Google +: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Google +: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Summary: Google + has generated lots of opinions after launch. Whether you think it's good, bad or just plain ugly, WCG's Aaron Strout gives you his take on the new social platform.


[a guest post by Aaron Strout]

If you have a pulse, there is a good chance that you've heard the buzz about Google's latest foray into the world of social networking. Their new offering is called Google + (that's pronounced "Google Plus") and at first blush, it seems to have hit the mark. Although the new social network is still in closed beta (invite only), It has already amassed north of 10 million users. More importantly, numerous online influencers like Chris Brogan, David Armano and Robert Scoble have spent dozens if not hundreds of hours kicking the tires. For anyone that follows social media, getting the "in" crowd to adopt a new technology or social media is key to greater adoption.

As someone that has spent time personally and professionally with social media for six plus years, I've been intrigued with the possibilities that Google + offers. This curiosity comes with a healthy dose of skepticism on my part given Google's poor track record of building and acquiring companies and services such as Jaiku, Wave, Dodgeball and Buzz. In spite of that skepticism, I've spend the better part of the last few weeks watching, posting and commenting on Google +. During that time, I've had a chance to witness some of the good, the bad and the ugly with Google's latest offering.

The Good One of the main reasons that Google + is taking off the way it is is because they seem to have gotten the friending/privacy/social graph right via a convention called Circles. Circles are powerful for a few different reasons:

  • The circles come pre-set (although you can customize) so right out of the gate you can start adding people to buckets titled, "Family, Friends, Acquaintances, Following and Work." In order to connect with someone (the equivalent of following or friending), you need to put them in a circle.
  • As a result of the bucketing connections into circles requirement, all of your connections end up in pre-defined groups. This allows you to decide which circle or circles you want to share with every time you post. This is a big win on the privacy front.
  • Unlike Twitter lists or Facebook Groups, you can not only view your circles by different criteria including first name, last name, relevance and recently updated but users also have the option to see only a stream from a specific circle or to view that circle's activity in a separate tab.

Although I haven't tried them yet, I do like the concept of the Hangouts on Google + or the ability to spontaneously create group chats (text and video) with your connections. You can add and subtract people from these groups on the fly giving you flexibility.

Probably the biggest opportunity for Google + is its ability to meet the need of social for business. If you think about it, Facebook is much more for personal interactions than business interactions (although important for businesses to play a role). LinkedIn is for business but still isn't particularly social. Twitter falls somewhere in between but doesn't allow for the robust conversation threading and image/video sharing that Google + and Facebook do. Even better, Google + has the opportunity to be the social glue that sits between all of Google's apps and tools (Docs, Maps, Blogger, Picasa, etc.) This creates all sorts of internal and external collaboration opportunities over time.

The Bad Two of the biggest knocks on Google + so far are the lack of groups (one of the more valuable features of Facebook) and the awkwardness around multiple people mentioning a post (this would be the equivalent of re-tweeting on Twitter). In the first case, I'm guessing that Google will fix this soon by adding in a type of public or private circle that users can administer. On the latter, I'm also assuming that a solution like collapsing posts in one's stream that share redundant information so that they take up less room makes sense.

Lack of business pages also falls into the "bad" category. Companies like Ford and NPR News have been allowed in to test the service but as of yet, Google + is not yet open for companies to sign up. While many consumers may consider this an actual plus, I know of a lot of companies that are champing at the bit to get in and start to test this shiny new tool. We all know that Google will eventually allow for business usage but hopefully they don't wait too long.

The Ugly I'm happy to report that there really isn't that much ugly with Google +. The few things that would fall in this category are more nuisances than major flaws. For one, the mobile app (just made available to iPhone users today) still doesn't allow for notifying one's connections using the "+" sign (similar to the @ sign in Twitter and Facebook). This applies to both posts and comments. Instead, it looks up gmail addresses and other search garbage.

Another item in the "ugly" category is a feature that is near and dear to my heart i.e. Google +'s check-in functionality. My experience with the Web version is that it's not that accurate. After downloading the iPhone version, it seems like the geotargeting there is better but it has a much narrower database of places (at least at present) to draw upon than those of Facebook or foursquare. With all the geo data that Google has via its Maps and Places services, I would think this would be stronger out of the gate.

Are you using Google + yet? If so, what has your experience been? And will you plan to use it instead of Facebook and Twitter or as a complementary service?

Aaron Strout is a 17 year digital marketing veteran. He is currently the head of location based marketing at global agency, WCG. He is also the co-author of the book, Location Based Marketing for Dummies. Aaron does most of his blogging these days at The Common Sense Blog. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Google

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  • RE: Google : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    The lack of business pages? Not bad at all, in our opinion. As the Google+ team has stated before, they want to work out all of the bugs with users first and then roll the platform out to businesses, in a way that's superior and customized to how a business would use it differently. We respect that and that's why Ford is working closely with the Google+ team to make suggestions and fine-tune some of the features. The business profile support will be here soon enough.

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company
    • RE: Google : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

      @scottmonty First of all, thank you for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated. Second, congratulations to you and Ford for being one of the first companies allowed on Google +. That must be a great honor and I know it's testament to all the good work and innovation you and your colleagues are doing.

