Perhaps the fourth time is the charm for Google. Social has been in the sights of Mountain View for nearly a decade, in fact. With Facebook maintaining a dominant presence in social networks, Google needed to exert its influence in the social realm in the worst way. In June 2011, Google introduced its latest attempt to take control of the social sphere – Google+. It’s finally an endeavor that has proven worthy of the challenge. Some 1 million business and brand pages were created in the first six months and the network boasts more than 400 million users. And Google+ recently passed Twitter to become the second largest social network. Despite its bad press over the past year, Facebook remains the social network to which all others aspire. So, does Google have the determination and resources to overcome such a dominant player? Let’s examine what makes G+ tick.
Is a Plus as Good as a Like?
Google+ combines features that are similar to those of networks like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.
It allows you to “plus” content that you like across the web – the newer network’s answer to the Facebook “Like.” Content that you plus appears under the “+1s” tab of your profile and we can often see content that our friends recommend as part of our Google search results. Your profile can include your photos, YouTube videos and posted updates with links and different types of media. And Google is constantly tweaking the social platform to make it more robust and user-friendly.
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But when we consider the feasibility of Google+ one day supplanting Facebook, some would argue that we’re asking the wrong question. That’s because Google+ is deeply integrated with Google’s full swath of products, including Search, Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Chrome and Google Play. And Google collects a massive amount of information about you from across its products, offering you a personalized experience that aims to cater to your individual tastes. In Search, Google+ integration involves highlighted results based on friends’ recommendations and sharing updates from friends and celebrities.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal argued that Google+ can’t be ignored since Google is using its ample leverage to forcibly grow the network as part of its bid for a massive amount of social advertising dollars. When you create a Google account to use Gmail, YouTube or other services, you’re also being set up with a G+ account.
Social networks are fueled by our desire to engage with others who share our interests – even those in faraway countries whom we may never meet in person. Successful networks build a strong sense of community among their members and Google+ has certainly made every effort to encourage people to build G+ communities with Hangouts, a feature that allows you to video chat with up to 9 friends, conduct video conferences for up to 10 people and tune in to live video broadcasts.
With G+, you can create public or private communities through a relatively simple process. Developing that sense of online community will be an important part of Google’s strategy going forward as it continues to develop and refine its social offerings.
Google appears to be headed in the right direction in terms of revenues; the company celebrated its first $50 billion year in 2012. With Google+ integration at the heart of the company’s growth strategy, it will be fascinating to watch Google and Facebook continue to go head to head in the social space (and the search space, for that matter). Which company do you think is better positioned to lead the social market in the long term? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
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