As you’ve very likely heard, Google introduced Google+ last week, which many say is a response to Facebook. We’ve been using it here in the Think Tank to figure it out and get to know it a bit better. It’s still early days for this new tool, but here are some initial thoughts from a few members of the team. Feel free to share your views on Google+ in the comments.
Truus Heremans, Trainee Digital Marketing Consultant:
Initially I had my doubts about Google+, being such a closed social networking tool not worth using when already on Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. However, once invited and logged onto the service I started discovering its interesting tools. As Google released more and more invites I started connecting to others. Your contacts can be assigned to “Circles”, by dragging them from the top of the screen to blue Circles, and you can name them basically anything you wish (and they can’t see which Circles they’re in, so there is much liberty there). Using the Circles model the user gains a greater amount of control over what is published, since you can select which Circles you would like to share your information/posts with. Google+ seems to be aimed at people who are interested in sharing things with people or groups with similar interests rather than trying to reach the highest number of virtual “friends” (as seems to be more the case on Facebook).
When uploading a video, I received an alert asking my visibility preferences. Again, Google+ is truly focused on “privacy” and “control”. You can choose whether or not you would like your friends to comment on your photos, video’s etc. Moreover, when connecting to others, there is no consent required of both sides. You can follow anyone, similar to how you follow on Twitter.
For the individual consumer, Google+ has built a platform where the right content can reach the right people. However, for now, Google+ is really “only” aimed at consumers. If you’ve created a Google+ account for your business you might need to wait a little longer until the right features are released.
Alan Cairns, Digital Marketing Manager:
So Google have unveiled their latest attempt to topple Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook. Since the far-from-impressive take-up of Google Buzz and Wave, I approached Google+ with scepticism. Buzz annoyed me – the way it stole my tweets and Facebook updates without my permission.
It seems to me that many users will have invested so much time, effort and bandwidth into Facebook – creating profiles, uploading content and building contacts that they might see switching to Google+ as going back to square one. It remains to be seen whether people will be willing to spend time establishing a Google+ presence, but Facebook have already blocked one application which can help users to export their contacts to the new G+ network, so it’s likely that migration of other content like photos and videos will be resisted by Facebook.
One of the biggest differences between Google+ and Facebook or Twitter, is that company accounts are not allowed on the new Google network yet. While this might mean less spam and advertising messages, it will also keep some users off the network. Particularly on Twitter, some of the most interesting accounts are actually operated anonymously or by companies or organisations. I look forward to seeing how this issue will be tackled.
Kelvin Newman, Creative Director:
I was initially very sceptical of Google Plus; it seemed far more “me too” than it should be, but having said that I’m slowly starting to change my opinion on it. Most of that change was motivated by reading this piece in Wired, it’s a long article but it really illustrates quite how strategically important Google Plus is to the organisation as a whole and quite how seriously they are taking it. That focus is reassuring as most of their previous social efforts have felt like the product of Google’s famed 20% of time spent on projects not directly related to their day job.
As a marketer, though, is it worth the effort? Well, it’s going to take some time for Google to make it clear how a business should have a profile on the network. For most people once that’s decided that will be the point at which they should consider getting involved. I imagine there will be some kind of spin-off of Google Places or Merchant Centre that it’s based on. However in the meantime there is a small window of opportunity for businesses to “try things out” on Plus. They may not work as the audience is as varied and deep as the other social networks but there will be PR value in trying these early campaigns. You only need to look at Ford’s coverage to see how that could work.