August 6, 2011
What Is Really Going On With Google+?

…and where is Google+ going in the next year?

This week, Ryan Stonehouse (Sales lead for Google+) and Chris Vennard (Product Specialist Lead for Google+) came to BBDO NY to present. They spoke on Who, What and How, as it relates to Google+.

Let me just say, going into this meeting, I wasn’t really a fan of Google+. I didn’t see a huge benefit and I assumed it was competition for Facebook and nothing really that much better. Yes, circles is cool. Yes, hangouts is an interesting idea, but overall… Not that impressive.

Introduction:

Starting with what Google+ is all about, the question of the evolution of the web was presented.

Links —> Apps —> People

We started with these novel things called links that would take us everywhere around the web. Then we introduced Apps. These Apps allowed us to interact with content on a much more engaging level. But now it’s all about people.

Thus, Google+ is not a social network. It is just the beginning of a network of waypoints to the web becoming a people-centric place.

Circles:

Software is just catching up with the ways humans communicate. When we are with certain groups of people, we speak in different tones, and often with different content. If someone from another “group” in our life steps in, we often change the tone or content of the conversation.  When thinking about that, Google+ introduces Circles. Circles allows us to change the tone and conversation depending on the audience. You have the ability to only share certain content with certain people. You are able to choose what “circle” of people can view what you post. This allows you to, for instance, set up a circle called “Met at the bar”. When you post pics of last night’s crazy fun, the only people viewing it are those people you “met at the bar”.

Sparks:

Sparks shows current socially communicated things. So when you go to Google News, you receive a list of news stories on that topic. But it is mostly the news websites that have the most clout. Google Sparks will pull up what is being shared the most from a social standpoint. In the future the hope is that when you type in “baseball scores from last night”, you would get the MLB scores, college scores of people in your circles, and even a video your sister uploaded of your nephew hitting that home run last night. 

What this does is truly blurs the line between email and social networking.

Hangouts:

This brings us to hangouts. Hangouts is like Skype, but instead of only-on-one video chat, it incorporates the ability to have ten. The beauty about Hangouts, though, is it recognizes who is speaking, and puts them on the big screen.  

I see amazing potential for random focus groups on certain products.

Brand Engagement:

Google presented to BBDO NY, which means they had to talk about how it would change brand engagement in the long run. The idea is to seperate your audiences in the social space and create a more personal relationship, but at scale.

With these circles, Google is developing a way to allow brands to be able to make their content more relevant. Imagine of Lowe’s Hardware had four different circles relating to DIY, Painting, Contractors, and Lighting. You could then opt-in to a circle, and whenever Lowe’s wanted to talk to people about new lighting ideas/sales/etc, it would only go to that specific circle. No more spamming 2000 people to get to the ten that care.

Now this isn’t a reality yet, but brand pages should start popping up in September, according to Chris.

+1:

Social networking is a firehouse, currently. So how can the content become more relevant for the viewer?

The +1 feature allows people the ability to, in essence, “like” something. Unlike facebook, however, this feature will be incorporated in search. Down the road Google hopes to link it in a way that if you search for something, depending on how your friends have rated (+1’d) it, those items will come up first, hopefully drastically decreasing your search time. You’ll also be able to see which friends +1’d it so you can make a decision on how much you trust their opinion.

This makes search more personal and relatable.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I see this becoming an extremely powerful platform for Brands to engage with customers on a much more personal level. It also has amazing potential to become a well-liked and used social network. 

The main issue I have with it is I feel my entire life is already on Facebook. It’s a lot of work maintaining two social networks, and I’m just not sure how many people have Google+ but never use it currently, as opposed to those who are fully engaged in the new product and attempting to learn it.

I’m excited to see where this goes.

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