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Category Archives: Social Media

The Real Problem With Groupon

It’s taken me awhile to get back to this post, but hopefully it doesn’t seem too outdated.

I somewhat recently read an article about a London bakery who offered a Groupon deal for 75% a dozen cupcakes. They had 8,500 people sign up for the deal, a staggering number for such a little bakery. One would thing an influx of customers like this would be a good thing for a company. It sure is, when the company is large enough to handle a larger-than-expected swell in customers. Need A Cake, the aforementioned bakery, was not at all prepared.

Dubbed her “worst ever business decision,” Rachel Brown and her staff needed to make 102,000 in a short amount of time to handle the orders. They couldn’t handle it on their own and were forced to hire 25 extra workers, resulting in a loss of $3 per batch of cupcakes equaling a $20,000 loss for the company. Needless to say, this type of incident is not the first of its kind, but should be the last. Why? Because small businesses need to understand Groupon, and Groupon needs to understand small businesses.

While working in social media for the last 14+ months I have learned a lot about marketing on social networks and how different companies approach the process. The smart ones focus on building relationship and creating engaging content to keep their fans and followers around for an extended period of time. The not-so-smart ones want to win the “I have more fans than you” battle. Here’s the thing: if you want fans, it is very easy to get you those fans. Put up some money and we can advertise the hell our of your business and reach your fan goal. But guess what? Those fans, aren’t fans. They will not promote your product to their friends and family. And they most certainly won’t be loyal to your business.

Groupon is an offline version of the Facebook brand media buy. And that’s a big issue. For big businesses it is fine because they already have large customer bases that are loyal to them. For small business it can be devastating. A small business is attracted by a group deal because they believe it will bring them many long term customers they may not have reached otherwise. Believing in this is a mistake. Sure, you will get a few, but the percentage of lasting customers versus one time deal seekers will be very small. And this is Groupon’s biggest folly…they don’t actually help businesses. Big businesses can handle the losses they incur from running a group-buying deal, but small business can potentially be shut down because of the money lost from a deal.

Rarely does a business do a Groupon deal twice. I have yet to see one (if you have, please tell me in the comments) occur. There is a reason for that. A great business that opened up entirely new market to the world didn’t understand the scale of what they were trying to do. It’s unfortunate, because it’s possible that they could help small businesses. Even putting a cap on the number of people that can purchase a deal would help, as it would provide an “exclusive” label to each deal for small businesses that make them more intriguing, and could get people to visit the business even if they missed out on the deal.

For Groupon’s sake, I hope they figure out a way to change their business model. Otherwise small businesses everywhere could be in trouble.

Facebook Needs A Browser

Is the next step moving beyond the homepage?

One thing I’ve noticed over the last year or so, while working in social media, is that Facebook is the one company that never really seems to take a hit. Sure, they have a terrible customer satisfaction rating (like that ever really hurt them in the first place) but it isn’t like they are losing customers because of it. When you’re a company with a user base of 800 million people, you’re big enough to take risks that may hurt the user experience without having to worry about losing those users.

The average American spends 6+ hours per month on Facebook, and that’s a number that’s increasing every month. The amazing thing about Facebook, to me, is that it seems to be immune to the “extra step” barrier that many websites, surveys, and advertisements have run into over the years. What I mean by this is, whenever you are designing a user experience you want as few steps as possible for the user to take. You will lose the attention of the user for every step they are required to make for them to reach the end-goal. The magical thing about Facebook is that users don’t mind taking an extra step or two that they would be unwilling to make elsewhere on the internet.

But why waste time with these extra steps. Facebook should get a browser. Or, at least, get a skin for current browsers that includes all of the functionality of Facebook, without having to be on the website. A little over a year ago I had the opportunity to meet with some guys from Brand Thunder, a service that designs and customizes browsers. For now they have done browsers for sports teams, universities, and large companies. For example, if you installed a browser for your favorite sports team it would have a sidebar that has a stream of news and information on that team that updates in real time and is skinned with that team’s colors and logo.

