The question I always hear when it comes to new media/social networking is “what’s next?” People want to know how long Facebook and Twitter will be around and what will replace them. Well, last week Google launched its effort to be that “Next Big Thing,” with Google+. I was fortunate enough to get an invitation and have been dabbling with the new social network. Here are my good, bad and other first impressions …
The Good: The functionality is much like Facebook, so it’s very comfortable, intuitive. You post links, comment on other peoples’ stuff, get into discussions and you can “+1” something, similar to a “like.” I also really like the fact that you can follow people without their permission, a la Twitter. Google+ seems to be a hybrid of all the other social media platforms out there. Some have called it the next evolution of social media.
There are some new bells and whistles, like “Hangouts,” which are, in essence, a video chat with up to 10 people. I see some really interesting uses for higher education with this, including distance lectures, debates and discussions. Just like commenting on a story someone posted, you can join a hangout without being invited. So the opportunity to meet new people from around the world is exciting.
And Circles are like Twitter lists, but instead of just following the people in that circle, you can share specifically with that group as well. Kind of a combination of a Facebook group and a list.
And of course, being a Google product, Google+ will be the beneficiary of all the Google Labs applications. Integration with all the Google products will be a major selling point for a lot of people.
Finally, so far most of the people I’ve encountered on Google+ are techie insiders who are “over” Facebook. They are thrilled at the idea of discussing and learning about the next evolution of social media. So the learning environment is hyper charged right now.
The Bad: So far most of the people I’ve encountered on Google+ are techie insiders who are “over” Facebook. The majority of the conversations taking place are about Google+. It’s like the beginnings of Twitter all over again.
It’s great that the network is filled with first adopters. And there is a real excitement among those using G+ right now, almost an idealistic view of what it is and what it will become. But right now it is a niche social network with lots of high level discussion and naval gazing.
In order for Google to really, truly achieve global domination (Which is what I believe is in a plan written on parchment paper, buried in a 10-inch thick steel lock box under the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif.), it needs more people. It needs more people that do not think about Google+ all day. It needs more people that just want to know what’s going on. More people that want to share pictures of their kids. More people like my mom. Unless that happens, it may remain a niche site, which would suit some current users just fine.
Additionally, currently for those of us who use these sites professionally on behalf of our companies and institutions, there’s really no replacement for an active Facebook page to connect with a large group of like-minded people. It’s yet to be seen how or if Google+ will accommodate for that type of communications effort.
It’s important to note that this is not Google’s first foray into social media. You all remember Buzz, don’t you? It launched last year with a thud. But Google+ is different. It’s a combination of all the things we all love about the other social networking sites out there. It has a lot of potential. And momentum.
I’m not yet ready to drop Facebook and Twitter. And, quite frankly, until those sites go the way of the do do bird – or MySpace – I’m not sure I ever will. But what I do know is that Google+ has a lot more steam behind it than any of the other platforms I’ve dabbled with (see Ning, Sprouter, Digg, Delicious, etc.). Some are predicting it will be the fastest growing social network ever. And for that reason I’m going to keep exploring its options, expanding my Circles and figuring out how I can use it professionally for SDSU, as well as personally. I suggest you do too.