Obligatory Google+ post

Google+ screen

We thought we’d let the dust settle a little bit around Google+ before posting out thoughts up here. But since its launch on June 18th, the dust has shown no sign of settling – in fact there seems to be more and more dust being kicked up every second.

I’m going to stop with the dust metaphor now because I’m annoying myself.  Google+ has added 18 million users and notched up a billion shares a day. It’s being touted as the Facebook killer, the Twitter killer. Business is clamouring to get involved. Every where we turn in the blogosphere, the twittersphere, even in (the) Facebook(sphere) there’s a new article on Google+, and almost every website we look at now has the ‘+1’ button integrated next to their ‘like’ and ‘tweets’ counters (just scroll down toward the bottom of this piece). It feels, already, like part of the landscape.

But let’s break this down a little:

Those figures

I like to think of myself as an early adopter, and indeed, was amongst the first 18 million Google+ users. Not bad, eh? I digress. Anyway as an ‘early adopter’ messing about in Google+ feels a bit lonely. Even with all those folks on there I have about 20 people in my circles. Of which I would say 3 are posting things regularly. The rest have set up a profile and as yet have posted NOTHING – no activity. A large user base is good, lots of shares is good, but if it’s limited to a small elite then it’s not. Of course, it’s early days. There are some interesting stats on usage on Mashable if you want further reading.

UPDATE: In addition it appears that Facebook users spend 4 times as long on the site as Google+ users – again indicative of the fledgling nature of the site, but nevertheless not all that impressive as yet.

Google+ as the Twitter killer

Some commentators have said Google+ is akin to Twitter in that you can follow people without their permission (rather than them having to accept your request, as in Facebook), and therefore this makes Google+ the Twitter killer. Obviously this doesn’t take into account the stripped-down appeal of Twitter – the single-function nature of it that allows people to rapidly scan a whole load of information. And Twitter’s die-hard fanbase. And the niche it’s carved its-self as a real-time news feed. NEXT!

Google+ as the Facebook killer

Facebook killer. Well, again, no. Facebook is entrenched in Western society to the point that it is showing signs of reaching a natural saturation point, but in countries that were a little slower on the uptake, Facebook is still registering phenomenal growth. And good luck if you think you’re going take Facebook’s audience – comfortable and familiar with the user interface as they are – and prize them away. Look at the uproar that happens when Facebook change their own page layout. Oh no, people DO NOT like change. Yes Google allows you to combine multiple networks and integrate your contacts and email – but I know a lot of people who don’t have an email address and communicate online exclusively via Facebook’s messaging feature. Google has taken most of Facebook’s features (lists is basically a less sexy interfaced version of circles; video chat is coming to FB via the Skype link-up, etc etc) and made them a bit slicker in some cases, but I don’t think enough to get people to move. Having said that, I don’t think it has to be an either or.

Google+ for business

Google+ have actively asked businesses to wait for a few months until they have their specific business version ready. And that makes a lot of sense. Brand who are desperate to get onto Google+ now – why? We don’t yet have enough data on how, when and why people use it to know what your strategy should be for the medium. It took a long time before Facebook opened up properly to brands and with good reason – they now have a fantastic brand offering, which acts as a second CRM for brands that use it. Google+ are wise to follow suit.

UPDATE: here’s a little more info on Google+ brand pages, and how brands can prepare for their launch.

Summary

So in summary – I think Facebook, Twitter and Google+ can certainly co-exist in the medium term. I’m not sure exactly how my Google+ use will differ from my Facebook and Twitter posts as yet, or whether I’ll just end up replicating – it depends what my network on there ends up looking like. But I don’t see myself shutting down any of them. At the worst, Facebook gets marginally less facetime from me. At the best, I spend exactly the same amount of time on Facebook but work a longer day.

And – lame though I know this sounds – I think it’s way too early to say how useful it will be to me, you or business. But I had to contribute to that dust cloud!

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