This article is published in Med Monthly Magazine, Sept. 2011.
You may have noticed +1 icons in Google’s search results or on the websites you frequent. What does that little icon represent, and what relevance does it have to your life?
What is Google+?
Google+ is Google’s most recent attempt at a social network. Before Google+, there were Google Wave and Google Buzz, which were failures in the scheme of social networks. There’s also Orkut, a site that has seen success in Brazil and India, but not in the US. Google+ has features similar to Facebook, but with a few more advantages.
Is Google+ Necessary?
Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Buzzle. StumbleUpon. Bebo. The “list of social networking websites” on Wikipedia is staggering—and it’s not an exhaustive list. There’s also a separate list for defunct social networking sites. Google wants in on the action because there is substantial money to be made in social networking. Consumers are turning to their friends on Facebook for referrals on where to eat, what to wear, and which services to use. The big question is, will Americans embrace Google+ as they have Facebook?
This Time is Different
Google+ presents unique features that other social networks lack. For instance, by dividing your contacts into Circles, you can segregate your audience. When you publish a post, you get to choose who sees it. When would this come in handy? Say you post an announcement about new financing options in your office. You may only want to show patients and team members—not old high school buddies or your colleagues (competitors). Circles let you choose who sees what. You can do the same thing on Facebook, but it’s more difficult and time consuming.
Another difference is the Huddle feature. Let’s say you and your golf pals are planning a getaway. With Huddle, all of your pals can join a live chat on their phones and text their input as you plan the trip. It happens in real time. With a culture that’s constantly on the go, Huddle could revolutionize text.
Want to Join Google+?
You have to be invited, so check your email for an invitation from a friend who’s already on Google+. While Google+ isn’t officially in beta testing, Google cuts off the maximum number of invitees whenever it wants, so there’s no guarantee you’ll get in soon. If you have the opportunity, take it. Right now, Google+ is limiting users as the company identifies problems and implements fixes. There is no indication as to if or when the invitation-only system will be retired.
What Does It Look Like Inside Google?
Once you’re inside Google+, navigating the network is easy. As with other social networks, you simply complete your profile, upload photos, and invite friends. Be sure to follow friends as well so you can promote activity on your stream, which is the equivalent to your Facebook wall.
Will Google+ Take Off?
The problem for Google+ users, and Google in general, is that most Americans are playing in Facebook’s yard and don’t want to hop the fence and learn Google’s new games. Google+ can feel pretty lonely at first until you find friends and engage. The Internet brings us new and exciting opportunities every day. Some are successes, like Facebook, while others are pitiful failures. Remember the .com bust?
Consider Google+ as you would a member of the Kennedy family. It comes from a respected and well-known background, so it has an advantage over other search engines. Still, it must prove itself to the masses and earn its place at the top.
What Does Google+ Mean to Businesses?
As a business owner, you need to know more about that little +1 button. It’s where social networking and search engine marketing come together.
Google+ users have the option of +1’ing or plus-one-ing websites they like. Google takes plus-ones seriously. The more plus-ones a site has, the more weight Google gives it in Search. For this reason alone, you should put the free +1 button on every website and blog you own, then plus-one your sites. Ask friends, family, employees, colleagues, and patients to +1 your sites, as well. A counter by your +1 button will show how many people have plus-one-d your site.
Right now, Google+ and +1 are not completely connected, meaning that you can’t see what someone has plus-oned by only viewing their Google+ profile. Strange, but true. Word on the web is, Google will hitch the two in the future.
Take the Google+ Tour today at www.google.com/+/demo/.