Now imagine something like that, but with Facebook. Instead of having to always go to Facebook.com to see your notifications and messages, or to see who is available to chat, what if it was in your browser? Stop getting distracted with your news feed and wasting time on the website, but still get all the important stuff. If you’re on another website and want to share a video you see with a friend, just check the sidebar to send them a message rather than going to Facebook and see if they are online.

We all waste time on Facebook when we probably shouldn’t. It has become such a focal point in our online lives, that it’s become more than just a website, it defines who we are in the virtual world. A Facebook browser would not only save us a lot of time, but it would improve the user experience dramatically. There would be space for advertisements as well, which would help quell any worry about Facebook losing advertising dollars.

What do you think? Is a browser too much for Facebook, or is it a necessary step in Facebook’s evolution?

Facebook vs. Google Plus: Why It Will Benefit You In The End

The ever-escalating battle between Facebook and Google Plus for social networking supremacy has reached a new level of competition in recent days. Facebook has revealed their next slew of changes that includes an overhaul of user profiles with the new Timeline profile, their new Open Graph API, and the ticker. Google Plus has finally made their social network available to everyone, gotten hangouts onto mobile phones, and allowed big audiences to view hangouts (beyond the maximum of ten people actually hanging out).

For the first time ever Facebook has serious competition (well, not too serious) and it has forced them to really think about the service they offer. On the other hand, Google jumped into the game years after Facebook established dominance and it has forced them to act quickly and to be innovative in their approach to social networking. However, I believe Facebook is going to either: 1) smother Google+ because they are simply THAT big, 2) force Google+ to reconsider their target market and become more of a niche social network, or 3) simply just stop worrying about Google+ and keep doing their own thing.

While the social networks continue to change, adapt, update, and fight for users’ time and money it will only stand to benefit us users. The recent changes made to both Facebook and Google+ make both networks easier and more fun to use, but I think Facebook really “gets” it better than Google+ and their recent changes show that.

How will these changes benefit you (the user) in the long run? Social networking is becoming something more than just a way to keep in touch with friends and stalk people you met the night before at a party. Facebook, and at some point Google+, is becoming a social aggregator that takes everything you do and puts it all into one place. It is the ultimate sharing tool. The new Open Graph technology is incredible. From personal experience (and some insane numbers) the new API is going to brush off everyone’s complaints about privacy and turn the internet into a cohesive community that shares everything. (And let’s be honest here, if you complain about your information being shared, DON’T put it on the internet in the first place, because it isn’t just Facebook and Google tracking you.)

Connecting with your friends now brings you more than status updates, relationship status changes, and photos. You now can see what your friends are listening to/watching/doing and choose to listen to/watch/participate in real time with the click of your mouse. It’s amazing to share so much with friends. There will always be people terrified of sharing so much, but in the end it develops relationships with people which is what social networking is really all about.

When Google+ first released my initial thought was that they tried to combine the best of everything into one network. They had Facebook’s layout (almost identical), Twitter’s real-time sharing capabilities, and Google is connecting all of their services as well. Seems like it would be a perfect storm to attract users. Instead Google+ is still floundering (or close to it), with not many active users. However, Facebook is learning from Google’s mistakes (that they made trying to learn from Facebook…it’s a vicious cycle), and creating one hell of a social network. They’ve add “Subscribe” which is their version of Twitter’s “Follow.” They are making friend lists easier to make and update…and are auto-populating lists for you! Which is something Google+ didn’t do with Circles (big mistake). They are banking on the nostalgia the scrapbook-esque Timeline will bring to users. And it’s going to do well. Users will hate the change, then get used to it, then love it. Just watch.

The competition that Google+ has started (for lack of a better word, because they can’t technically compete with Facebook right now), is the best thing that could have happened for us users. Facebook is now making changes that benefit us and aren’t just layout and design changes. The user experience is getting prettier, more intuitive, and more fun. We have a lot to look forward to. And I can’t wait.

Klout’s New Topic Pages

Klout, the most popular online influence measurement tool, has finally released their long awaited topic pages to the enjoyment of, well, me. I love Klout. But I haven’t talked to anyone else about the new feature yet so for now it’s just me being happy.

