Facebook is the friends and family network, it’s as personal as you can get online. Twitter is the information network, where all kinds of subjects, ideas, thoughts and opinions are continually shared and discussed. LinkedIn is the professionals network, encompassing your professional experience, skills and work history. And then you have Google+, the newest addition to a increasingly cluttered social network realm. But where does it fit in exactly?
Now in it’s infancy, it most certainly is not comparable to any other platform other than Facebook. Often it is dubbed the “Facebook Killer” which has been fuelled by speculation and popular opinion thanks to statistical comparisons, such as it’s acclaim to have gained 40 million users in a relatively short period time (a matter of months). And with the recent lunch of Google+ Pages, brands have flocked quickly to the new player in town. Out of the top 100 brands 61% have created a Google+ Page versus 93% on Facebook (something that took years on Facebook, again has taken months on Google+). And although Facebook is twenty times greater in size and virtually out-gains Google+ in every area, there’s one significant problem here: Google+ is not Facebook.
For whatever reason, we as individuals always have had the need to compare something new to something that already exists. It seems that the only way we can confirm a matter is by validating our biases with these comparisons and relate them how we choose. But, how can we compare something to other aspects of the social media realm when it doesn’t really exist yet. Google has often said that Google+ is not a social network. By our traditional presumptions and definitions of social networking, they might be right.
In the traditional social network sense, Google+ is not a network or platform that emphasizes the individual. It’s not about sharing things with your friends and family. Facebook has championed that and there will be no mass exodus from it. It’s not about micro-blogging, sharing quick pieces of information and following individuals such as the world Twitter has created. And it most certainly is not about creating a professional styled LinkedIn network. Google+ is about one thing, it’s about business. It’s the business social network.
Once you look beyond simple aspects that pertain to social networks, such as profiles, sharing and connecting, you begin to realize that much of Google+ is built around a business and marketing framework. It is one based on two aspects: receiving +1’s, Google+’s method of sharing, and getting others to put you into their circles, Google+’s method of connecting. All which is further built into other areas of Google such its dominance in online search and Adwords. Oblivious to us in our daily use of search, YouTube and online ad exposure, Google is a well-oiled business machine.
It’s been well noted that Google+’s method of sharing will have very positive effects on how you appear in search. And although Google and Bing have previously noted that aspects of social influence that are built and gained through Twitter and Facebook have effects on search results and SEO, +1’s have a direct correlation and significance to your SEO and appearance, ranking and relevance in search. The more +1’s your website, blog or posts receives the merrier. Let’s be honest here, this is an aspect that only business, brands and those with personal brands would ultimately be concerned with. Something that is not important to the majority of social media users out there.
It also differentiates in the manner in which we connect to each other. Facebook was built on a two-way relationship methodology, and only recently could you subscribe to profiles, a one-way relationship (believed to be added in response to Google+’s introduction). Twitter is involved with a following and/or follower methodology meaning you can quite frankly follow anyone you like. Google+ itself relies completely on the manner in which someone has set-up their circles, either two-way or one-way relationships, which is further segmented into how you share an update. Whether that update be to everyone, a particular circle, a set of circles and/or extended circles based on your privacy settings (though Facebook has a Lists setting, it does require you to “list” a connection whereas Google+ requires you to “circle” a connection should you choose to want follow that individual). A confusing, interesting and sophisticated series of circumstances.
What we begin to see here is a very early social customer relationship management platform. The characteristic of circles allows you to segment and sub-segment your connections, which is more interesting when we realize that Google+ requires that you use your real name. Surprisingly, the many of us do. Further, this method of segmentation allows for directed and specific messages, content, conversations and relationships with a particular set of individuals. Something that can even be further amplified with the Hangouts live chat feature.
Now, if Google+ is the business social network, what reason do individuals have to be a part of something like this? What reason would cause them to interact with businesses and brands? Aside from the early adopting, bandwagoning and aspects of cool, if there’s one thing we’ve learned in social media, we, all of us, willingly participate if there is a perceived trade-off or sense of value in our interactions and reasons to interact. Where all other social networks thrived and grew on the individual and business being secondary, Google+’s very early introduction of Google+ Pages and the flocking to and quick adoption by business and brands clearly exemplifies the importance of business being a primary and significant aspect to it.
Like anything else, we as customers, users, individuals will always engage with business, whether that be to purchase something we want or need, sign up for something to get an immediate discount, enter a contest, use a coupon, or join a free service like Google+ to circle or +1 a brand or a trade-off. This where Google+ fits into the equation. This is why Google+, Facebook and other social networks will not cannibalize one another other just yet and will remain relatively distinct. Facebook has it’s friends, Twitter has it’s information, LinkedIn has it’s professionals, and Google+ has it’s business. Is it too early to tell? Of course it is. But for now, Google+ is the business social network.
Photo source: Google+