Today we’re featuring a guest post from Lani and Allen Voivod of Epiphanies, Inc., a social marketing and success strategies firm in Gilford. Lani and Allen speak at events and lead workshops and webinars for entrepreneurs, bold brands, and mission-driven organizations (including their annual “A-Ha!” NH Social Media Business Summits). They’ve also served as advisors and collaborators on the Division’s social presence since May 2009.
At twenty million users and growing since its beta launch on June 28, 2011, Google+ is definitely making waves.
Not the lifeless ripples of Google’s previous attempts at social – including Wave, Buzz, even Orkut – but waves of the Hawaii Five-O kind. Waves that thrill and inspire the adventure seekers, risk takers, and trailblazers of this dynamic new-world economy.
Even though it’s early days yet, please know Google+ is not only surviving, but already thriving as THE new social network contender to rival Facebook. If you haven’t been swept into its current yet, which is still on an invite-only basis, Google+ does seem a bit copycat-ish to the reigning champion of social networks.
“[Google+] is a collection of different social products,” explains Ben Parr in Mashable’s Google+: The Complete Guide. “These features include Stream (a newsfeed), Sparks (a recommendation engine), Hangouts (a video chat service), Huddle (a group texting service), Circles (a friend management service) and Photos.”
But the whole of Google+ and its implications for business and professional success are much, much more than the sum of their parts. With that in mind, dive in with us as we share 10 smart, strategic reasons why Google+ deserves your attention.
1. It’s Baggage-free (so far)
How many times has Facebook annoyed YOU with unannounced user interface changes, lack of customer service responsiveness, or one privacy incident after another? Google+ carries none of that baggage.
And you know what other baggage it doesn’t carry? All the relationships you have on Facebook. You get to start all over again. Maybe do things a little differently this time. It’s an attractive idea for a lot of people, especially those who feel like they’re stuck under Facebook’s thumb.
2. It *Looks* Simple
“They” used to say that MySpace looked like the Vegas Strip when compared to Facebook’s cool, crisp design. Now it’s Facebook that looks like a Lady Gaga rodeo, while Google+ looks like a clean, well-lighted place. Early adopters have cited this clean, simple design aesthetic as one of the big reasons they’re singing the praises of Google+ over Facebook.
Google has always celebrated simplicity as part of its brand experience. Dig the home page, which currently has no superfluous text, and back when it did, it wasn’t more than the length of a tweet. Only the absolute necessities remain, like navigation choices for search, plus advertising and business programs, because that’s where the bucks come from.
3. Lists Are Square, Circles Aren’t
Google has People, Facebook has Friends. Google has Circles, Facebook has Lists. You can add up to 5,000 People into your Google Circles, and you can have up to 5,000 Friends on Facebook. Big whoop.
How they work, though, is a whole different story. The unsung hero of web design is UI – the User Interface. Consider the seminal book on UI, Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think. You have to think reeeeeeeeeal hard about creating a List in Facebook. Lists aren’t even mentioned in any of the “Using Facebook” links in the main help browsing page! (Psst – click “Account” in the top right, then “Edit Friends,” then look in the top right corner of the center column for the “+Create a List” button.)
Google’s got it dialed. Click the Circles button. Find people. Drag and drop into Circles. Easy. Intuitive. Done.
4. Stream Control
Head’s up for the Facebook gamer haters sick of seeing your Friends’ Farmville and Mafia Wars updates and requests in your feed. (You do know you can block those, right?) What happens in Google+ Games stays on a Google+ Games Stream. No mixing it in with your other Circles.
Plus, so far there’s no secret formula about what appears in your Stream (a la Facebook’s “EdgeRank” news feed algorithm). The latest posts from peeps in your Circles are what appear at the tops of your Streams. In other words, you’ve got more control over what you see and what you want to see. Yippee!
5. Picasa Power
An alternative to Flickr, Picasa Web Albums is Google’s photo app, and it used to be that you had a 1 GB storage limit. Not anymore! When you upload photos to Google+, it uses Picasa’s engine as your photo management system, and you can edit your photos right in G+. Bonus – those G+ photos don’t count toward your Picasa storage limit.
Even better, you can view photos shared by people in your Circles while seeing at a glance which ones are generating the most comments. In our image-driven culture, these tech tweaks are pretty big deals.
6. Hangouts Are Hip ‘n Happening
Maybe it’s just us, but it seems the world greeted the Facebook/Skype integration announcement last month with a collective “meh.” A week earlier, Google+ introduced its Hangouts video chat app, and hands down it’s the most acclaimed feature of the network to date.
