Google has failed at social networks before, and I was skeptical when I heard about Google+. After a few days of using it though, there is potential here. It’s not fantastic at the moment, but there is definite potential.
What We Have Now
Facebook starts you off with a list of ‘friends,’ but that’s really an arbitrary term. Some people friend their friends, some people friend everyone they meet and their brother, some people friend only their closest friends.
Twitter has no expectations. Follow everyone you know, you find interesting, you want to know more about. Follow too many people? Nobody will get too upset if you un-follow them.
As a result, Facebook tends to get more personal posts, and makes friendships stronger. Twitter gets more posts, and starts more friendships.
Where We Could Go
Google+ has the opportunity to take the good things about both and become the king.
Everybody has diverse interests, let’s use me for example. I like talking about the Pirates and technology and Steven Wilson and marketing and UFOs. If I post about all of those in one place it’s an unfocused mess—kind of like my twitter stream—and who wants to read that?
With Google+’s Circles, I can post about all of those and have a growing audience for each. The more connections, the more people join, and the stronger the network.
What needs to be added:
Trending topics – Real-time discussion about what is happening right now, among those in your Circles and those not.
Search – Similar to trending topics. Get people to connect based on interest, not previous relationships.
More people – It may be growing quickly, but it’s still pretty much a ghost town.
Businesses and Brands – Facebook’s strong attraction of brands comes 1) from the number of eyeballs and 2) from the posts that pop up intermixed with those of their friends. Google CANNOT separate brands into their own Circle or it will be ignored and marketers go back to Facebook.
Also, from the perspective of someone who runs multiple Facebook pages: Make it easy for people to promote their brands (note that is multiple) through their personal page. A separate login takes too much time and will kill use. Facebook’s system for controlling pages is darn near perfect.
Finally, a word of caution. Google+’s biggest advantage is that a teenager can connect with their mom, grandfather, and peers and not feel invaded or lame (most people don’t realize you can actually do this on Facebook, it just takes a little longer). By choosing who sees what, however, it creates a false sense of security.
If it’s on the internet people will see it. If you don’t want customers or that weird girl at your lunch table to see what you are posting, then don’t post it. People will find out.