The funny thing about this post is that I started it yesterday, just a few hours before Google opened the gates to Google+. Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you are surely aware by now that Google’s social network is now open to the public. I promise this timing was pure coincidence!
In fact, I have had a post about Google+ in mind for a few days now. I get a lot of questions about Google+. “Anne, what do you think of it? Do you think translators should be on G+ as well? Can it help you bring in more business?”
Actually, you should not even be asking yourselves this question. Of course I think you have to be on Google+. There are many reasons, but the biggest one – and this alone should suffice to convince you – is that it will boost your Google ranking. Well yes, it is, after all, a product from Google itself and as such, its ranking on the search engine beats those of Facebook, LinkedIn, ProZ.com, Xing, Translators Café, Twitter, or Wherever Else You Are. Which does not mean you should not be on those – as explained during my last Social Media webinar this past Friday, sites like LinkedIn and ProZ.com are an absolute must for you as translators, no questions asked. But you should also seriously consider being on Google+ too. Not to mention these +1 buttons popping up more or less all over the web. Are you aware that the more +1s a page gets, the higher its Google ranking?
I can hear you sighing/whining/screaming (take your pick) “Oh God, yet ANOTHER social network”! I get these types of reactions on Facebook and Twitter, as do many of my social media colleagues.
So, yes. Yet another network. And as is also the case with social media in general, you should not bury your head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening (see my last article on that topic), because it’s happening anyway, with or without you, and whether you like it or not. Google+ is here and you can sigh all you want, it will not disappear because you sighed or protested (sound familiar? Well, it sounds a lot like the rise of MT and the reaction of many translators, but that’s another matter). The good news is no one is forcing you to register on Google+.
What I am expressing here is just my opinion on why I think you should register anyway, but at the end of the day, it is obviously your decision.
So Google+, the newest kid in the social networking playground, is in my eyes completely misunderstood. People keep insisting on comparing it with Facebook. Don’t.. They are not comparable. True, it seems Google + was started with the clear goal of becoming the new Facebook and relegating Zuckerberg’s network to a paltry second. That was an ambitious project: when G+ was released in beta phase last July, Facebook had hit the 750-million-user mark. It has been there for years anyway and is much more mature. No discussion there on the superiority of Facebook.
During the beginning of the beta phase, when people could get on G+ by invitation only, was a stroke of sheer marketing genius. Curiosity, together with this “exclusive” side (yay, I got an invite!), plus also with perhaps fed by boredom on the part of some Facebook users, drew 20 million to G+. That was a lightning-fast increase and then suddenly, like a balloon, it seemed to pop, deflate a bit, and then stagnate. I remember reading somewhere in early September that around 80% of the profiles created were inactive. Wow. Some people even started to bury Google+. Comments from my contacts on Facebook or Twitter were along the lines of “Google+ is dead”, “Google+ is empty”, etc.
Well, it’s not that simple. Those 80%-or-so who had rushed into G+ before quickly deserting it were expecting it to become the new Facebook – and rightly so, as it was more or less the announced goal. But here’s the thing: you can’t expect loyal Facebookers to desert their accounts there (accounts they’ve had for three or four years), and along with them, all their photos, apps, friends, etc. And you can expect even fewer of their friends to follow. They’re too busy playing Farmville. Nor can you expect them to “clone” their Facebook profile on their G+ account. What’s the point of doing that? I already have all my friends on Facebook, I don’t need to have them on Google+ as well. I already share with them what I want to share on Facebook, why would I reshare it with them on Google+? Why share the same things in two places with the exact same contacts? Pointless.
So in that way, yes, you could say that Google+ “failed”. But, hey, ultimately, it’s the users who make the network. Now tell me: if we really did not need yet another social network (sigh/whine), do you think the people who came to G+ from the very beginning and who have been using it every day during the entire beta phase would have stayed and loyally continued to use it for three months if it did not yield something different than Facebook and Twitter?
The answer is no.
When the beta version of G+ was released, it was a newborn. Everything still had to be defined, the unwritten etiquette, the unwritten codes that every network has. Users came in to a blank new territory and they did with it what they wanted. They used this new playground the way they wanted to use it, and differently from the other networks. Ultimately it’s the users who made G+: it just took a different path than the one that was originally planned.
So today Google+ is nothing like Facebook – which is why any comparison is obsolete and utterly irrelevant. And I can hear you ask “Ok, maybe. But what is it then?”