For awhile users on Klout have been able to award +K’s to their connections who are influential in certain topics or categories. For example, I’ve been +K’d in categories like Social Media, Facebook, Beer, Burritos, Chipotle (typical 23 year old Community Manager things). This feature didn’t do too much other than allow people to say that others are influential about things. If it increased one’s chances at earning Klout Perks then it wasn’t advertised as such (from what I have seen), but would have been a fantastic incentive to help increase engagement on the site. But until today there wasn’t much you could do with those topics.

Now Klout has finally rolled out their topic pages that promise to make these topics a little more interesting within the site. Topic pages allows users to see the Top Influencers, Top +K Recipients, and influential buzz about specific topics. In the image above you can see the three sections of topic pages on the left side of the page.

What does this mean for users? Users who are influential about a topic tend to talk A LOT about a topic. Now all that chatter is resulting in visibility for the user. You can see that I am the second person listed in the Top +K Recipients section for Chipotle (something I am way too proud of myself for). Now, anybody who views the topic page for Chipotle sees me. While I am relatively insignificant in the only world right now (just you wait) I can only imagine that if I was a company or bigger online presence this would help increase both my reach and number of connections. If I go onto the page for a topic I am passionate about (social media or beer, for example) and I see people or companies rated as the Top Influencers or Top +K Recipients, I will probably follow them on Twitter, or at least do some research on who they are. This is a big deal.

The “Best Content” section displays some of the recent influential buzz on a specific topic. For now it appears to be only tweets, but there is no distinction so I may be wrong. This content shows what people are saying about a topic, and who it has influenced. How the content is chosen is ambiguous at best right now. On the Klout Blog they do give us this: “we curate topical content based on the engaging influencers, and their interaction with the topical content.” Not the most precise explanation, but their algorithms and formulas have always been a tight secret.

Klout also says that these pages will eventually have information on trends and related content, as well as some form of analytics. All of these changes are great in my opinion. If I was a company or leader in a product category, I would utilize everything Klout has to offer to really reward the people who love what I do. If those people happen to be great influencers then even better. Hopefully brands start embracing the influence “factor” and understanding what it can bring to the table.

Google+ Suggested Users List Shows Users How Google Doesn’t Understand Social…Still

Paris Hilton and MySpace Tom totally supercharge my stream!

Since the day I created my Google+ account I have stood fast, almost too strongly, against the idea that Google+ will become something great. I wrote about why it will fail, and some idea on how it could succeed back in July and so far, I haven’t been too far off.

The release of the Google+ Suggested Users list is another notch in Google’s “We can’t compete in social” belt. A great idea, in theory, the suggested users list seems like it would help people get acquainted with certain features of G+ while also following the people who know the social network the best. The problem is that the feature is not ready to be released yet. It is still primitive. It will list Robert Scoble, a prominent tech blogger, in the same place as Paris Hilton. See a problem there?

One of the biggest issues I’ve seen over the last couple of months in regards to Google+ is how eager Google is to contribute to the social landscape. As a result of this eagerness they have begun releasing features that are not yet ready to be released, always with “the ability to <insert how feature can be improved here> is on its way,” in the metaphorical fine print. When a feature is released I expect there to be bugs and problems. But when a suggested user list is released I expect to see users that make sense to me. Right now I have Taylor Swift (don’t own a single track of hers), Tom the MySpace guy (seriously?), and Dolly Parton (okay, that one made me laugh).

And the problem of releasing features that don’t do what they are, in theory, expected to do isn’t restricted to just the suggested users list. It has affected Circles (here is a point of view I’ve shared since the beginning about Circles) as well. Google is the world’s leader in search (and collecting personal data of EVERYONE), and they have yet to include great search in their own social network. What is going on?

A “too little, too late” type of thing is occurring for Google+, with its inability to keep registered users active (last I checked less than 20% of users were inactive), releasing unfinished features, and a lack of understanding with what users really want (and stating that Google+ is essentially FOR Google, not for the users). While I don’t see a great future for Google+ as an overall social network, I do hope it succeeds somehow. Whether that is as a business-centric social network (a la Linkedin), or something else remains to be seen, but I do hope it results in something that helps consumers.

