Google+ is Google’s 3rd try at a social network. Previous attempts with Google Wave and Google Buzz couldn’t compete with Facebook. Facebook just announced that it has reached 750 million users world wide. That is an insane amount of users. If Google+ has any chance of stealing users from Facebook, it is going to have to be a great product…and based on my first impressions it seems to be.
Google+ is still in beta testing so it is far from a finished product. Google makes it very clear when you sign up that you might encounter some “rough edges” and I did find a couple of annoying bugs. Looking past the normal beta bugs, I see real potential in this product.
Circles Instead of Friends
As soon as you sign up you will notice a lot of similarities to Facebook. You will be asked to fill out a profile with information from both your personal and professional life.
One of the great features of Google+ is how easy it is to designate who will see what information. Instead of a friends list, like you have on Facebook, Google+ uses circles. A Circle is a category of contacts. Circles make it easy for you to control who sees the different parts of your profile and who you are sharing content with. The default Circles are friends, family, acquaintances, and following.
Google describes the 4 Circles as:
Friends – Your real friends, the ones you are comfortable sharing private details with.
Family – Your close and extended family, with as many or as few in-laws as you want.
Acquaintances – A good place to add people you have met, but aren’t particularly close to.
Following - People you don’t know personally, but whose posts you find interesting.
Circles are fully customizable. You can rename existing Circles and add new ones. Within the Facebook privacy settings you are able to create lists and control who you share content with, but it isn’t nearly as easy as using Circles. Circles is a core feature of Google+ and I think it is the key to making Google+ a great tool for both your personal life and business.
As a business owner, or marketer, you can set up different Circles for prospects, current customers, and colleagues. Now you can easily manage the content they are sharing, the conversations that are taking place, and how you are interacting with each segment of contacts.
Google+ has all the basic features that you will find in a Facebook Profile, such as photo and video uploading, tagging, and sharing, the ability to +1 content (the Google equivalent of Liking something on Facebook), add comments, and chat with people in your Circles. The feature with the biggest wow factor that you won’t find on Facebook has to be Hangouts. Hangouts is a group video calling system that utilizes Google Voice and video chat. After installing the Google Voice and Video Chat plugin you are able to initiate, or join, a group video call. When you initiate a call your Circles will be able to see your Hangout in their stream making it easy for them to join the call. You can also invite individuals to the call.
Facebook has just announced a partnership with Skype that integrates video calling into Facebook. Facebook’s new video calling is a one-on-one call versus Hangouts which is a group video call. With a little imagination group video calling could open up a lot of opportunities for marketers to spread their message.
As soon as Google+ was launched major brands started creating accounts. Google ended up issuing a statement asking brands to hold off on setting up consumer accounts until they can launch Google+ for businesses later this year. We will have to wait and see what the full product looks like and how many users register before Google+‘s marketing value can be determined. For the time being there is plenty of opportunity to establish your personal brand and interact with friends, family, and business contacts in a slightly different way than you do on Facebook.
Have you had a chance to try Google+? What are your first impressions? Let us know by posting a comment below.