Well, to me, Google + is somewhere between Twitter and LinkedIn. See? Facebook is totally irrelevant when it comes to making comparisons, which is why I think they have no reason to be as scared of G+ as they seem to be (as evidenced by the major releases during the past few days, including the “Subscribe” button, enhanced privacy/visibility options, not to mention the sudden flirting with Twitter). Don’t be afraid, Facebook. Google+ and you are not playing in the same segment (anymore).
Google+ has quickly evolved into a network where you can engage with complete strangers (like Twitter), without having to “intrude” – you can choose to add them to your circles but they don’t have to add you back at all in order for you to see their updates. Sound familiar? It is. It’s the Twitter model. “I follow you because I’m interested in your updates, but you don’t have to follow me in return. As you wish.” Yet another huge difference with Facebook, a platform designed to help you connect with “the people in your life”. Facebook rules actually prohibit users from sending friend requests to complete strangers, did you know that?
That’s one point. So what’s the difference between Google+ and Twitter? I see three major differences:
1. On G+, you don’t have a 140 character text limit
2. Unlike Twitter, it is not akin to some enormous room where everybody is shouting and talking at the same time.
3. The “real name” policy on Google+. It is a huge difference. You have to use your real name, you can’t hide behind a (fill in your favorite celebrity’s name here) pseudonym.
Sound familiar? It is. It’s like LinkedIn.
Aha. But hang on. Comparing LinkedIn to Google+, that’s daring… Well you’re right. LinkedIn is a pure business network with amazing and powerful business networking tools that G+ does not have, no questions asked. But the LinkedIn etiquette, unwritten, dislikes it when you invite strangers to join your network – you’re taking the risk of being perceived as a spammer. Besides, they need to accept your invite if you want to see their full profile, recommendations, and updates. And since they have no idea who you are, most of them will not accept.
So in short: on G+, you can follow complete strangers without requiring them to follow you in return and without sending them an invite that they would need to approve (like Twitter) and everybody is uses a real name, which really is a guarantee of a much better quality of the exchanges and content shared (like LinkedIn). Why do you think most of the exchanges on G+ over the past weeks have been business exchanges? More informal than LinkedIn, but business-related nonetheless.
I consider Google+ to be a business network. With its really great and user-friendly Circles, well it can also be a personal network at the same time, just in case I get a few close friends tired of playing Farmville. However, 90% of my contacts on G+ are business contacts who are neither in my LinkedIn network (why should they be, we’re already connected on G+, it’s more informal and it’s more simple to exchange stuff on G+), nor in my Twitter contacts (why would we follow each other on Twitter? I can get their full updates, without the 140-character limit, and what they post doesn’t get lost in the jungle of tweets, with a lifespan of a few minutes and a 60% chance that I never see them).
This article is already long enough, so I will not go into the details of what the individual features of Google+ can do for your business. Take Hangouts, for example: where else can you make video calls (conference calls…) for free with up to 10 people? Video calls that you can even record, keep and share.
Watch out though: just having a nice profile on G+ is not enough – just like any other social network, you need to be proactive: post content, recommend content, engage, search people relevant to your keywords (leads, prospects, colleagues) and add them to your circles. Most will add you back, because this is the same mentality/etiquette as Twitter where most users follow you once you follow them. Build a large network on G+ and interact with it. The more they +1 your content, the higher its visibility. The more they engage with you, the better it impacts your overall online influence (in fact, Klout integrated Google+ into its influence measuring tool just today? Surely that’s a sign that G+ is here to stay…?).
Last but not least, Google+’s user-friendly, clear and simple interface makes it an extremely comfortable tool and the pace on the G+ timeline is much slower than anywhere else, which is really relaxing and gives plenty of time to read the latest news posted by your contacts. Which, in other words, means more visibility for your content. Wow. Just imagine that. Your content not only gets a better Google ranking than anywhere else, it’s also more visible there than anywhere else.
Maybe that’s because the network was still in its beta phase and hence limited? Maybe now that it’s public, it will change. I don’t know. The next weeks will be decisive, but I really think Google+ is here to stay – that is, if Google allows it develop in that direction and gives up on the idea of making it the new Facebook. That would be a pity. Google is really on to something here, something user-defined and which could really lead to a major success, finally opening the social networking doors to the search giant.
Wait and see. But do consider joining G+ while you are waiting. If this network ever becomes another loud room where everybody is shouting and talking at the same time, then you may want to join it and enjoy its quiet before it does. I can assure you, it won’t be time wasted.
[ October 28th, 2011: The updated version of this article is now available on the Social Media Today website here ]