Let's talk about the latest buzz in social media and even though this article will not be talking directly about automotive I still think it is relevant here.
After a week of using Google+, I think a lot of pundits are off on who Google+’s competition is. It is not Facebook. It is Twitter. It may be Facebook someday, as Google continues to rollout more functionality and soon will launch brand pages, which will begin their pilot phase in two weeks, but for now the site really looks like a challenger to Twitter.
Let me explain.
Circles are Better Lists
Everyone is talking about Google’s Circles functionality that allows one to select which group a new person you add will exist in. People can be placed in multiple groups, for example I can add someone to my local Dallas group and in a work-related group. To me, this is an improvement over Twitter Lists where one can divide their community in an easy way and filter their “Stream” by circles, similar to how one might display a Twitter list as a feed only viewing the tweets for that group. I use lists more than I’ve ever used groups on Facebook and the intuitiveness of Google’s Circles feels like a great evolution of this functionality.
Add to Circles is More a Follow than a Friend Request
You can add anyone to a Circle who is on Google+. There is no request, the person being “circled” does not have to approve your decision to include them in your community and I’m sure we’ll see social media articles in the near future talking about the ratio of people in your circles and how many have you in their circles and if you should circle back others who circle you. Community building sounds more Twitter-like than Facebook-like to me.
Extending One’s Community is Like Watching @ Mentions
I find a lot of new people in my social sphere by seeing who people I follow on Twitter are conversing with and when it looks interesting and that person’s profile and content looks compelling I follow them on Twitter. I don’t do this on Facebook. I don’t send friend requests to people my aunt might be talking to in a comment thread or send a request to a co-worker’s high school buddy even if I think that person’s comments are interesting.
Google+ is different since I can easily add people to Circles who have common interests and it’s not as awkward as sending a friend request to someone you have never met before. Perhaps adding people to Circles will be less social as more people join and it really does become an alternative to Facebook than Twitter. Currently adding people to a Circle is a behavior that is more socially similar to a Twitter Follow action.
Hangouts are the New Hashtags
Want to join a more focused instant conversation that anyone can join and jump out of easily? Well Hangouts are for you and I’m sure we’ll see brands using this functionality in a way twitter hashtags are used. I’m guessing Hangout trivia contests to win products and weekly Hangouts will develop around specific days and times for the community to come together to discuss their shared interests.
SEO is Google+’s Silver Bullet
Like Twitter, Google+ content is publicly available on the world’s most used search engine and many are wondering how Google might change its search algorithm to benefit Google+ content. This is important to brands, publishers, content creators and others who concern themselves with things like Page Rank and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but I can guarantee you my old high school friends or family members have no idea what Page Rank and SEO are nor will they ever care. So the Google+ silver bullet may be an audience that is interested in how content better lives in search and again here is where the link to Twitter as a competitor is more apt than Facebook. Many are on Twitter trying to get better SEO and I’m sure they will also join Google+ to improve their search rankings.
Google’s feed is called the “Stream” and it pretty much behaves like Facebook’s News Feed with the ability to add links, images, videos, or a location along with commentary plus your community can comment and +1 (similar to “Like”) your posts. This functionality is very much like Facebook today, but if people recall the evolution of Facebook’s News Feed borrowed from Twitter’s interface (and Friendster.) Sure it is more media-rich than Twitter, but this feels like Twitter on steroids and allows for conversations around a particular topic, but I agree this functionality is most like Facebook and hence why most feel Google+ is a Facebook competitor; however, I feel this is where Twitter ultimately may have evolved if Facebook hadn’t beat them to it.
Google+ certainly feels more like Twitter today, because a lot of the people I’ve connected with have come from my Twitter connections than say real-life connections. That of course may change if the masses, read my mom and non-social media types, start to gravitate to Google+. Without a compelling reason to move to another social community platform for the masses, it is doubtful my mom will want to re-establish all of her connections on a new website when Facebook has years of photos, years of accepted friend requests, and years of familiarity she has come to like.
For now, Google+ isn’t replacing either Facebook or Twitter since the community is still small and invitations are slowly trickling out, but as the site gains momentum it will be interesting to see if Google+ takes time away from Twitter more than Facebook. My guess, after a short week of using it and liking it, is it may be a formidable challenger to Twitter.