Last Tuesday we saw the much anticipated release of Google+, Google’s latest attempt to counter-attack the social dominance of Facebook. After ‘a week in the wild’, the features and tools of Google+ have been the subject of much debate across the net. Here at Relevance Web Marketing, we explore the pros and cons of Google’s new social offering and its potential impact on the web as we know it.
On first log-in, we are welcomed to an uncluttered interface with a slick feel. This perhaps comes as no surprise when we hear that original Macintosh team member, Andy Hertzfeld has been partly-credited with the design.
The main interface seems to merge the functionality of a Facebook wall and a Twitter feed. However, Google appear to have adopted twitter’s ‘following’ methodology to create their ‘one-stop social shop’. Everything said by people you follow appears in the stream, with messages getting pushed up the list as people add comments. Each post can be shared or “Plus One’d” – to show your appreciation.
A New Way to Manage your Contacts
Facebook users will be familiar with the potential problems of adding professional contacts as friends. Google+ addresses this issue by introducing ‘circles’, a way to segment the info you share. Essentially you drag and drop friends, family and colleagues etc. into separate ‘circles’ or groups and then share content accordingly.
Next on the list of key features is Sparks, describes by Google as “an online sharing engine”, a function that allows you to follow topics of interest e.g. skiing and marketing. From first use, it appears to operate in a similar way to Google alerts, delivering a list of webpages, press releases, and videos that relate to entered terms. The content listed in each Spark has a Share link, which allows you to easily share that item with your Circles and is updated every few hours.
A Truly Social Network?
Features such as hang-out, a webcam group-chat facility are a novelty; however in practice there was a slight delay even with a fast connection. Other unique tools include integral photo-editing which was fun to play with and a ‘slide-show’ function allowing you to quickly flick through albums.
The single-user chat module used by Facebook has been replaced by a ‘chat-room’ or Instant Messenger model in Google+. This should further encourage discussion and sharing on the platform and has long been a Facebook user gripe. Furthermore, as online reputation is of such concern these days, Google have included a feature that not only lets you view your profile as others see it, but to make alterations to your profile for that specific person.
So what are the first negatives? Early users have expressed annoyance at content being pushed quickly down the page, an obvious time-lag in the stream and a potentially confusing interface. It is certainly true that widely discussed topics can rise to the top, even when they are of little interest. Nevertheless, if you find yourself irritated by a post that is receiving a large number of comments, you can simply ‘Mute’ the post and it will disappear from your view. As for the time-lag, this will undoubtedly be rectified as Google+ is rolled out. The ‘confusion’ however is perhaps not so easily addressed.
A Social Network for Professionals?
If we look back a good few years to the introduction of Facebook, its USP was its simplicity; everyone could create a profile quickly and easily. There is no doubt that Google+ is complicated with features galore and no fewer than 6 videos in the current help section. Is this then a social network for online professionals rather than an ‘over-whelmed’ wider public? Early adopters may love it but they are, by nature, very immersed in the tech world. And what about the huge number of silver-surfers who have recently joined Facebook in their droves?
The other obvious issue is that people can be extremely territorial with what they regard to be their personal space online. It was not so long-ago that users were up in arms at changes that Facebook made, even starting groups demanding that previous versions be re-instated. In 2010, the average Facebook user had 130 friends. Migrating these contacts over to Google+ could be a tall-order, particularly as users must have a gmail account to join.
And what about Facebook?
In summary, Google+ certainly has many useful features, however it is hard to imagine a mass-exodus from Facebook at this stage. Furthermore, Facebook will be watching and learning from Google’s efforts. The most successful features will most certainly be replicated or adapted to serve the Facebook community. And what about the wider impact on SEO? So far, there hasn’t been any evidence to suggest that Google+ is integrated into the Google platform to influence SERPs. However, this will more than likely be rolled-out by Google in the future. So as long as ‘ordinary users’ are not scared-off; SEO practice could look very different in a few years.