The value of any social network is what it does for you. Does it help you stay on top of your profession better, find a new job or keep you connected to your friends? Google+, now in limited beta (testing) is absolutely poised to be an influential player. Absolutely maybe.
If you think of Facebook as a platform for other applications to run from, in the way that Microsoft Windows is a platform, then Google+ is a social platform with different applications. In many ways, the Google entry appears to be easier than Facebook with greater integration between its applications.
Google+ is designed for smartphones and tablets with lots of meat available from the desktop as well.
Based on the premise that you want to share certain information with certain people, you create “circles” defining your groups of people. Next to individual contacts, this is your smallest unit of grouping people. These circles are used across all the functions of Google+, which is convenient at best. Simply create circles of friends, family – name them what you will, and just drag and drop your contacts into the appropriate circle.
- Hangouts is a feature for those spur-of-the-moment meetings using face-to-face chat with specific people or a whole circle. This is perfect for changing or developing plans and could hurt Facebook’s weaker mobile applications.
- Huddle is like texting, only for when you’re trying to get more than just one other person on the same page. Huddle turns a circle or random group of friends into a group chat, perfect for trying to finalize plans…or to find each other while shopping.
- Instant Upload automatically uploads photos and videos into a private Google+ album. You control who gets to see what content.
- The Sparks feature allows you to search for interests – fashion, sports teams, social media – and it will, according to the web site “always make sure there’s something cool to watch, read or share.”
With younger demographics using e-mail less (it’s too slow), this is a real option: it’s fast, mobile and can easily use text, photos or video. I could just as easily see this at work, with circles for each department or cross-functional team, sharing documents in real-time. (That’s not available yet, but my gut feeling is that real-time collaboration, a feature of the now retired Google Wave application is coming).
In short, this is not a Facebook killer, but rather a scalable set of social tools that could add value to a professional, students in a classroom, or a group of friends. Facebook and LinkedIn need to improve their mobile applications quickly, or this could eat at part of their user base.
Greg Finn at SearchEngineLand may have pegged it best as a LinkedIn/Facebook hybrid for professionals. He also calls out a potentially huge shortcoming: it does not yet integrate with other social networks like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. This IS a big deal for many advanced social media users.
The question is, will it be a big deal in a year?