The Future of Google Plus and Google Circles

Google+ with Circles is alive! More importantly, it feels alive, which is more than we could ever say for Google’s other ill-fated attempts at creating a social network. In all of my circles, one topic continues to dominate today’s conversation: Google+.

Everyone is chiming in with what they love about Circles, what they hate, and whether they think Google+ has a future or will go the way of the Wave on the shores of Facebook’s dominance.

How Google Circles Works

Upon signing into Google+ for the first time, you will be prompted to create circles and add people to them. By default, there is a circle for friends, another for family, and so on. After adding someone to circles, your stream (essentially your “news feed” on Facebook) will display public posts from that person. If you are part of one of their circles, you will be able to see posts shared with that circle.

circles

Google’s unique selling point here is its ability to compartmentalize incoming and outgoing information easily. I created a circle for “close friends,” with whom I may discuss things passionately and in a manner potentially unsuitable for public discussion. Since none of my best friends are into Internet marketing, though, I can easily remove them from posts they wouldn’t care about. Likewise, my industry contacts don’t need to see video of my latest vacation. Circles allow you to control who sees your information, giving it an absolutely unparalleled ability to foster your conversations between like-minded individuals and groups.

One of my favorite features is the ability to view your profile through the eyes of any given person:

Plus View

In the above example, Danny Sullivan could, if he were so inclined, view everything that I had posted to my “Internet experts” circle. He would be spared, however, from seeing the cute kitten video I posted to my family.

Why Google+ Could Succeed

Google’s Circles are an absolutely brilliant way to allow users to incorporate every facet of their life under a single account. This is good news for everyone (like me) who struggles to find the right balance of professionalism and expression on Facebook, or for those who are uncertain about making their wall posts public. In Google+, you control your own information.

Google Plus also combines Twitter’s strengths with Facebook’s usability and interface. Like Twitter, there is plenty of public discussion – I posted a brief public note on my wall, and immediately had two intelligent responses from online marketers who then added me to their circles. Facebook tends to be more of a conversation between friends, which is still possible on Google+ by simply posting to the appropriate circle.

As I said in the captured post, there is a lot of excitement about Google+. Almost everyone loves it, and Circles is undeniably brilliant. If Facebook fails to adapt and find an easy way to segment incoming and outgoing information, Google+ has a definite chance.

Why Google+ Could Fail

There is a tremendous amount of effort required to get people to switch from one social network to another. Common resistance to Google+ (or any other new social network) can be summed up in the following: “Everyone I want to share with is already on Facebook. I don’t want to use Google+ if the people I know aren’t there with me.”

How many people are jumping at the chance to rebuild (sometimes enormous) social webs? How difficult do you think it will be for your parents to use the new service? These questions, and their potential solutions, should occupy Google’s thoughts right now.

In today’s social market, it seems everyone is quick to jump to conclusions about whether the network is going to make it. In many ways, however, this perception becomes reality. No one wants to switch to a social network that isn’t going to thrive.

My feeling is that Google needs to act loudly and quickly in every marketing channel to get as many people on board as possible. I understand the desire to roll the service out slowly, ensure that it works, and make it feel exclusive. Still, I feel that Google needs to capitalize on the hype, show how Google+ is better, and get people invested and involved ASAP. Right now, I don’t see that happening.

Citing “insane demand,” the service was temporarily shut down to new invites. This is a problem. Worse yet is the fact that invites are required at all. For Google to succeed as a social network, it needs to allow a person’s entire social web to move with them – not just a strand.

One Internet Marketer’s Conclusion

The strengths and weaknesses in the Google+ vs. Facebook war have been examined by our social media team and discussed extensively elsewhere, but the search giant’s chance of making it in a big way comes down to its ability to leverage the power of Circles vs. heavy resistance to changing networks.

I see Facebook as a company that is smart enough to recognize Google+ as a real threat, and I suspect that something is already in the works to give Facebook circle-like functionality. If that happens in a reasonable amount of time, don’t expect the common man to be overly zealous to switch.

