Google+, the Elephant in the Room

Aug 18, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

In a provocative piece on ERE the other day, Jody Ordioni argued that “Facebook will destroy LinkedIn.”

She offered five reasons for her thesis, with volume and the externalization of Facebook’s social graph as the main movers. Ordioni may be right.

Time will tell. In the meantime, there is an elephant in the room and its name is Google+. Launched late in June, it has already surpassed 25 million visitors, a rate of adoption far exceeding the growth curve of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or MySpace.

At last count, the service was growing at the unrivaled rate of about 1 million visitors a day, a number which does not include mobile users. Despite some conflicting reports, engagement with the site was increasing at double-digit rates.

How sustainable this will be is certainly open to question, even if those Google+ buttons are showing up everywhere. A Forbes post pointed out that few people are socializing there yet. “Most of those who have gone there have found it to be an empty room.”

Part of the initial allure of Google+ was exclusivity. You had to be invited to join. Now, you don’t. Google also leveraged its immensely popular Gmail service, integrating it with Google+ so that Gmail users get to jump start their social network.

Certainly, there’s no guarantee of success. Google’s other forays into social media — Groups, SidiWiki, and Orkut in particular — never gained much traction. However, there are some significant differences in how Google is approaching social networking that make Google+ worth watching, and joining. And chief among these is that Google+ is flexible and versatile.

I’m not going to detail in any depth what I consider to be its greatest virtue and value: Google+ Circles. The accompanying piece does an excellent job of explaining Circles, how to use them, what their value is, and even some of the pitfalls.

For the purposes of this primer on Google+ I’ll only note that Circles lets you segregate your “friends” and contacts in a logical manner.

The problem with Facebook is that everyone is a friend with the same access and privileges to your profile and wall as your mom. Ditto at LinkedIn.

The reality is that Facebook friends include close, intimate, friends; and social friends; and casual acquaintances; and even a few people recommended by other friends who would otherwise be strangers.

Recognizing this social hierarchy, Google+ enables you to put people into whatever buckets you choose. Communicate with one person, one circle, a few circles, or everyone.

Now, instead of switching among LinkedIn for business, and Facebook for fun, Google+ offers a single go-to location. It was this ability to categorize acquaintances and contacts that makes StartWire such a desirable tool for job-hunters.

The advantages for recruiters should be obvious: Circles are your various pipelines, giving you a freedom the other sites just don’t.

But Google+ offers more. It connects with Google Docs so you can link out to whatever kind of document you want, including a resume, a whitepaper, exclusive listings, or something you don’t necessarily want to post on Plus’ equivalent of a status update.

Its Hangouts tool is video conferencing for one-to-one or multiple-user conversations. It’s mobile enabled, so you’re not tethered.

Need to message everyone in a Circle so they’ll get into Hangouts at the same time for a chat? Then use Huddle, instant messaging for your Circles.

Sparks is Google’s version of LinkedIn’s news feed, only broader and more flexible. Pick your subject, Sparks creates a feed that becomes a channel on your Google+ profile. Click the channel and see what’s there. Then share it as you want.

Everything is mobile enabled. Or maybe it was all built for mobile and is desktop enabled. Either way, everything works smoothly on Android phones (no surprise there). One especially nice touch is the Instant Upload, which adds photos you take with your phone to a private album in the cloud.

Getting started with Google+ is a snap, especially if you already have a Google account. Just log in and you can start building a network right away; simply import your Gmail contact list by clicking on the “Friends” link. Sort these contacts into whatever groups are right for you. Contacts can be placed into more than one group.

Complete as much of your profile as you want or, if you already have a Google profile, import it, and off you go. Google Profiles, by the way, is disappearing into Google+.

Google is adding features and versatility to Google+ on a near weekly basis. Games got added last week. And soon, Google will be adding services for businesses.

<object width=”560″ height=”349″><param name=”movie” value=”;hl=en_US”></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”;hl=en_US” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” width=”560″ height=”349″ allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true”></embed></object>
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.