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.
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:
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.