5:16PM June 29 2011
Yesterday, Google finally unveiled its secret social project Google+. Make no mistake, this is no Google Buzz. It is Google’s first real attempt at a social network, with a heavy focus on the end user and more importantly privacy.
I personally have been following Google’s interest in social networking very closely. Just over a year ago (April 12th 2010 to be exact) Paul Adams, who at the time was Google’s Senior User Experience Researcher, released a SlideShare deck (see below) outlining Google’s approach to social networking and people’s online behavior.
Upon viewing the presentation, it is easy to see the theory of social circles (incidentally the title of the book Paul has written) coming to the fore within Google+, and how the platform is looking to address the current challenge that Facebook has not solved yet – linking our online social networks to our offline social networks.
Facebook has recently experimented with social circles, via their recent revision of Facebook groups. Speaking from my own experience of groups, I personally find it very useful that I am able to post content to a core group of friends whom I know will be interested, rather than posting to my entire network that the majority will regard as noise.
It is worth pointing out that Paul Adams left Google to join Facebook as their Global Brand Experience manager. Paul’s personal blog “Are you thinking inside out?” is a fantastic read for those interested in the theories and practices behind better online communication. Upon hearing the announcement from Google yesterday, he tweeted “Seeing Google+ in public is like bumping into an ex-girlfriend.” Enough said.
Since April 2010 Google has experienced a few changes. Larry Page took charge as CEO of the company that he co-founded with Sergey Brin and gave prominence to the four strategic pillars of Google: Search, Mobile, Local and most importantly Social. As a result Vic Gundotra, previously Vice President Engineering became Senior Vice President of Social at Google. This, combined with admittance by other Googlers that they have yet to get social right (see TechCrunch interview with Maissa Mayer) shows a strong willingness to change and produce something truly ground breaking.
The strategic changes at Google, now brings me to yesterday’s announcement.
In my opinion, Google+ has an ace up its sleeve that Facebook has yet to effectively utilise, mobile. Google+ is optimised for mobile from day one, with key features like photo sharing and group messaging placed at the very heart of its functionality. Google’s focus on mobile is underpinned by recent stats that they are activating 500,000 Android devices every day. Plus there is a native iOS app on the way and an HTML5 mobile web app to provide more devices access.
But it is not just mobile. We can clearly see the way that Google’s four core pillars have been built into this. Search is present via Sparks and through their +1 product which is now becoming a mainstay of search results and websites. Local is also hinted at through check-in status’ being shown in the demo video. This is not just a social network to compete with Facebook but Google’s attempt to truly make the web social outside of what they no doubt see as a walled garden within Facebook.
For marketing and advertising professionals, we do not know precisely what the opportunities are for clients on Google+. However, given Google’s history with advertising I would imagine that they will be looking to monetise this platform from the outset. Unless of course they treat it like Google Docs and remove all forms of advertising and focus purely on the end user experience.
What we do know from the information presented yesterday is that profiles on Google+ will most likely have tabs that can be customised. I would imagine this functionality will be extended to also allow brands to be present on the platform too.
We already know that Google is looking to release a social/online gaming product, which will probably be built into Google+, so there will be fantastic opportunities to engage with people in this space. Google Offers will also most likely make an appearance.
Personally, I think it looks great. But, I will reserve my full opinion until the day an invitation drops into my gmail inbox and I get to play with it. I will say this though, things just got a lot more exciting in the technology social space and it will be interesting to see how Facebook responds.
Written in Google Docs whilst using Google Chrome and logged into my Google Account (have they already won?)
Mashable’s first impressions: http://mashable.com/2011/06/28/google-plus-review/