Welcome to the Kleber & Associates blog! Here’s the latest on Checking the Reality Check on Google Plus

After writing about the adaptability that must be integrated into social media strategies and the initial excitement surrounding Google+, our intern, Tracey Fienen, has provided her initial thoughts on Google’s new social platform.

After reading Shea Bennett’s critical article about Google+, I’d like to explore the counter argument. While there are certainly valid points in the article, I respectfully disagree with several of the ideas expressed by the author.

One thing on which I do agree with the author is the introduction of hangouts. I suppose there is an argument to be made that G+ may make us all hermits, never leaving our computers, if we can have virtual parties, but I believe the idea that you can interact with multiple people around the world is a needed innovation. Hangouts bring back the non-verbal aspects of communication that are lacking in traditional virtual groups. As we increasingly view ourselves as global citizens, hangouts really have unlimited use both socially and for business.

On the issue of circles, the author has some compelling points but the post looks at circles from a perspective not consistent with the normal social media participant. For the average person, social networking is about connecting with friends (past and present) and family. Most social media users are not “social media experts” who are posting and commenting all day long about their views on everything related to their work. Most people don’t classify their followers as “Twitter followers,” “social media thought leaders,” etc; most people say “high school friends,” “college friends,” “close friends,” “church friends,” “work,”  etc – a much less sophisticated and relaxed classification system. These types of groups are much more suited for the circle concept then the circles this author is talking about. If people were allowed to put themselves in others’ circles, that takes content control away from the user. The whole purpose of circles is for the user to retain (or take back) that control.

Facebook’s first users were college students using it for truly social purposes. Google+’s first users were the influential “social media experts” hand selected by Google because they would generate buzz around the product. People who have chosen to complain about G+ being an overwhelming stream of content that is useless and having too many followers to keep up with, should consider that the majority of people currently on there are people who get paid to produce content all day long, people whose job it is to be on G+ all the time right now. If you don’t want to see these lengthy posts and flood of content – don’t follow people like that (or group them all nicely in a circle and hide it); start sending invites to your real friends whose content you’re actually interested in.

And that brings up another good point. Google+ is still in beta. Betas have problems. That’s the point of a beta test: have many eyes look at the product to find all the bugs in it. Good companies listen to their beta testers and fix the problems as they arise, something Google is actively doing. If those of us lucky enough to have our G+ invites secured will take the time to give accurate, detailed feedback to Google about any problems we have with the platform, our experience will improve and will bring G+ one step closer to being ready for public release.

One month in to the new platform, future functionality is going to be based largely on future adoption. If Google opens it up relatively soon, I think adoption rates will be solid. If it’s good enough, it could potentially combine all social media into one platform. Once it is open to the public, the platform will become much more social. Right now it’s not very fun because only a handful of people you know are on it. Right now, you have to update G+, and still update Facebook and Twitter separately with the same content just so you’re sure everyone sees it. Once G+ goes public and all your friends migrate to it, you won’t have to continually update three platforms; you will simply have one. And that will also solve the content and return visitor problem mentioned in the post. Right now, people don’t come back or post. (Why would they post on there if no one is there to listen?) Obviously, as soon as their friends are there, they will start posting.

As far as Google+ not being a threat to Facebook…I think this thinking requires forgetting all the complaints we have about Facebook: the increasing clutter, the increasing dysfunctionality and downtime of some of Facebook’s features, the random error messages, etc. I am seeing an increasing number of my friends (including myself) complaining about Facebook and expressing a desire to move to a better social platform. I think that if Google+ can heed the words of advice being offered during the beta test and continually improve the platform, it can make the product attractive enough to significantly decrease the use of Facebook.
As a final thought on the topic of Google+ overtaking Facebook and Twitter, I would like to say that I cannot predict the future – no one can. But I would like to call into consideration that in the digital age, change is inevitable. In a previous post, I discuss the change that my generation has come to expect and the fact that anyone with a social media presence (be it personal or business) should be prepared to adapt to inescapable change. It is important to recognize there is a growing contingency of people who are anticipating and eagerly awaiting a migration away from Facebook. Maybe Google+ is the new platform we’ve all been waiting for. Maybe it’s not; time will tell. Personally, I’m excited about Google+ and am enjoying it.
How has your Google+ experience been so far?