Is Google+ a Facebook Killer?

To remain current and grab market share of the social networking phenomena, Google has rolled out as a beta test Google+, which is touted to be Twitter and Facebook all rolled into one application. So will it be a Facebook Killer or just another failed attempt by Google to get into the social game?

Google+ Screen Shot

What exactly is Google+

More than the +1 button, Google+ is a new online social networking application. Reviews so far have been good, but not everyone has seen it yet. I received my invitation in the middle of July and am heavily testing the application. For now, only a few users are in the game, but the press so far has been tentative based on Google’s other tries in social media.

With Google+ you are able to friend anyone, like on Twitter, and read their updates without getting an approval to friend someone as you may have to do on Facebook. Users will have to group followers into circles. Permissions can be given to your own personal circles to allow certain types of updates or posts to be seen selectively by the people you desire.

Google has banned businesses so far and is only allowing individual users access. Additionally no third party tools for post scheduling have been allowed API access to the platform.

Here are a few of the key features you will find in Google+:

Hangouts – allow up to ten people to video conference together or share live video feeds. Facebook only allows you to see one person at a time with their video application that is using the Skype backbone. Google+ seems to be adding in the “fun” factor with this but will it really be used?

Huddle – connects all your friends via desktop, SMS, iPhones, and Androids. It is a group messaging application that allows you to connect with the circles you select. Want to meet everyone for drinks after work? Do a quick huddle and get your friends connected at your favorite spot.

Sparks – are topics which are a Google determined compilation of sites on a topic you select such as sports, technology, or other keyword. Google calls this a “sharing engine”. There is no way to add a specific feed to follow or link, so Sparks is not really a XML feed aggregator. For now you have to read what Google supplies in that topic without a way to customize the sites you want to see in that topic. This has the biggest potential for website owners to get inbound traffic as if your site is picked up in a Sparks link you could drive literally thousands of visitors to your site to read an interesting article, blog post, or web page.

The Google+1 button is like the Facebook Like button. Clicking the button allows you to vote up in the organic search results things you like as well as to tag a like, website, and even AdWords ads and share them with your friends or Google+ Circles.

What is the feedback so far on Google+?

So far the feedback from pros using it has been good. The comments have ranged far and wide:

“As of Thursday [7/14/11], he writes, Google+ was 66.4 percent male and 33.6 percent female, according to his sampling.” More…

“What he proceeds to show me is a product that in many ways is so well designed that it doesn’t really even look like a Google product. ” More…

“A big feature of Google+ is the toolbar that exists across the top of all Google sites (yes, the aforementioned black one). Once your Circles are set, sharing with any of them from any Google site is simple thanks to this toolbar.” More…

Now Google has built “it” will people come?

That will be the real key once more people start to get access to Google+. Can users be convinced to leave Facebook and move their connection and activities to Google+? And Google is really banking on that action.

My feeling is that once people like something hate to change, and people like Facebook. If all your friends don’t move to Google+ you would still have to manage both applications which would be very problematic and potentially leading to a failure for Google.

Ease of use will also be key. If it is hard to connect or hard to keep your information private Google+ will go the way of Google Buzz and Orkut. I think that the big carrot to move to Google+ for business people and website owners will be that they will be able to capture SEO/organic juice from the Google+1 activity which will be integrated into Google.com. I am not sure that mainstream America will embrace Google+. Facebook is comfortable, easy and able to be locked down for privacy. Although Google+ looks cool, and there’s lots of buzz about the product, if your friends aren’t there you won’t be there either!

Another late breaking note is that Google+ has now banned business profiles which I feel is a very big mistake, but they are not asking my advice – at this point. πŸ™‚

In conclusion, it is from my own view point, that it is simply too soon to say if Google+ is a Facebook killer. From the press and previews it appears that Google has really worked outside the box to try to shape the future of social media with their new Google+ application. Google’s got a lot riding on the success of the application too, as they really need a win to retain relevancy in the search market that is becoming more personalized and keep their dominance in online advertising which they deliver on their properties. If Google+ is received well expect aggressive competition to happen with Facebook for users.

Get in the queue for an invitation.

If you think you want to be an early tester and possible advocate for Google+, here’s the link to sign up to get an early invitation. Or, you can just contact me with your GMail or Google account user name and I will send you an invitation now. My personal reaction so far is that Google+ is fun, kind of like Facebook, but more link and information driven for now than Facebook.

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