If you haven't heard of it, in a new battle of Goliaths, Google launched Google Plus (or Google+) recently in a head-to-head against Facebook. Facebook of course, is the seemingly unstoppable social media giant with about 1/10th of the planet's population as part of their network.
I can hear the groans now. Yes, there's another social media platform to learn.
So should you dump Facebook and switch? In a word, no, at least not yet. Is Google+ compelling? Yes.
But as a friend of mine posted (on Google+), "Can't decide: Is Google+ like arriving early to party where it's just you and the nerds? Or like staying late with just the cool people?"
I'm sort of in the same camp. I managed to get an invitation to join Google Wave a year or so ago, and the silence was absolutely deafening. It definitely had some really cool features that I hope to see in Google+ someday. But there were so few people on the system, you just couldn't do anything. Google eventually dumped it.
Google+, on the other hand, reportedly has more than 10 million users (probably many more as of this writing), so it's fun to see people popping up on the system.
Ironically, the other day, Google+ even suggested Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of Facebook) to me as a possible connection. Was this a joke, or is Zuckerberg really a user of Google+, their arch rival?
Alas, yes, you still have to have an invitation to join, because Google says they're still working out the kinks of the system before opening it up to the entire world. I suspect this is probably a bit of supply and demand - limit the supply, and demand goes up, right?
Compare Google+ to Facebook
Google+ has many of the same features as Facebook, so it's pretty easy to get going. You can create photo albums, update your status to tell your friends, comment, tag things, all pretty basic social media stuff.
There the systems part ways. Unlike its counterpart, Google has done a good job of making their permissions easy to manage. Don't want groups of people to see your phone number? No problem, it's easy to set.
Right out of the gate, you are given several "circles" to put friends in. These circles are kind of like Facebook groups. You have to categorize people into a circle, and then you can set the permissions based on the circles.
In a blog post I wrote about Facebook security for professionals almost exactly a year ago, I advocated having a group called "People I Don't Know", and limiting their permissions. Same thing in Google+: I created a circle called "People I Don't Know", and guess what? They can't see stuff I don't want them to see.
Another difference is that anyone can put you into their circle - kind of like Twitter, where anyone can follow you. You don't have to follow them back in Twitter, and in Google+, you don't have to put them in one of your circles either. If you don't put them in a circle, they'll only see what the public can see, and nothing more.
Google's awkward parlance is kind of like ordering a latte at a certain popular coffee shop. In Facebook, you "like" something. In Google+, you "+1" it. Urgh. That's a verb? If you want to be interested in something on Google+, you create "Sparks". Really? Sounds like more like dating.
Oh, and I'll have a triple shot, venti, flat, caramel macchiato with that please.
Google+ for Businesses
If you're looking to use Google+ as the next great thing to market your business, sorry, but you're going to have to wait. Right now, there is no business functionality at all (not even ads). You can only use it with your own personal profile.
Anyone who is caught creating a business profile on Google+ is getting dumped. Google is actively going after ids like this, and shutting them down. They say they plan to have the business functionality up in a few months.
In response to this, Facebook has launched their new Facebook for Business portal as a way of thumbing their nose, right back at Google. It's really not a portal, but more of a "Here's what you can do to market yourself on Facebook" type of thing.
Is Google+ ready for prime time?
Google+ definitely has some cool stuff, and a lot of growing up to do before it knocks Facebook off as king of the hill. It's got a nice clean interface, and I like the ease of setting up circles.
It does have one HUGE advantage over Facebook, however. If you have any type of Gmail or other Google account (and practically who doesn't these days), anytime you go to Google the search engine, you'll see the little red reminder icon in the top right corner. Guess what? You're already logged in. There's no switching to another browser just to get your social media fix for the day.
Until they come up with their own search engine, Facebook just can't beat that one with a stick.