Facebook’s New Sharing Changes: What They Are, And Why They Are Awesome

Facebook has been going through a lot of changes recently because of the direct competition felt by Google+. We’ve entered a bidding war in which the prize is the social media crown. Google+ has flaws that will stunt its ability to grow, but some of the features have a lot of potential. Circles is one of those features. While primitive at the moment (you have to constantly update and maintain the circles manually, and drag and drop hundreds of people into the correct circles on your own), they give users the ability to share content to very specific groups of people. And this is where G+ really is attempting to one-up Facebook: sharing. Combining Circles with a real-time stream that is similar to Twitter, Google+ is attempting to make simple what Facebook could not. Until now.

Facebook has recently released their new sharing tools that allow users the sharing capabilities they have always wanted. Rather than explain it all to you, scroll down through the screenshots of the tutorial Facebook (very wisely) set up to explain the new changes:

1)

For the first time ever, Facebook prompts users about a change!

2)

You can now tag people you're with more easily.

3)

Tagging your location has never been easier, and you can even tag specific venues.

4)

Create groups and lists that make it easy to share with specific people.

 

The biggest change is #4, the inline audience selector, that allows you to choose who sees your post right from the status box. I see this as a direct response to Google+ Circles, albeit a less pleasing version (aesthetically speaking). However, the ability to create these lists that are so similar to circles has existed on Facebook for awhile, but hasn’t been visible. Facebook finally making this option easy to use, and find, is a huge step forward for the social network. This, along with a more streamlined, easier to use privacy page makes the privacy concerns of Facebook seem like a much smaller issue.

For more information on Facebook’s sharing changes feel free to click through here.

What do you think of Facebook’s changes? Are they trying to be too similar to Google+ or are they a step in the right direction?

An Experiment: Social Media Is All About Being Included

Earlier this week a devastating earthquake hit the East Coast. The damage was unimaginable for those who weren’t affected by the disaster. So, of course the first course of action for those who felt the quake was to get under their desks, in a doorway, or evacuate the building right? Wrong. The first thing people chose to do was update Twitter. And Facebook. In the modern day social media has become such an integral part of our lives we think first of notifying friends and family about what is going on in our lives. Which is great. But at the same time, it also seems to have affected our ‘flight or fight’ response. We’ve suddenly emerged in a world where a “wall” isn’t something that holds up the roof over your head, but rather a virtual way to represent ourselves. Most people get their news from a “news feed” rather than a newspaper. And a “friend” is now someone you barely remember meeting at that party but thought they were attractive.

And this brings me to my main point and observation: social media is not only about relationships and connections, but about feeling included. When an event like the East Coast earthquake occurs (yes, it was mild and almost hilariously so) people seem to think updating their social media profiles about being a part of the event, and checking in on Foursquare to the impromptu event, before doing anything else. It took Earthquakepocolypse just minutes to hit Epic Swarm on Foursquare. That’s 1,000 people checking in on a Foursquare event that didn’t even exist before the earthquake occurred in a matter of minutes. People feel the need to be included in an event, and to publish said inclusion to every channel possible to notify their friends and followers that they were, indeed, part of it.

…which led me to try an experiment. I noticed how quickly the ‘Earthquakepocolypse’ reached tens of thousands of check-ins and thought, “wow, people really want to be a part of something big. How can I take advantage of that when I’m in Atlanta, a city that wasn’t affected?” So I created the Foursquare venue “Missed Out On The Earthquake” and simply shared that I had checked in on it on Facebook and Twitter…once. The venue had no location tied to it, and had no description. A couple of my social media buddies checked in as well when they saw my tweet and I thought “hmm, that’s promising but still a small number.” I left it alone for awhile and within an hour or so the group had earned ‘Swarm’ status and reached triple-digit check-ins. The crazy thing to keep in mind is that this venue is about people who weren’t affected by the earthquake, and there was no advertising for it, and no reason for people to search for such a venue on Foursquare.

I was pleasantly surprised but certainly not shocked. My theory was being proven correct. A big event happens and people want to be in on what’s “in.” I was excited about the venue doing well, and was waiting to see how well it’d grow from there. After waiting another day the group has stalled at the final count of 268 total people checking in, with 277 check-ins total. That’s “Super Swarm” status on Foursquare for an event that was all about missing out on an event. I’m still not shocked, but it’s pretty crazy.

