the hands of consumers and brands are going to have to step up their game to have real impact.