Google+, Does it have Potential for Business Use?

July 5, 2011
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I admit I’m pretty intrigued by Google+ and have been spending quite a bit of time checking it out over the last few days. It is quite the geekdom at present, and frankly that’s just fine with me for now. I guess that’s really the plan at first, get us in playing with it and writing / talking about it…hmm, guess it worked.

I admit I’m pretty intrigued by Google+ and have been spending quite a bit of time checking it out over the last few days. It is quite the geekdom at present, and frankly that’s just fine with me for now. I guess that’s really the plan at first, get us in playing with it and writing / talking about it…hmm, guess it worked. Most of what I’ve read so far is focused on how and why individuals should be on plus and again, that makes sense, it is clearly focused on individual users. Still, I’ve started thinking about how businesses might benefit from it, since it’s probably only a matter of time before people experiment with it as a business tool.

The first big question for me though, was where does it fit into my personal workflow? I like to segment my online activities into categories and usually look at content creation, content consumption, content curation / sharing, building / maintaining relationships (networks), and broadcasting. Most of the tools I’m using today are well established in my daily activities with two exceptions, Tumblr and G+. Tumblr won’t replace my blogs for sure, but I do like it but am still trying to figure out exactly how it fits in. G+ is very new of course and is already proving very useful. I’m now not so sure if I would keep both Tumblr and G+, but maybe. Here’s how I primarily use my current networks and social media tools with the addition of G+:

Content Creation:

  • My blogs
  • Tumblr (sometimes)
  • Quora (although I’ve been using it less and less)

Content Consumption:

  • RSS
  • Tumblr
  • G+
  • Quora (although infrequently)

Content Curation (sharing):

  • Google+
  • Twitter
  • facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr

Relationships / Networks:

  • facebook
  • LinkedIn

Broadcasting:

  • Twitter

At least that’s how I see it for now. There’s a lot I like about G+ and a few things that could be better. Here are a few thoughts:

  • The user experience and interface is very clean and easy to understand. It’s one of the best UI’s I’ve seen in quite a while.
  • The “Circles” feature for creating friends lists is very powerful and its much easier to use and more effective than facebook and Twitter lists. Circles give you very granular control over sharing and an excellent way to segment content.
  • Hangouts might just be the killer feature, ad hoc video conferencing for up to 10 people with auto switching. Collaboration in general on G+ is well integrated and includes Hangouts, gchat, and group mobile messaging with the ability to put friends or co-workers / colleagues into Circles to manage it all.
  • The Android app is very well done which hopefully bodes well for the iPhone / iPad app that is awaiting approval. The web-based mobile app actually works fine as well.
  • G+ is integrated across most of Google properties. With Picasa you gain unlimited photo storage when combined with G+, Flickr look out.
  • Because it is integrated to your existing Google profile set up is easy the the “About” information is robust.
  • The photo sharing feature is very clean, making G+ a contender as a well rounded media platform.

On the negative side:

  • My biggest complaint so far is the lack of ways to take noise out of the full stream. You can mute a post but that’s it, no way to collapse long comment strings and posts pop to the top whenever there is a new comment. 
  • There are no vanity username / URL’s yet (Google has stated that the feature is coming soon) so you’re stuck with a long string of numbers, not very elegant in your email signature. There is a workaround though, you can see my profile by using gplus.to/mfauscette.
  • A lack of search functionality (I have to believe that Google will fix that shortly)
  • I’d like to see a better broad direct message capability like the Twitter DM. So far there’s point to point capabilities through IM (if the person is on IM) otherwise you’re defaulting to email (and who wants more email?).
  • Google Voice isn’t integrated yet. There is an opportunity to tie SMS into the collaboration tool mix.
  • A glaring lack of Google Apps integration. This is by far the biggest omission on my part, but again I have to believe that this is coming soon. This integration is key for G+ if it wants business adoption.

Anyway, that’s not the real point of this post. As I’ve used G+ over the last few days I started thinking about what, if anything G+ might offer to businesses. As I’ve already pointed out, it’s early and I’ve only used G+ for a few days, but I do think there are some features that give it potential as a business tool. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Collaboration – I mentioned this above in the positives list but I’ll reinforce it again. The feature set that includes Hangouts for ad hoc meetings, gchat, email, and group mobile messaging with access that is easy to manage through Circles would be very useful in a team / group setting. I would think this alone makes it a contender for small / med businesses…and yes, the video conferencing feature set is better than Skype IMHO.
  • If Google rolls out deep integration with Google Apps then the collaboration story gets even stronger. Group / team workflow inside docs or spreadsheets would be even more useful than it is today. The addition of video to that mix adds to that. The addition of support for presentations could facilitate webinars, group presentation development and group sharing of content. With presentations integrated G+ would perform much like Slideshare.
  • G+ could become an interesting marketing platform with it’s built in media capabilities. If Google decided to have it influence page rank in some way that story gets stronger.
  • On the opposite ad targeting should improve as Google gathers more social data from G+, that’s a benefit to advertisers, particularly on the local side. The addition of more location data from the increased use of GPS enabled mobile devices strengthens this even more and we all know Google is looking for a better angle on local advertising. Perhaps integrating Places and Pages to G+ would entice local businesses as well, there’s an unconfirmed story that Google is already planning on offering businesses an option to create a profile page.

That’s it so far, I’m sure we’ll all learn a lot more about G+ as use increases. It will also be interesting to see if an ecosystem starts to develop around G+ once the API is available (and supposedly it is in development). If you’re using G+ what do you think, does it have business potential?

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