As one social network struggles to keep its head above the water, Google is to set sail with another social offering in its quest to challenge the dominance of Facebook. While Jobs and Zuckerberg look longingly over at the search giant’s dominance of all things search, it’s no secret that Google has been looking to crack the ‘social thing’ for some time.
So today it announces the imminent arrival of Google+.
As has been heavily tipped over the last few months, Google+ taps into an emerging social trend; the idea that you might not want to share everything with everyone. Increasingly, as social networking matures and users become savvier, we increasingly want to be social with different groups of people in different ways. Until now, many people have segmented these different social groups across different networks; e.g. Facebook for friends and family, Linkedin for work etc.
But Google thinks it is increasingly likely that people will want the flexibility to do this all within the same network. Initially in a closed beta (Google has seemingly learnt from the chaos that was Google Buzz) Google+ integrates the recently launched +1 button and features a series of different spaces:
- Circles – allowing you to share different content with different ‘social circles’
- Hangout – a live messaging/IM/video space for real-time interaction (watch out Skype/Microsoft)
- Instant upload – a place to upload and easily share video, pictures etc.
- Sparks – a place to find information you are interested in. Type in a keyword and get a hoard of (hopefully) useful content
- Huddle – group chat functionality with a mobile focus
Will it work?
This is still early days (day one in fact!). Only a few select people have tried out Google+ so it’s hard to know how effective the service will be. Facebook clearly dominates the social space and I think Google will find it hard to prise people away from this network entirely. But if Google can position Google+ as an easy to use way to connect with certain groups of people in a more collaborative way, it could have legs.
Of course, Facebook will be looking to add many of the features above (it includes many of them already) itself in the near future, so the fight is well and truly on. But, the rumours are that Google has put serious time, energy and thought behind this latest project (something it failed to do with Wave and Buzz), so it would be foolish to discount it too quickly.
It’s also too early to say what the effect of Google+ will be on brands, but we’ll be keeping our ears to the ground and keeping our clients abreast of any opportunities that appear.