The ability to share content to such a degree, and so quickly, via social media has changed the way we think and act. It’s human nature to want to feel part of the group, but now we can fulfill that want with a few words and a click of a button. There is a dark side to social media that encourages elitism and exclusion, but it is not nearly as pronounced. Social media is changing the landscape of how people all over the world interact with each other, and THAT is something in which we should ALL be included.

Heineken Makes Party Planning As Simple As Opening A Beer

As the result of a project from two awesome students at the Miami Ad School in Hamburg, Germany, Heineken has a potential product on their hand that would be the first of its kind, and is simply cool. As a Community Manager I’m inclined to think products with social integration are cool to begin with, but I think this will be “cool” even to those not in the same profession.

The Heineken social bottle opener works like this:

  • You pop open a bottle of beer (preferably Heineken in this case) with this new bottle opener.
  • The bottle opener is connected to Facebook through Bluetooth, via Facebook Connect it seems, and automatically creates a Facebook event at your location and invites all of your friends on Facebook located in your city.
  • Get as many friends as possible to RSVP and the person with the most people attending their party gets a free case of Heineken for the next weekend.
Simple, elegant, and uses social media to create a social experience that is offline. It’s social media doing what it is supposed to do, and doing it well will minimal effort. As a student project it obviously doesn’t have the details ironed out (what if you don’t WANT to throw a part but the bottle opener is the only one you have? Can you shut it off?), but it has so much potential it makes me wish Heineken will jump on board with this. Honestly, I would prefer a certain other beer if I’m throwing a big party (I’m still 23 folks, I’m choosing the cheap stuff), but maybe there can be multiple brands branding this bottle opener. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

For a video version of everything I just said have a look below.

The Dark Side Of Social Media

Superhero? Not so much.

Having worked in social media for my entire professional, grown-up life I understand how valuable of a tool it is for consumers, businesses, and everyone/thing else in between. Not only does it allow instantaneous communication between individuals and groups on a level that has never been reached before, it also allows consumers to connect with businesses and brands in a way that was inconceivable even just a decade ago. And the greatest thing about social media, in my opinion, is that it finally forces everyone to understand that relationships matter most in business.

However, there is a dark side to it that is not very noticeable unless you really look for it, or have it affect you personally. This “other side” of social media is all about exclusion and superiority. One of the negatives with social media is that it allows public ridicule to become a devilishly serious matter. You need someone humiliated? All it takes is a wall post or Tweet. A company screw you over? Start a movement via Twitter or a Facebook group about it and cripple the company. It allows complainers a free avenue to bitch and moan to their hearts content, and to an extreme that would never be tolerated through other means. Small issues become nationwide news because a social savvy individual knows how to work the system and blow things out of the water.

My latest gripe with social media is epitomized by the website Triberr. The website calls itself “The Reach Multiplier” which sounds great in theory. Who doesn’t want more reach for their blog? I blog about things I find important, and while I don’t think I’m a genius or deserve recognition, I do believe that I have educated and valid opinions. If I have the opportunity to get more people to read my blog, I’m going to be intrigued. That’s what got me onto Triberr in the first place. Then I actually figured out what the website does: it is a cleverly disguised spam-a-tron that breeds exclusivity and blog snobs (blobs?).

Here’s the concept: You have to be invited by a member (okay, not that big of a deal) or request to be invited to a “tribe.” These tribes are groups focused on a specific topic (i.e. social media, social networking, sports, dogs, events, etc) and are specifically bloggers who blog about said topic. You have to “find” a tribe that suits your passion or focus. You join a Tribe and when you join you publish a blog post and tweet about it all other members in the tribe automatically retweet it as well. Triberr sets it up so tweets aren’t one after another, but in 40-120 minute intervals. You don’t have an option whether you wish to retweet or not, it’s part of the deal when you join a tribe, and any tribe. In other words, you are going to be retweeting a lot of blog posts, and filling your twitter stream with these tweets as long as you’re a member of the tribe.

