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Google+ : To “Like” or to not?
12 July | Posted by @Catherine Beaumier Lacroix
The Facebook vs. Google battle is far from being over. Now an expanded battlefield, it’s become a World War, to say the least. On June 28, Google launched its brand new weapon, directly encroaching upon Facebook’s territory, threatening it with heavy artillery and attempting to permeate into the “social networking” grounds of the web.
Eric Schmidt’s new social platform has one very good starting point: the magnitude of the buzz that was generated with the coming of Google+. Planet Netaholic seemed to have momentarily lost its mind when it came down to networkers wanting to be among the first to be part of Google+. In fact, private invitations were even sold on eBay! This is what happens when exclusiveness is used as a strategy to win over an audience. For those who haven’t discovered Google+ yet, here is an overview of what the new social platform has to offer.
Google+: giving you a taste of the new social network
- Circles: A feature that will most probably gain favors in web users. Circles enable contact delimitation (friends, family, work, etc.) which makes it possible for users to share their information in a selective manner. Very user-friendly, this feature allows us to follow and to be followed by people (much like Twitter) whom we share public information with all the while having a more personal bond with people we’re close to. No more trying to figure out how to separate our work colleagues from our friends: users post what they want, to whoever they want. Although Facebook has its own Lists feature, it’s still not quite easy to use.
- +1 Google button: Since the coming of Google+, this new sharing tool has blossomed on the Web like dandelions in a field of flowers. With the +1 feature, Google imposed this alternative on Facebook’s popular “Like” feature, which has become a benchmark on all, or most, websites. The pros: +1 is clearly identified on Google’s main page (www.google.com) when displaying search results. A +1 tab can also be found on Google+’s main menu, which serves the purpose of regrouping each web page bookmarked by the user.
- Hangouts: A clever and user-friendly chat tool. Very easy to use, the Google+ chat includes the written, spoken and visual channels of communication and enables users to create and to partake in discussion groups. As we know, Facebook does most of this too, but Google+ has the advantage of being more ergonomic in its display and use.
- The perfect complement to Google’s ecosystem: As we know, almost each web user has a Google profile and they all surf on the American giant’s websites every day, several times a day. In the course of May 2011, Google registered a monthly record number of 1.009 billion unique visitors for websites such as Gmail, YouTube and Orkut (a well-established social network that’s very popular in Brazil). Since Google+ was designed and thought out to be merged into the Google world, it therefore benefits from great user-friendliness and tremendous visibility. With Google+, as soon as web users log into one of Google’s services, they are automatically directed to their “+” profile and will simultaneously gain access to their social menu, located on the far right side of the navigation bar.
- Making the most of research algorithms and profiling: It may just be the biggest advantage that Google+ has to offer, although their user information privacy is something that leaves us puzzled. Thanks to the large amount of user data that’s gathered, Google is able to suggest relevant and targeted content according to users’ profile. This is a great feature for those who have had it with Facebook’s wall, which can become quite crowded. Unfortunately, we simply cannot ignore the thought of Google becoming like a Big Brother of some sorts.
A new marketing playground?
Without going into details, it’s obvious that if Google+ follows the path intended by Eric Schmidt’s team, the new social platform will open an incredible amount of commercial and promotional opportunities, market research and marketing potential for businesses. This way, businesses will be able to set up communities, understand their customers’ internet habits and suggest targeted ads associated to specific contexts and places (yes, Google did think of geolocation).
Will Google+ oust Facebook?
It will take Google a great deal to crush down the monumental success that Facebook has. Regardless of its numerous assets, it seems, at first glance, almost impossible for Google+ to convince over 700 million web users to abandon their Facebook account and social graph. Many analysts revealed that Google+’s success will result from the cybercommunity’s willingness to switch to a different social network. Although some annoying aspects that can be found on Facebook will make some users go towards Google+, will it be enough to bring about an online revolution?
Are we really asking ourselves the right questions?
Last week, one of my great colleagues, Guillaume Boudreau, shared a thought on the subject: instead of trying to figure out if Google+ will be replacing Facebook, perhaps it would be more interesting to consider what Google+ will bring into the world of online social networking; it’s not far off to say that it will probably reform the identity and the role of the social networks.
In fact, Google+ certainly has a vocation, as Twitter has its own, one that doesn’t conflict with Facebook’s. Google+ might not replace Facebook, but it will definitely change the online world of social networking. One thing is certain, social networks will not disappear any time soon, and their growth is just kicking off. To question which web giant will prevail over the others is perhaps not the right way of thinking. It might be better to focus on their own morphogenesis, on their adaptability in an environment where there is enough room for everyone and where their identity will always be linked to the biodiversity surrounding them. A sort of online ecosystem, to be followed…