Google Plus – My first impressions


Google+, the new social networking platform from Google, has caused a bit of a stir in social media circles (no pun intended!) over the past ten days or so. Since Google announced a limited number of invites to the ‘Google+ Project‘, the blogosphere has been buzzing with views, reviews and opinions.

Google+ is intended to be more than a social product or strategy, but an extension of Google itself. Google have described other online tools as being rigid, either forcing us into ‘buckets’ or being completely public. Real-life sharing is nuanced and rich and that’s something Google+ is attempting to replicate within their software and through Google+’s three key elements:

Circles – Users can place different friends and/or contacts into different circles, depending on what they want to share and with whom. Friends can go in one circle, business contacts in another, technology geeks in another and so on.

Hangouts – Hangouts allow you to let specific people or entire circles of contacts know you’re ‘hanging out’, thus making impromptu video chats with up to ten connections at once possible.

Sparks – Google describe this element as a ‘sharing engine’, where users can type in any interest they have and links to content – blogs, pictures, video or books – will be stored in the users’ interests list for future reference.

So, after playing around for the past few days, here are my initial thoughts and impressions of the platform:

Style and feel

I like the aesthetics and presentation of Google+. It feels clean and neat without appearing plain. The functionality is simple and unfussy, allowing me to easily drag and drop people I’d like to follow into circles and manage what I want to update, see and read in a very straightforward way.

An asymmetric social network

Like Twitter, Google+ is an asymmetric social network, which means that you can follow others without them having to follow you back to see and share their content. This gives you a lot more choice about what you want to see and Google+ therefore feels like the best bits of Facebook and Twitter in one!

Segregated lifestream experience

In a very similar way to Twitter’s lists feature, Google+’s Circles allow me to separate my contacts into different groups so that I can easily choose which content to view and from whom. Facebook and LinkedIn have both irritated me at times because I am unable to easily separate who I want to get updates from, and I’ve sometimes had to resort to hiding people’s updates as a way of streamlining my newsfeeds.

Choose who to talk to

When I’m on Facebook, I don’t often post business or marketing-related updates for fear of boring some of my friends! And on Twitter and LinkedIn, I’m often faced with the opposite problem – whether to post a more personal update without appearing unprofessional. Google+ lets me pick and choose who to talk to and about what so that I can tailor my thoughts and opinions to specific audiences.

Another social network!

The dilemma many people will face is whether or not to invest the time and energy in another social network when there are others already in place. Many will have established themselves, as well as their friendship/ contacts groups, on LinkedIn, Facebook and/or Twitter, so why bother doing it all over again for something new?

Google+ is still being developed and like all the other social networks will be updated and changed on an ongoing, iterative basis. I personally haven’t got an issue building up a presence on Google+ (although I’m biased being a digital marketer). The true test will be whether Google+ can start tempting away some of Facebook’s 750 million members!

In summary, I agree with Mitch Joel’s philosophy that “everything is ‘with’, not ‘instead of'”. I already use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social sites like YouTube and SlideShare to speak to different audiences in different ways and I will do the same with Google+ – at least until they (or any other social network) give me a compelling reason not to!

Are you on Google+? If so, what are your first impressions? And what are your predictions for the future?!