If you don’t have a problem with this just yet, well here’s some answers from Triberr, in their words, on how their process works:

How do I join Triberr?

“You can’t join Triberr. You must be invited by someone who is already a member or you can request an invite.”

Seriously…they start off by immediately saying “You can’t join…” Obviously you can join, but the message is clear, we are exclusive and you have to know people or prove yourself in order to participate. And if that isn’t making the message clear enough they also have this:

How do I get an invite?

“If you are a close friend of someone who is already on Triberr and they find your blog simply amazing and you are a super-engaged person on Twitter, your invite is probably already in your inbox.”

In other words…”you must be a superstar with friends who worship your every word online..then you can “expect” an invite because it’s a privilege.

“You could also browse the list of tribes and request to join by making your case. This will allow tribal chieftain to “check you out” before sending the invite.

If you are an awesome blogger with super-engaged following on Twitter, every Tribal chief would be lucky to have you so your approval is pretty much in the bag. Especially if you pick a tribe where YOU can help THEM and not the other way around.”

3. Be a pretentious ass.

And there’s the bombshell…you have to “make your case” and be “checked out” by the tribe “chieftain” before you can be accepted. And if you are such a superstar on the internet then they are “lucky” to have you. But only join a tribe if “YOU can help THEM” but not if you want them to help you.

So…I find a tribe I want to join and apply because I’m super awesome and they would be lucky to have me (not pretentious at all), then have to be checked out by the leader (that certainly makes me feel like an equal and part of the “tribe”), and I should feel lucky to join a tribe because I can make it stronger…but not expect it to help me out (I’m all for taking one for the team, but I’m allowed to look out for myself too).

How is this attractive to any honest individual who wants to achieve success through hard work? All I see is a website that will judge you and deem you worthy of their services or not…and then be a pawn for others that are already on the site. Super.

In high school and college (I went to smaller schools, both private) the cliques and general attitude of superiority exhibited by individuals was appalling. This is the internet version of it. As I said, I love social…but when you attempt to make less social for personal gain, yet try to disguise it as the opposite, it completely destroys the awesome power of social media. Exploitation and exclusion have rarely worked in the past, why would it work today?

What do you think? Is Triberr a service you would use, or are you staying away from it like I am?

Why Google+ Will Fail, And How It Can Succeed

Every Thursday at Engauge we have something called Technology Thursdays. Recently the format has changed to lightning talks, meaning three speakers get five minutes each to present anything they would like. These talks are led by the developers of the agency, and have covered topics such as Amazon’s Cloud Servers, our @engaugebeercart Android app, and many more. Yesterday one of the topics that came up is Google+. Now, working at a marketing agency that prides itself on its social media expertise, Google+ has been a hot topic the last few weeks. We’ve had 30 minute meetings about the potential of the new social network turn into 90 minute debates/discussions, and we all have our own opinions on how well we think it will succeed.

Hint: the little guy loses here

Here’s my opinion: Google Plus, being a well put together platform, has a chance at being something…it certainly has no chance at being a Facebook killer. Since day one I’ve been very anti-“Facebook killer mentality.” It is the wrong mentality for Google+ to go in thinking that they can compete with a social network that can harness the power of ~15% of the world’s population. This isn’t a David vs. Goliath scenario either, where the little guy might just be faster and smarter and can compete, this is a small (yes, it is still small) social network trying to compete against a juggernaut that his been fully integrated via Facebook Connect.

Now, when I say “fail” I don’t mean it will disappear and become another Google Buzz or Wave, but that it will fail at being a social network for the masses like Facebook is. Right now there is no solid “hook” for people to switch from Facebook to Google+. Unless you don’t use Facebook at all, or purely hate the service, you don’t have a reason to leave right now. So what are the “hooks” that people say will get users to switch? Circles, Hangouts, and Sparks.  Here are the reasons why these aren’t enough, and why they may not be all they are cracked up to be:

