I was lucky enough to score an invite to Google+. This is Google’s latest attempt at a social network to try and rival the powerhouse that is Facebook. It’s still very much in the beta stage (meaning that the program isn’t quite ready to go out to the world, and will still have many bugs). Last time they tried it was with Google Buzz, and I listed the pros and cons of that system, stating that unless it had some serious business capabilities it wasn’t going to catch on. It didn’t. I think Google is learning a little bit every time they try their hand at this.
Lesson #1 – Opt in. When Buzz came out, if you had a gmail account, you were almost automatically opted into it. This didn’t sit well with people. They like the control of adding who and what they want. This time, it’s an additional service you sign up for.
Lesson #2 – Exclusivity. If anything can be learned from Facebook’s launch is that it was cool because it was exclusive at first. Then they kept allowing more and more schools to join, then they started allowing more people and more people, until finally it was open to everyone. Being exclusive feels like you are one of the cool kids if you are on the system. They did this with gmail when it first launched. You had to have an invite in order to get a gmail account. They definitely learned from that and Google+ is the same way now. This means all of the geeks are clamoring for an invite.
Lesson #3 – Specific Sharing – One thing that really made people mad about Buzz was that automatically if I sent one email to a person they became my “friend”. What people like about Facebook is the double opt in for friends. This one still doesn’t quite have that DOUBLE opt-in, since I can pretty much follow anyone I want (as long as their profile isn’t private, I think), but what I can do is only share information with specific groups of people. So you have a “Circle”, and you can add contacts to the circle. You can create different circles for different areas of your life. So I have a group of girlfriends I go out with every so often. I can have all of them in a circle so if I want to set up another girl’s night out, I can just send an update to that circle. You can also add people to more than one circle, so my girls night out friends can also be in “friends”. I can have a circle of work friends and church friends, etc. You can pick what information you share goes to which circle, or you can select all your circles and go for it.
So the things I like about Google+ so far is definitely the circles. Very easy to add people and compartmentalize them. I really like how in my profile I can add all of the places I’ve lived, which is quite a few, and see it on a map. If someone is looking for me, and they knew me from when I lived in Florida, they can see on my map, yep, this is the same Sarah that lived in Florida.
I also like how I can easily view updates from just specific people in those circles. On the main page you can click on “Friends” and only view updates and links from those people who you have included in your Friends circle. That is one gripe I have with Facebook sometimes. I just want to see my friends status updates sometimes. I don’t want to see all of the pages that I like when I don’t have time. So here I can easily filter out exactly what I want to see.
The photos page also looks incredible. You don’t lose image quality when you upload pictures. You can even have a setting on your phone so that as soon as you take a picture it automatically gets uploaded to your profile.
The profile page is really fun too, in that I can see any websites that I’ve +1’d (speaking of… go ahead and click the +1 for me on the right hand side of the page… kthxbye!) I also like that you can add links to the right side of your profile, which will actually bring in the favorite icon, so people can see all of the websites that I own, which is many.
Now even though I really like circles, I which there was more of a way to share the circles. Like I have added everyone to my girls night out circle, but someone else may not have added all the same people. If I send a message to that group, and then someone else sends a message to that group some people may not get everything depending on how everyone’s circles are set up. Also, my friends at Livid Lobster… I know everyone has already set up a Livid Lobster circle. It would be nice if we could all just use the same circle that ONE person set up. much like Twitter lists, and how I can follow someone else’s list.
Another area I believe it is lacking is usability for companies and corporations. Truthfully I don’t see companies switching to this anyway, as most have already built their following on Facebook, and would not like to reinvent the wheel and start over on a brand new system. That is one thing where Facebook completely excels! The interaction between brand and consumer has improved like never before because of Facebook and I just see that continuing on Facebook, and not here.
This is probably because the system is so new, and so it may be a bug, but it’s almost impossible to find someone. Even a friend of mine who I invited to Google+, I can’t seem to find anywhere to add them to my circle, and I know they have joined.
So right now, it’s very simple. The user interface is nice and clean and the circles are just fun. So when it opens up again some more (invites have been closed again), you may want to give it a try, or maybe not. I really don’t see it overtaking Facebook anytime soon, even with a big name like Google.
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