I’ve seen a lot of articles over the last month about people who have been experiencing what’s known as “social media fatigue.” If you were a MySpace user, you probably know what I’m talking about – that moment when you realize you’ve caught up with every long-lost friend you can possibly remember, you’ve run out of witty updates for your friends, nothing on your page has changed in several days, and you suddenly remember there’s a whole world outside that you’ve been neglecting. That is the perfect time for developers to spring something new and fresh on the public. Facebook took advantage and pushed out a tired, lethargic MySpace and it looks like Google is attempting the same against Facebook with the new Google+.
If you’ve been vacationing under a rock this summer, here’s the deal: Google+ is Google’s new social networking platform, currently open by invite and soon to everyone with a Google account. Since the beginning of its beta stage, folks who were tired of Facebook’s often dubious security issues or who were just looking for something new and fresh have been migrating to Google+ by the thousands. And while it’s not yet open for business profiles just yet, we think it’s important to be on top of this new medium that people are raving about and even calling a “game changer.” I’ve done a little poking around since getting my invite and here’s what I’ve found.
The nuts & bolts
Google+ is surprisingly easy to set up, especially if you’ve already got a Google account. In fact, it’s so easy that it’s difficult to explain how I did it. Basically, I clicked a button in an invite sent to me by a friend, was taken to a page that allowed me to join Google+, clicked the “Join” button and voila, I was in. Google has always done a very good job of integrating the different areas of their business, from email to photos to blogs and now to social media. Everything can be accessed from your Gmail toolbar. The photo below shows a section of my Gmail toolbar.
By clicking on +Leigh-Ann, I am taken to my Google+ page. Simple.
The next photo shows the right-hand side of the toolbar where I can see if I have any notifications or post something to my wall without even having to leave Gmail.
This gets a thumbs-up from me. I have Gmail open all the time, so not having to check in on a second site is nice.
Circles of friends
There are many things in Google+ that are Facebook-esque. You can fill out your profile, share photos, post updates and comment on others’ posts in much the same way you’re used to. However, a new and much praised feature of Google+ is Circles. Circles allows you to sort your friends, family, acquaintances (and eventually businesses you follow) into categories and share only what you wish to share with certain people. This video explains it best. This means no more worrying if Mom will see your spring break photos! It also allows you to see information from only those you want to keep track of, and your friends will never know which category they’ve been put in.
What it means for businesses
Google+ isn’t open for company profiles yet; entity profiles are in testing stages, though. From my preliminary research, however, it seems that the network is right on track to making something that will have numerous benefits for businesses. Personally, I like the “Hangout” feature, explained in this video. My husband and I “hung out” on Google+, he in his office, me in the kitchen, to test it out. It works very much like Skype, except a button appears on the hangout initiator’s wall, allowing others to join your hangout. This could be a great way for businesses to connect with clients, host informal chats about products, or even do quick face-to-face webinars.
Additionally, a Google+ business profile would be:
- Able to connect with Picasa to easily share photos.
- Able to link to YouTube videos to tell users about your company.
- Able to send group messages to all users in a particular circle using the “Huddle” feature. This could allow you to group customers based on interests and only send them information on products or services that might interest them.
We’re excited about this new wave of social media and the marketing benefits it could potentially have, so we’ll continue to test Google+ and let you know what we find. Are you on Google+? What are your thoughts?