Initial thoughts on Google+

[These are some thoughts I jotted down for a web professionals discussion group I follow. The question asked was how people are considering using Google+, the people in question working mostly for international organisations and associations.]

Google+ logoOne of the big differences with Facebook is the asynchronous nature of relationships: when you add a friend on Facebook they must grant you permission to do so, whereas on Plus anybody can add a contact to one of their circles. The person in question is notified by email that they’ve been added to one of your circles, but not which circle. (I don’t think the email notifications are going to non-users of Plus in all cases yet.) Incidentally, while the interface for manipulating circles is really quite slick, I can see it getting complicated very quickly: I don’t think it’s going to prove all that easy to decide which circle(s) to add somebody to or which circles to share particular content with.

One of the default circles created when you first sign in is “Following”, the idea being that you might use this circle for people that you don’t know personally but that you want to follow (as per Twitter) in your stream. I don’t know how this is going to pan out in terms of the issue of trust and authentication – how do you know the account you’re following is really that person? Of course that’s an issue on Twitter too, but there’s something about the ease with which circles are created and contacts added that suggests to me it will be a bigger problem on Plus.

If there is a big take-up of Google+, which seems quite likely, organisations will have to start thinking about how they manage their presence in the social network, where up to now they may have had a Facebook page or Like buttons on their own sites. Instead of a “Like” they’ll be looking for a “+1” on Plus. But whereas the Like button on Facebook is something that feeds into the user’s own social network, with Google+ I think the +1 will rather feed into search results as a kind of additional quality rating of some sort. So we see elements of a Reddit/Digg approach coming in here too.

It’s unclear to me so far how Google intends to allow organisations to have a presence or profile on Plus. Perhaps, given that they already have search and indexing more or less sewn up, we’ll see less emphasis on organisations having a separate dedicated page or profile on Plus, and instead the focus will shift back to your own website and how Google interacts with that. Personally I think less fragmentation of an organisation’s web presence can only be a good thing. Having said that, this blog and video points to a Google+ for Business coming along later this year. Oh well…maybe now we’ll have to maintain both Facebook and Google pages, plus that Twitter feed. (Maybe time to kill the MySpace page?!)

At the moment it feels like a new housing development with only a few people having moved in and the social amenities half-built. But I sense the impending arrival of the hordes on the horizon!

That’s my tuppence-worth for now.