Google+ and the benefit of time

Jaron Lanier must be rolling his eyes. Google + has been out all of two weeks and we have already seen paid seminars on how to use it; thousands, if not millions, of blog posts espousing its virtues and condemning its shortcomings; gushing praise for circles and the ability to organize our friends and acquaintances; and now, after less than a month, when most of us haven’t even figured out how to use our circles efficiently comes the latest assessment – circle fatigue. Really?  To call circles “the dark side of Google +” does seem a little over the top. (Read the comments.)

Maybe we should all take a breath, restrain our need to decide/conclude/declare in realtime, before we actually know anything, and see where this all goes. Ever think that maybe it’s still too soon to tell?

We have no idea whether Google’s momentum – 10 million users in practically no time – will continue.  No way of knowing how long, if ever, it will take to reach Facebook’s volume.

Will Sparks turn out to be as useful a filtering device as we can imagine – feeding us new content based on what we’ve clicked on, liked or interacted with from previous results that it’s added to our stream? If so, will it become one of our favorite features of G+?

In early questions I posed to heavy social users, many were ready to make Google + their de facto platform, but others had no intention of bailing on Twitter.  Is it an either or?  Or might we, over time, find that certain networks play different roles in our desire to connect, share, discover content and organize news and entertainment via the influence and recommendations of our own carefully curated communities. Leading to the question of what role will Google + play?

And all of that’s before we even consider brands and companies. Right now Google has asked companies to stay off until they get the experience right and can select some subset of the 36,000 companies who applied to get on. That will inevitably raise more questions.

Will brands use circles intelligently, organizing small groups of advocates and loyalists in one circle, coupon cutters in another, prospects in a third?

Will Google + afford marketers better interaction and listening than Facebook does, even if the number of +’s are fewer?

What about early reports that the men to women ratio of G+ users was 90:10? Apparently that was a false assessment, but Google’s new site still weighs more in favor of the less influential consumer. Will that change?

Regarding brand interaction, there’s user behavior to consider. With the ability to isolate brands into circles we can easily organize brands by category, by coupons, or by other preferences and have far easier control over a brand’s stream than they might have elsewhere.  Need a new sweater? Click on the circle of all your favorite online retailers to see who’s sending you discounts.

Finally, there’s a lot of talk about SEO results.  Presumably now that Google has put an end to real time search, Google + content will have an advantage.  But we still don’t know, and may never know, how that works.  Right now a link that gets shared publicy has a URL (back to the Google+ post), so presumably it can be searched and found. But what about a link shared with a limited number of circles that’s not public? Does that link even count toward the page rank of the article being shared? And does it matter how influential the person who shared it?

Maybe you know the answers to all of these questions. I don’t. But I do think that for anything to work for us we have to work at it. Which recalls a whole other argument – Douglas Rushkoff’s Program or be Programmed. Having everything laid out for us might be convenient. But control and choice might be better thing. I’m giving it time.

 

 

11 comments
anthonyablackburn
anthonyablackburn

Thanks for sharing. Google juice and yummy organic SEO on Google Search, and quality rules. All Google cares about is relevance and its entire search algorithm revolves around this principal. Now with g+ it all depends on how many people read, click, share, +1, and comment–and the more the better, resulting in higher real time web search ranking results over in Google Search, optimizing your SEO.

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JeffShattuck
JeffShattuck

Cool post, and I agree g+ should be given a chance. But... I'll go ahead and go out on a limb and say it's DOA. Sure, it might get a lot of subscribers but how much will the really use it? Not much. As with Wave and Buzz and unlike Twitter and Facebook, g+ can't be easily grasped. That's a problem. Imagine a bar you first have to grok? Nah, I'm going to the place that serves a wide variety of beers. Twitter is easy: a place where you say what's on your mind to whoever cares to listen. Facebook? Share stuff that interests you with people who "know" you. G+? No clue. What happens when I post something? No idea. What about following someone, what does that mean, what will I get? No clue. If someone follows me? No clue. It's a mess and the reason is simple: g+ tries to be both Facebook and Twitter and in the end is not only neither, it's nothing. G+ needed to be easy to understand and be differentiated in a valuable way from Twitter and FB. It's neither. Maybe down the road its brilliance will dawn on me -- would not be the first time I was slow to clue -- but I think g+ is g- and I mean that literally: its subtracts from the Google brand. Again, though, I could be dead wrong! And I hope I am because Facebook needs some competition.

GuyMastrion
GuyMastrion

Edward you're ideas are spot on. I'm waiting and hopeful that it will prove itself to provide greater utility than either facebook or twitter and maybe that in it's evolution we will all evolve along with it. Facebook and Twitter are just the opening volley's in what will continue to be concepts that redefine our experiences on-line and off. We should also observe how the competitive effect of these platforms spurring each other onward shape our future engagements. Very cool moment in time we inhabit. Thanks for the dialogue.

mikescheiner
mikescheiner

I definitely agree with you Edward regarding us showing constraint until we all have engaged deeper with Google+ for a longer period of time. As you point, out on the surface the idea of customizing circles, sparks, and its real time blog/feed is incredibly intriguing, and at times overwhelming as well. As you also mention, the bigger opportunity that I think will gain great traction is when brands begin to engage. They’ll be able to bring some of what mobile does in terms of real time one-to-one engagement. Google+ will permit brands to be hyper-targeted/relevant to a users specific needs, interests or shopping habits. Customizing circles based on demographics, holidays, location etc. Sparks could also be another content stream created by the brands to reinforce strategic aspects of a brand or experience. All of which can then be tied together in a conversation via hangouts. Which certainly makes the argument for a very strong community management team. Great thought provoking questions and insights as always. Thank you.

howard_iv
howard_iv

I think it is clear that even Google has not discovered all of the usefulness of the Google+ platforms. We have yet to see how businesses will be represented. We do not know how AdSense / DoubleClick will be rolled into the mix in a meaningful way.

And, while impressive, the user base is still made up of early adopters and tech-savvy individuals -- the true test will come when actual users are in the mix challenging and creating new methods for using the product.

Cheers, Edward. Patience is a rare and under-appreciated character trait.

JoelRich
JoelRich

The Fast Company post discussing circles fatigue, which everyone seems to be turning on in their own comments section, reminds me of the Wired post I read about OS X Lion that basically said, "OMGZ inverted scrolling is too hard!" Twice in one week we have had detractors of two very big tech releases citing their main issue essentially being that G+ or Lion is too different to take the time to learn.

In an age of Fast! Nimble! Now! I hope we haven't unlearned how to interpret beyond the surface issues of new products. Didn't our Dads use to say "If it's easy, it's not worth doing"?

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@CarolWeinfeld Thanks for sharing. Though that, too, may just be scratching the surface. Q is what comes first, the scale and the community? Or the tools and engagement features that attract them?

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@mikescheiner Yes Mike, you are dead on. Fact is that Google+ appears to be a platform for more genuine engagement. Ideally brands will use it and think of it less as an online broadcast medium (which many do on Facebook) and instead customize and improvise new ways of engagement.

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@howard_iv I can't claim to have much patience. But it does seem odd that we jump to conclusions about everything so quickly, which, of course, is a quality that emanates from the real time web and the fact that we can share and comment before we do any thinking.

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@JoelRich It is odd that we have such expectations. At the same time, the next gen will now HTML5 or whatever language defines the web and will have far more control. The rest of us are subject to the preferences of programmers. Should have learned to write code.