“The ten-person video chats (Hangouts) are awesome and a wonderful way to add more intimacy to real-time connecting/social networking,” says Mari Smith, one of the world’s leading relationship marketing experts and our own social media mentor, in What’s So Exciting About Google+ – An Overview. “I’m seeing and hearing about many cool, creative uses of Hangouts, such as: cooking demos, live tattooing, seven-hour concerts, pizza parties, and live news broadcasts.”
7. Search Plus One = INFLUENCE
Where do people do the lion’s share of their Internet searches? Yup, in Google. So when you see the search results, do you see Facebook’s Like Button? Nope! You see the Google +1s.
It’s been widely reported (and just makes good common sense) how much we all trust opinions posted online – from friends and strangers both – far more than we trust advertisements. So think of your own behavior. If you search for a baby stroller, and in the results, one site shows 3 +1s and another site shows 30 +1s, which are you more likely to trust, and click through to? This tiny little “+1” box becomes quite the power player in the world of social influence, sales, and ultimately, business success.
8. Algorithms, Anyone?
If people +1 your webpages and blog posts, doesn’t that make you more relevant in your industry than someone who isn’t getting those +1s? It sure does. What should Google make of that? They’re in the business of serving up relevant content on search engine results pages (SERPs). Raise your hand if you think Google will start factoring +1s into its search algorithms. Okay, now put your hand down and keep reading.
9. It’s Smart Business
Early reports claim that Google+ is filled predominantly with male geeks in tech-related jobs. These reports remind me of a marketing seminar I attended years ago, where one piece of advice was to be the only marketing expert in a roomful of dentists.
Right now, service professionals, business owners, self-employed go-getters, and brand mavens of all stripes have the chance to be real stand outs in their fields, before Google+ opens its doors to the masses. This is precious time during which savvy folks can make connections, boost visibility, nurture relationships, expand networks, and create opportunities with innovators, entrepreneurs, biz mavericks, and industry luminaries who are ahead of the curve in the social and tech realms. In these radically-shifting times, such a competitive and strategic edge can make all the difference.
These people – the Doers, Creators, Movers, and Shakers – understand the Bigger Picture. In many cases, Google+ pioneers know what’s going on – even live and breathe it! – and are forging the future of possibility for the sit-and-waiters and the let’s-see-what-happens-before-we-do-anything types.
It all adds up to invaluable connections with extraordinary, exponential, and infinite potential.
10. Tomorrow Is Coming…
Believe it or not, Google is still calling Google+ a “Project,” and it’s still officially in beta. Yet it’s probably the biggest-ever beta test in the world at this point, and it’s only getting bigger.
Think of what’s not in place yet: Ads, business pages, and integration with other Google features like Places, Latitude, Offers, Calendar, and Checkout. Google+ also has the unbelievable advantage of learning from Facebook’s trials and errors, and building tools and apps that are superior right out of the gate. Not to mention Google’s dominance in mobile (Android), video (YouTube), and search.
When it comes to the social space, Google may have been a little like Baby Huey in the past, but it looks like all its acquisitions and expansions are ready to step into their destinies and ascend to the next exciting level of purpose-driven ingenuity.
But What About Facebook?
Now, you could read this all and think, “Should I just ditch Facebook and head over to Google+?” Fact remains, Facebook is still the world’s largest social network. More than 150 million people in the U.S. have an account. What’s even crazier is that for every U.S. account, there are four non-U.S. ones.
It’s gonna take a HUGE mistake on Facebook’s part for them to lose that #1 position. So regardless of whether you or your company engages with consumers, other businesses, the government, or non-profits, you still need a business presence on Facebook. (Unless you’re Apple, the company that once again and always proves there’s an exception to every rule.)
What’s more, Google has a history of doing things not to become #1 in a field, but to give the #1 player a kick in the coding. The Chrome browser is a prime example. Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari work just fine, right? What’s the point of Google making its own browser? To keep the other three from resting on their laurels. To ensure that you and I have a great Internet usage experience. That, of course, benefits Google, where nearly all Internet search roads lead.
Hopefully by now, you’ve got Facebook handled well enough that you can spare a few of those social media moments you spend each day to start playing with Google+.
If not…please don’t let anymore time go by. All this social media brouhaha may be overwhelming, frustrating, or confusing, but it’s part of a bigger shift in how people are connecting, sharing, and communicating.
Be brave. Be bold. Play around and be patient with yourself. You can do this. And if you need an invite, post a message on our Epiphanies, Inc. Facebook Wall and we’ll do what we can to help you out. Or, if you’re already on Google+, please connect with us there: Lani Voivod, Allen Voivod.
After all, we’re all riding the curl of this ever-evolving socio-economic ecosystem together!