Commentary: Is Google Plus the next big thing?

Devon Smith, 24 Usable Hours blogs, 7/24/11

Forget the debate for a moment on what Google Plus is right now. Let's assume Google+ has the capacity to do anything, the question is what will it do, and how will users adapt it for their own purposes. Remember when Facebook first launched? No newsfeed. No photos. No search. No ads. No games. No pages or groups. No grown ups. But Facebook, and social media more broadly, has changed dramatically in the intervening 7 years. So let's play the future history books backwards; what are the likely end-states for Google+ and how did it get there?

  1. Masses flee from Facebook to Google+. But it took Facebook 5 years to grow larger than MySpace. 5 years in which MySpace refused to innovate. Facebook has a pretty incredible history of rolling out new & innovative features. Feature wars will benefit users, but won't be a legitimate competitive advantage for either company.
  2. Users figure out they share different kinds of content on Google+, or they want to have a different social graph on Google+, and everyone lives happily ever after, checking 6 different streams every morning, tailoring every piece of content they create to one specific audience, on one specific network.
  3. Google+ burns bright and fails fast when it comes out of beta next month. The early adopters will get 'circle fatigue', and never bother to draw the early majority into the network. I think we'll know by the end of the summer whether this is the case (it took the collective wisdom of the crowds less than 3 months to pan Google Buzz).
  4. Google+ finds limited appeal, is adored by the tech elite, and provides just enough use cases to incrementally improve AdWords. In other words, it's the Gmail of the 21st century. If Google knows you're you, every time you use one of its many, many products and services, it could significantly improve and expand AdWords. I'm not yet convinced Google Plus needs to "beat" Facebook, or any other social network, in order to survive. All it has to do is live up to expectations inside of Google to deserve continued resources. I'm leaning towards future #4. But I recently had to put a few additional thoughts together for an internal discussion at Threespot. Maybe you'll "like" them? 

Commentary: Google+ 'best practices' for nonprofits

Heather Mansfield, Nonprofit Tech 2.0 blog, 7/25/11

Currently Google+ is only available to invited individuals. Brand pages are expected to be launched some time this fall. In the meantime, nonprofit staff can prepare for the launch of the new brand pages, also known as Google+ Entity Profiles, by creating a Google Account and then setting up your personal Google Profile (which then also becomes your personal Google+ Profile when you get invited to join Google+ or the site comes out of beta). [Also,] make a commitment to diversifying your brand online! There's a lot of Google+ euphoria right now and postulations of Google+ being a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn killer. I personally take issue with that, because I think it's dangerous to give one company that much control over nonprofits, and the Internet in general. is already the number one visited site around the world and they dominate search results. They own YouTube (third most trafficked website globally) and Blogger (the fifth most trafficked)... and Picassa, Picnik, Orkut, Gmail, Chrome, etc. No doubt Google is a great company that provides an astounding amount of free, exceptionally useful tools to nonprofits, but a Google-only Social Web? Yikes! I urge nonprofits to stay committed to diversifying their brand online across multiple sites and platforms - not just because it's smart, but also because it is the right thing to do. During the early months of Facebook euphoria in 2008 I saw a lot of nonprofits abandon their communities on Myspace much too soon which was both unfortunate for their supporters on Myspace, and the nonprofits themselves. Online communities don't "die"overnight or even over months or years, despite what the tech blogosphere often has us believe when they are enraptured by the Next Big Thing (which may not turn out to be the Next Big Thing afterall). Being an early adopter is an important strategy in and of itself, but not at the expense of the communities you already have.


Commentary: 5 ways Google+ could steal music fans from Facebook

Eliot Van Buskirk,, 7/6/11

Google's social network, Google+, is late. Facebook has a big lead, having ousted MySpace, which in turn deposed Friendster, the site that started us all on this path towards recreating our social fabric as a network of connected personal nodes. Facebook is an excellent tool for sharing music - usually in the form of Google's YouTube videos - but even the developer of the top music app on Facebook says it doesn't do enough, musicwise. Google+ may have a tough time making a dent in the popularity of Facebook. But on at least on the music front it can make a lot of inroads, fast.

1. Easy Sharing. Google has thousands of engineers, all of whose yearly bonuses will be tied to how "social" they can make its offerings. Clearly, Google+ could give Facebook a run for its money when it comes to sharing music from - and across - all of the music services.

2. Group Listening Parties. If you haven't used Google Hangout yet, Google+'s online video chatroom that lets you know when your friends are hanging out, consider that the New York Times thinks it just might be Google's "killer app." And if you've yet to sign in to group listening service, consider how many music fans already love the way the recently-launched service lets them get together to spin music and talk about it. By combining those two concepts - with or without video - to create real-time music listening parties with push notifications, Google+ could run "Circles" around Facebook in the group listening department.

3. Live Musicians Plus Live Music. Google+'s Hangout feature could [also] be a great way for stars to hold meet-and-greet sessions with their fans. Plenty of other ways exist for this sort of thing, of course, but Google has money and famous people make appearances in exchange for it.

4. Google Music Integration. Google already has its own music storage solution for fans, Music Beta by Google -- unlike Facebook, which ignores your music collection. For starters, [Google] could make your music collection visible and searchable on Google+, use it as a way to introduce people to each other, allow people to listen to each other's taste, and should probably use taste-combining algorithms to create stations out of multiple Music Beta by Google accounts too.

5. Android Apps For The Win. Facebook doesn't have a popular smartphone operating system, and Google does. Google's finest should be able to figure out how to use Android for slicker integration between music apps and Google+ than Facebook can manage on mobile platforms it doesn't control.


4 reasons visual artists are loving Google Plus

The Atlantic magazine, 7/15/11

Lots of artists are posting their work on Google+. We got in touch with a few of them to ask about their experience so far. The response? They love it. As Carsten Bradley, an illustrator in Atlanta, writes: "At this point, for artists it is almost like a social networking utopia. We get instant feedback on our work, and visibility far exceeding the capabilities of Facebook and Twitter combined. With the power of circles, we can share works in progress to select individuals and get immediate feedback and critiques without exposing the work publicly. Maybe it doesn't have anything to do with those reasons. Maybe it's just because it's new and shiny. [But the truth of it is] that artists are really coming together here, and it's wonderful."   Here are four things artists love about the site:

1. Google+'s image display page looks really classy. Art shines on its transparent black background.

2. The traffic has been immense, especially relative to the rather paltry artist's private site usually receives. Eric Orchard, a cartoonist in Toronto, says that the Google+ traffic is translating into a spike in sales of his work.

3. Unlike Facebook, it's the norm on Google+ to follow people who are complete strangers. As Canadian artist Linsay Blondeau puts it, "There's no pretense of being actual 'friends.'" Of course, if you're an artist trying to market your stuff, reaching beyond the people you already know is going to be crucial.

4. Twitter, like Google+, is good for interacting with strangers. But Twitter's not a great way to display art (you can include one photo or a link to your site, but not an album like Google+ allows). Additionally, French artist Benjamin Basso points out that Google+ doesn't have a big spam problem (yet), something that can be a bit of an annoyance on Twitter. And the real humans on Google+ are a chatty bunch, giving artists an unusual opportunity to receive feedback on their work.

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