Thoughts on Google+

Posted on September 28, 2011. Filed under: education, facebook, google, libraries, library 2.0 | Tags: , , , |

Google+ achieved 20 Million users in its first 24 days and having earned #8th place in the top 10 social networking sites this week, it is set to become a key Facebook and Twitter competitor (for comparison, Twitter took 1035 days and Facebook 1152 days to reach 20 million) .

Now that Google+ has been opened up for anyone to join after two-and-a-half months in closed testing [see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14985494] you may be having a look at it and thinking about how it may be useful to you or to librarians and education even.  It is still very early days and no doubt there is more functionality in the pipeline, but in the mean time here are some thoughts.

Like other social communications media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter etc) Google+ is a place where you can create, stream, share and comment on information including photos and links etc and meet with others who share your interests.  You create your own profile and add people (friends colleagues etc) to ‘circles‘, this enables you to share particular things with certain people and not others if you wish.  Your circles are private, others can’t see them and they don’t know which circle(s) you have added them to. Google+ also provides real-time text and video chat functionality (hangouts, similar to Skype). Hangouts may provide an alternative to Library livechat e.g. Questionpoint for example and with the ability to share screens and documents, could be a useful module tutorial/work space.  As with other networks, critical mass (the number of ‘active’ people in your network) is important, you are more likely to find it useful if your network is regularly posting and interacting.

In Google+ you can +1 posts, which is similar to ‘like’ in Facebook, you can also share other people’s posts with your friends. You can save searches in Google+ too, so if a group of colleagues agreed to use a particular phrase e.g. Digital Literacy in their posts then the latest posts on that subject can be found by viewing the saved search.  There are already groups of librarians, students and academics using Google+, it will be interesting to see how these evolve and what aspects of Google+ they find most useful.

This slide (taken from Must See Google Plus Presentation from Zenslide) compares Google+, Facebook and Twitter features.  Those of you who use Facebook will realise that it does also have lists and re-sharing features and, following recent up-dates, it now has a twitter-style news ticker and it’s now possible to only share your status up-dates etc with selected lists and/or hide them from specific people or lists if you wish.  It’s worth mentioning that games (which can be used as a method of attracting and retaining users as well as generating revenue) feature in both Facebook and Google+ but not in Twitter.

Comparison of Google+, Facebook and Twitter functionality

Other social networks can quickly add new communications features and as mentioned above Facebook are already doing so, rapidly catching up with those in Google+.  So the ability to search,

to find updates from your circles, news from around the web and public Google+ posts, giving you instant access to the topics you care about and the people who care about them along with you.

and the location of Google+ within the Gmail user’s ‘desktop’ environment are perhaps Google’s killer applications.   Not forgetting Google+ integration with other Google apps e.g. Google docs and Picasa which further strengthen its position.  Facebook is also in the integration business, Spotify tied its future to Facebook last week so that new users have to also have a Facebook account (see Is Spotify too friendly with Facebook?).  It seems the race is on for social networking sites to provide the best communications features and more importantly, integrate key online applications and so win new users, with both Google and Facebook sharing the same aim, to increase market share and hence advertising revenue.

At the moment Google+ is focused on individuals and not on organisations or businesses. It’s not yet possible to create a business profile or Facebook-type business ‘page’ or a ‘group’. On July 22nd 2011 Christian Oestlien from Google said:

“…we expect to have an initial version of businesses profiles up and running for EVERYONE in the next few months.  In the meantime, we ask you not to create a business profile using regular profiles on Google+. The platform at the moment is not built for the business use case, and we want to help you build long-term relationships with your customers. Doing it right is worth the wait. We will continue to disable business profiles using regular profiles. We recommend you find a real person who is willing to represent your organization on Google+ using a real profile as him-or-herself.”

So for the moment we can figure out Google+ as individuals, and interact with others in Google+ as ourselves but if we want to we can promote what our own organisation is doing e.g. by sharing links in Google+ to our blog posts.


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