Still, don’t expect Google+ to disappear any time soon. Google has a huge advantage over most companies in its ability to integrate a social network with Gmail to create a more social version of search – whether you join or not. Ultimately, full adoption of Google Plus will depend on A) how quickly Google moves to fill up its network by promoting its (currently unique) benefits, and B) how quickly Facebook comes up with a good answer to Circles.

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18 Comments

  1. iGoByDoc says

    Nice post Carson,

    It will be very interesting to see where this goes. The beta deal is kind of annoying. Wish Google would wait to roll out until anyone can join. The fact that I can not set up a profile today is annoying.

    I am anxious to get in there eventually and give it a go though… if only because you rave about it.

    Doc

  2. Collin says

    Facebook has “Circle” Functionality aka “Friend Lists” it’s just not in plain sight like G+ has it

    Also invites are still available it just requires some circle post tricks :)

  3. Ash Buckles says

    Great post. I think Google’s advantage of having millions of users searching will give them a quick acquisition of users for Google+ and easily share their lives online.

    To me, Google+ is more of a Twitter-killer than a Facebook-killer, but I think both will be heavily impacted.

  4. Walter says

    Thank you for your summary of the pros and cons Carson. Your post has pushed me to finally give Google+ a trial of my own.

  5. Gareth says

    I know a lot of people who are keen to give G+ and its Circles a trial. They are mainly interested because of frustrations with Facebook’s privacy settings.

  6. Vaselinessa says

    I disagree that the need for invites is a failing. People (en masse) are emotional creatures, and the need to receive an invitation is the ploy that’s going to get them to adopt Google+. The better functionality will get them to stay, but it would not prompt them to switch SNS.

    Gmail rolled out with an invite requirement, when there were plenty of other free email providers, which people thought were meeting their needs. Now I see Gmail popular to excess.

    • says

      Thank you for the comments. A lot of people have disagreed with me that the slow roll-out is a bad idea, pointing out that it creates hype and makes it feel exclusive, while allowing them to test features before rolling it out to a wider audience.

      I continue to stand by my position. Google is not selling iPhones or mail clients – we’re talking about a social network. You can make calls to anyone and email anyone with any phone or email client. Your utility with either service is not dependent on your friends’ adoption.

      The danger is that Google will wait so long that the early adopters will abandon G+ because they continue to need Facebook to interact with their less savvy friends. If the buzz dies down and the influencers move on, it won’t matter how good the service is.

  7. Stephanie Rosenbaum says

    Carson great points on the pros and cons of google +. Just like with anything new thing theres going to be people disliking the concept and kinks to work out. I’m really excited to see where this goes. I want a google + account and a pony. Cheers.

  8. Ben says

    Hi Carson

    I have found it a bit difficult to get my friends from facebook to engage in other social sites, most of them make time to connect with facebook and they say that all they need is right there.. but then again whe facebook was new, people said the do not want their life’s activities broadcasted on the internet, but now they do, in their millions.

  9. Jon says

    I would say Facebook is making some changes because of Google+. The one thing I would be worried about is if Google decides to make Google+ part of the algorithm for SEO.

  10. Liv says

    Good article. I think Google is very confident with their approach – it’s the same approach they took with Gmail and it worked very well. Think about how established the world of email already was when Gmail came in. To want something you can’t immediately have is human nature and I think even judging from the comments here, regardless of whether we each agree or disagree with their attraction tactics, I don’t see anyone saying “I’m not interested to see what happens.”

    Buzz. Tick!

    I respect their confidence to launch a product the world doesn’t yet know it needs, with such trust it will win people over. And in an age of ‘LIKE ME! FOLLOW ME!’ it’s bloody refreshing.

  11. says

    One issue that I foresee with Facebook attempting to compete with Google+ circle, is people get annoyed with Facebook changing the way you interact with the site. Obviously this is less of an inconvenience than switching social networks completely, but if Facebook were to truly try and create something as good as circles, it will be a big change that some people won’t like.

  12. Nataliey Raitano says

    This is really very nice post and also very useful to learn more about Google+ and Google circles. Thanks to you for providing this type of an important blog.

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