This has been covered ad-nauseum all over the internet, and I was reluctant to write about it. It’s in a limited beta, mostly filled with geeks, and no one knows if it’ll ever have great significance. And you all have plenty of business profiles to update and maintain already.
But after spending a few days with Google+, I have to admit it’s largely well-thought out, and there seem to be a lot of people liking it. With Google’s influence, there’s a good chance it will succeed, so I’m going to do a brief introduction here, with links to lots of good resources. As the network becomes more available and more features roll-out, you can bet this won’t be my last word on the subject.
What Is Google+
Eric Schmidt, Google’s Chairman, has admitted that missing out on social (and letting Facebook take it) was his biggest mistake at Google. At least part of this is because Google doesn’t have full access to all of Facebook’s sharing/liking data, which could be used to improve the search results.
So Google has created a social network, centered around sharing. There are three main features:
- Circles – You can group people you follow or share with into “Circles.” Add someone to a circle, and anything they share with the general public pops up in your feed. When you share something, you can either share with all – or restrict to a particular circle, only allowing those people to see what you have shared
- Hangouts – When you start a hangout, it appears in the stream of those circles you chose. Anyone notified can join. It’s basically a group video chat, where you can all see and hear each other – virtually “hanging out” online.
- Sparks – With Sparks, you subscribe to a topic and are alerted to the most important information Google finds relevant to that topic.
I find Circles to be quite helpful, negating the difficulty on Facebook of keeping work/friends/family separate, although they take a few more mental gymnastics (where does this person belong) to setup. Hangouts are fun, I can see them being very popular with younger people and for casual business use. Sparks, on the other hand, I find useless, perhaps I’m just too comfortable with the places I usually go for news?
Google+ And Businesses
As of now, Google does not want businesses creating profiles on Google+. They will, however, be providing profile pages down the road. You can signup to be notified, and potentially participate in a beta here.
If Google+ gets any traction whatsoever, it will be important for small businesses. It’s almost a given that it would eventually integrate in some way with Google Places, and that Google will use the combined infrastructure to surface +’s and reviews from people you know when browsing Places pages or running a local search. This leads to some of the possibilities with reviews and the social aspect I discussed last year.
This is what really drove me to write this post – even if Google+ fails to topple Facebook or Twitter, any reasonable level of usage will lead to a disproportional impact on many businesses, due to Google’s influence via search.
Getting a Google+ Invite
If you aren’t on Google+, but want to try it, you’ll need an invite, which are not obviously available from within Google+.
This post gives instructions on how a friend can invite you to Google+. If you don’t know any friends on the system, contact me and include your Gmail address and I’ll get an invite out to you. If you receive my email updates, respond to one of the newsletters (again with a Gmail address) and I’ll do those first if there are a million responses.