  • Circles: They are apparently the “great, new way” to sort your friends to make sharing content easier. That’s awesome. I can now share all the things I love to specific groups of friends without having to worry about others seeing them. That’s about where all my love for Circles ends. Circles are complicated and one-sided. It makes sharing to others easy, but makes group sharing insanely difficult. In a Facebook group, you create a group and then all members can share content that everyone can see. If you want to group-share in Circles, everyone must have an accurate circle they have to maintain and update individually. A coworker linked me to a blog post that talked about Reed’s Law which shows the value of a social network strongly depends on how well it not only facilitates connections between individuals but also how it facilitates the formation of groups. Google+ does not do this well at all, for the very reasons I’ve given. In a recent discussion at work I brought up the idea that Circles need to be able to be shared between individuals. I love knowing that I’ve been added to a Circle, until I realize that I don’t know what the Circle is for; I very well could have been added to the “Don’t Like These People” Circle. If there was a setting that allowed you to share what Circle you’ve added someone to, and who else is in the circle, the “group” part of Google+ would significantly stronger. Also, Facebook can add a filter functionality fairly easily that would eliminate the so-called “advantage” that Circles bring to Google+.
  • Hangouts: Hangouts are a feature I actually love…I don’t have much to say about them that’s negative. Being able to group video chat with so many people at once is a valuable tool, especially in business (which I’ll get to in a bit). The only thing I can say is…Facebook obviously launched their Skype integration prematurely because of G+ and the Hangouts feature. If Facebook starts seeing the success of Hangouts and people switching to Google+ because of it, how long do you think it will take them to add a group video chat feature themselves? Facebook is in a position that allows them to just add features other people have to get users to stay with their platform.
  • Sparks: Sparks are easily the least understandable, and least utilized feature of Google+ from what I’ve seen and heard. In a nutshell they are a way to filter things people have shared using specific keywords. At least, I think it’s a source for what has been shared. Sparks take people off Google+, not keep them on it. Google+ is in a position where they need users to be spending as much time as possible within the confines of the platform, but sparks link to other websites. Sparks let you search “interests” which supposedly helps you filter the information you want to see. You can save interests to your profile to browse quickly whenever you’d like. Except…why not just use Google.com or another search engine to do this? I love sports, and below this bullet are the results for a Spark about sports and a search result (not from Google since I don’t use Google for search anymore) for “sports.” Tell me why I should use Sparks when I can search just as easily and get much more relevant, better results?:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two out of the three big features of Google+ don’t have much merit considering there are much better alternatives to them that take little time to use. The problem is that Facebook has almost a decade of experience under their belt, a massive user base, and the tools to help both consumers and businesses utilize their platform in countless ways. It’s the norm. People say that Google+ is more user-friendly and intuitive…at this point Facebook IS what is intuitive. Why do you think the Google+ interface is so similar to Facebook? People are “hacking” their profiles just like everyone did with Facebook a couple months ago.

So what should Google do in order to make Google+ successful? Become the de facto business social network. Yes, Linkedin has been playing that role admirably, but there is a very small amount of actual interaction on Linkedin. It’s a great recruiting tool, and for most people my age (I’m 23) it is little more than an online resume that you can link your blog, twitter, and Facebook accounts up to. When Google+ first launched while in “beta” I immediately, and somewhat prematurely, said that they should buy/partner with Linkedin and create the ultimate business tool. While this is unlikely, it was a split second thought that got me thinking.

Google+ should focus on the business vertical within social networking rather than trying to compete with Facebook. Google is exceptional at business and search. They have proven this time and time again, so they should play to those strengths. Say I’m looking for a job, I can create circles (with the added functionality I’ve talked about above) that include all the recruiters I’ve spoken to about positions, I can have my resume easily accessible, along with my Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. Google can incorporate their other services like Gmail, Docs, and Reader into this social network to make sharing incredibly easy from a business perspective. The data Google has accumulated about everyone who has used their services over the years is invaluable, and will be more extensive than what you can get from Facebook at the moment.

What everyone needs to realize is that Facebook has laid too strong of a foundation to be replaced at the moment. Google’s best bet is to concentrate on what part of the social game and become established within that. Once they have gained confidence that they can (finally!) do social the right way, then they can start reaching out towards the mainstream crowd that Facebook has a tight hold on. Until then, they should focus on what they know best.