Is Plus Finally Taking Google Into Social In a Real Way?

This past week, Google rolled out Google+ to select users for a wide-scale beta test. Google+ is the search giant’s latest attempt at breaking into social networking, something it’s tried several times (and failed at) in the past.

This latest venture, though, has been met with significantly less scorn than Buzz or Wave or any of the dozens of other mostly failed attempts at social media.  I’m fortunate enough to have gotten an invite to be included in the limited trial, so I’ve seen some of the features that the platform offers. Most people (myself included) seem to be most impressed by Circles – which allows you to segment the people you interact with however you want – and Hangout – which allows you to have live group video chats.

Of course, detractors justifiably note that:

  • Facebook could be just one release away from mimicking those Google+ features it doesn’t already have. In fact, Facebook is announcing that it’s making video chat via Skype available.
  • There’s a perhaps insurmountable hurdle to getting people to switch from Facebook to Google, since most of us are already there and feeling comfortable.

The much-anticipated launch of Google+ has gotten me thinking about what this latest evolution in social media represents about the ways we want to interact online. As an Internet marketer, it also makes me wonder how (or if) it impacts businesses online.

On a personal level, I think Google’s gotten several things right:

  • Circles allows me to interact with my personal friends, acquaintances, professional colleagues, and clients in the way I want to. I can share uber-geeky Internet marketing stuff with my colleagues and share personal photos with my friends and family, and they don’t have to overlap. While Facebook has a way to do this, it’s cumbersome, and most people don’t seem to use it.
  • Circles also allows me to see my streams separately. When I’m in work mode, I can read through my Professional Circle, and then switch to Personal later.
  • Hangouts are a great way for me to do everything from chatting with friends to doing group projects.
  • I’m a regular user of many other Google services, and being able to easily move from one to another is a tremendous plus in my opinion.

It feels to me like the online social world is really starting to adapt to the way we as humans actually want to interact online. When I ask students in my SEO class to create their own mechanism for online information retrieval (theoretically, of course), one of the most consistent themes is trying to make things easier and more intuitive. In some ways, I think Google is moving social in that direction with Plus.

From a business standpoint, it’s really much too early to tell. There’s currently nothing like Facebook Fan Pages on Google+, and there’s also no advertising. Google says that business profile pages will be available, though there’s no estimate as to when.

When you consider how Google might rank the Plus business pages when they do become available, though, it certainly seems like something worth following closely. (And given that some business entities set up a ‘personal’ profile on Googe+ that’s already ranking well, that assumption seems pretty fair to make.)

Social Media Today did a great post called Why Google Has the Hammer to Make Businesses Use Google Plus that’s definitely worth a read.

And it becomes even more interesting when you consider how Google might (hopefully) integrate existing Places pages into Google+. While it’s going to take getting a critical mass of individual users, I think Google’s potential for mashing up all the information it has about your business is one of the more exciting things out of this latest development.

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