      As for the lack of business pages being a good thing in your mind, I'll say it depends on which side of the fence you sit. While part of me likes not opening the floodgates to companies before Google really understands what G+ is and how it can best benefit businesses, the other part of me sympathizes with other companies (like our clients) that would love an opportunity to be an early adopter. You made a great point in your local news interview last weekend when you talked about the benefit of Ford being able to get in early to test and learn before the stakes (and expectations) got too high. I believe some -- not all -- companies would like that same opportunity.

      • RE: Google : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

        @aaronstrout They'll get it. :-)
      • RE: Google : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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  • RE: Google : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    I've just accepted an invitation last night and like what I've seen so far. Big plus is the privacy controls available with Circles. I currently have 2 Facebook accounts (one personal and one business), I also use Twitter, Tumblr, and have a LinkedIn profile.<br>To say that I would give up one and use another exclusively? No. I have specific uses in each network. Tumblr is great for image-based blogging, no character limits and customizable. Twitter I just use to follow trending topics.. I'm not much of a 'Tweeter'. LinkedIn I use as a passive career networking tool. <br>The 'Hangout' in G+ is great and serves a real purpose for me, with a daughter studying in Auckland.. having the ability to video chat in a group setting with others in the 'Family' circle is big. We have used Skype in the past. But group vid-chats are a paid service.. and why buy the cow, right? Plus the video quality is very good! On Skype we all look like something from an old Twilight Zone episode.<br>So far, so good. <br>Proud of Ford for their patience and understanding that the corporate availability will come eventually and are still willing to participate in the 'test-drive', if you will, without expectations.
    Laura Ruthemeyer
    • RE: Google : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

      @Laura Ruthemeyer great points on the "hangouts." I'm going to try one sometime in the next day or two.
  • G app

    Forgot to mention the inability to share a post while using the iPhone app. G+ is supposed to be spearheading a new age of sharing and they don't include this option? Bad move. They also couldn't get the hangout video feature to work with iphones? Apple wouldn't have approved it most likely because of conflict with that is excusable but not the sharing omission!

    • RE: Google : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

      @ThePaisano good points. I had only downloaded the app yesterday but you're right, I was surprised at the lack of some of the functionality you mention above. Hopefully that gets better fast.
  • RE: Google : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    While I love G+, I definitely have some nits.

    1. No Blackberry app and the mobile web app just sucks.
    2. No intiutive way to just respond to the author on a post vs. all. This can be done easily with a Chrome extension but it should be native.
    3. YouTube doesn't have great integration on the YouTube site.
    4. No search.
    5. With so many posts, a tagging system of some sort, like #hashtags would be ideal to aid in that search.
    6. Needs to be a way to filter which circles are shown in your main stream. For example, I'd rather not have my "following" circle there because some people are serial posters and clutter up what I care most about. Yes, I realize that I can go to the individual circles but the main stream should be flexible.
    6. Better initial explanation of the nuances of circles for newbies. I can't imagine my parents trying to figure it out, for example.

    There are more but those are off the top of my head. Looking forward to ongoing changes. And yes, Business accounts.
    • RE: Google : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

      @crystallyn great list. Thoughts on your thoughts:
      1) I'm sure the Blackberry app will come but with most companies, they tackle the easier/larger OS's first and then after critical mass picks up, Blackberry comes next.
      2) agreed -- although some authors may not want this.
      3) I'm sure that will happen over time
      4) ironic for sure
      5) yes - i've tried hashtagging things but to no avail. also assume that is coming
      6) you can control this by fine tuning your circles (maybe create a "noisy" and "non-noisy" but have them in an overlapping circle called "friends" or "content" as well. That way you can just follow the "non-noisy" circle stream.
      6a. the service is still in closed beta so I'm assuming that this will come as they open it up to a wider group.
  • RE: Google : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    I love google plus and its "Lack of groups" is asinine Circles are the groups you can make define as many as you want and put your contacts in what ever circle and when you post content you are asked what circles you want to share with and as for public and private its their too so someone didn't do their home work very well go use google + for a week and then come back and tell me abut the bad an ugly and of for a "beta" google plus runs rings around facebook
  • yeah...

    G+ 's bloody brilliant, period. Now about a few things you mentioned: to geolocation lol man ... of course it's more accurate with the mobile app if you're on wifi or 3G, as you're spotted by wifi hotspots or GSM antennas. When you're on the desktop, wired to your router, detection happens approximately through servers, switch to wifi and you'll see the difference. Another thing, there are currently 3 versions of the mobile app: a browser one, a native Android one, and just released, a native iPhone app. Native apps will obviously be updated so don't complain too much about lacking features yet... As to groups, someone answered you already, you can do that with circles. Yep, you should definitely spend some time on G+... and then update your article may be.
    philippe s.
  • RE: Google : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    When G+ gets a few hundred million users, the comments on sites such as this one will tend to dry up. I think people will read the articles that are of interest to them in their G+ streams and comment them in G+ - which in turn will channel more hits to the original site. I think G+ is going to revolutionize the internet.
    Andre M
  • RE: Google : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    I love G+, and can't wait for it to become more widely adopted. I do not follow up as much on FB. I will probably wind up transitioning to G+.
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