Sunday, March 3, 2013

Google+ or - ?

“Google+ Why is it important?” seems to be a trick question at first glance. Of course it isn’t important. The only time anyone ever hears or thinks of it is when one of the many meme’s making fun of it get circulated on the social network that matters – Facebook. 

Ending the conversation there, however, misses some of the benefits that Google + can have for individual users and businesses. For the individual user, Google+ easily allows you to connect to your interests via the thought leaders and content creators that form their new, yet numerous, “communities”. In the same way that Facebook easily connects you to your existing friends, Google + can be used to connect to the ideas and communities that matter to you. Google+ also makes it easy to keep this network of people organized in a way that you define. The intuitive “circles” feature allows you to sort your contacts into whatever categories you find appropriate (close family, extended family, HPM homies, old grad student friends, etc.) and lets you easily set differing levels of privacy with each group. In short, with an ever increasing number of users, the opportunities for easily connecting both publicly and privately to friends new and old are growing daily.

While the differences between Facebook and Google+ may seem slight for the individual user, the benefits to businesses can be tremendous. Unlike their earlier social effort, Buzz, Google+ hasn’t been created as a standalone product. It is becoming more and more integrated into all of Google’s offerings, from Google docs to Gmail to Maps to Search.

Ah, search. In the same way that Facebook rules social, Google rules search. If you’re a business with a web presence (can you think of any that don’t?), then search is important to you. Shortly after the creation of Google+, they introduced the concept of Search plus Your World, an effort to combine traditional search results from the wider web with results influenced by your Google+ network. For a business without a presence on Google+, you risk dropping lower in search results than businesses that do. An example of the search benefits of being an active member in Google+ can be seen at here:

Beyond major international companies like H&M that were profiled in the link, there are also implications for local business. Google+ Local is another service integrated with Google+ and combines search with product reviews and mapping. As the internet is increasingly accessed via mobile devices, this is a powerful combination that can direct customers into local businesses at the exact moment they are searching for what they want. 

To conclude, Google+ can be a user-friendly way for individual users to connect to people with similar interests. It is also becoming an increasingly vital way for businesses of all size to maintain their search relevance. Though many scoffed at Google’s second attempt at social, the internet giant might just be the one to get the last laugh.

If you are Google, what do you hope Google+ does for your company?

Does Google+ need to overtake Facebook for social dominance to be successful?