There is a lot of Social media hype surrounding Google + and what it means for the future of social media. While some companies and individuals are slow to add yet another social media tool to their already extensive repertoire, others are jumping onboard without hesitation, embracing all that Google + has to offer in one tidy package. There are sound reasons for optimism about Google + which explain the rapid growth of the number of users.
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Facebook is still the leader of the pack in terms of the actual number of users, which is not surprising since it has been around since 2004. It is noteworthy though that the number of Google + users is growing rapidly since it was introduced to the public on June 28, 2011.
As of January 2012, Google + reported 90 million users and is expected to continue growing at a fast pace as people fully embrace the differences between Facebook and Google +, learning to appreciate the benefits of using Google +.
Integration and Ease of Use
In sharp contrast to Facebook, Google’s answer to social networking is fully integrated with other Google products, giving Google + a distinct advantage. The potential of Google + is hard to ignore given the power of Google search and its superior B2B solutions and mobile marketing platform sure to come. Anyone with a Gmail account is able to access all the other Google tools that Google has to offer including Google +.
B2B Fan Interaction
Google + solved one of the major criticisms levied against Facebook by making it easy for company representatives to communicate with fans for business purposes. Facebook has been criticized by business leaders for not providing an easy way to interact with fans, which is what is expected in a social media platform. A business contact must be included on your Facebook page friends list in order to converse online. Since business professionals often prefer to keep business pages and personal pages separate, this Facebook requirement has made it difficult to promote business conversation. The interactive nature of Google + allows businesses to cultivate business relationships to develop new contacts and influence customer loyalty through online conversation.
One of the concerns voiced by many Facebook users is privacy. Until recently Facebook believed that it owned any data placed on the site, unless users elected to opt out. Unfortunately for the users, opting out was not easy to do. Counter to Facebook’s philosophy about privacy, Google’s official policy about data is that the user owns it and has the ability to remove it, or back it up at any time. Unlike Facebook’s opt out option, using Google Takeout allows people to eliminate or secure personal data easily.
Since Google + has come on the scene as a possible competitor, Facebook has been forced to address the privacy concerns of users. Google + offers one answer to many of the privacy concerns mentioned by users. Offering Google Circles takes care of many of those issues. This feature allows users to share data with different groups of people by dividing them into circles of people. For example, a user might divide contacts into a circle of friends, a circle pf family members and a circle of business associates. A business could also create a circle of prospective customers and a circle of employees, making it easy to send out appropriate information to each party. Since business professionals may not want the photos from a child’s birthday party circulated to business associates, Google Circles is the perfect answer for grouping people in logical circles for interaction purposes.
It is likely that Google + will become increasingly popular as more people start understanding the benefits of using it. While it is doubtful that Facebook will be replaced by Google + anytime soon, it is likely that students who make up the largest number of Google + users will carry this social tool with them into the workplace eventually, establishing it in the near future as the social media forum of choice because of all the reasons mentioned above. With Google’s reputation as the dominant search engine and Google Docs, YouTube, Gmail and all the other Google tools that integrate so easily from one central account, users will continue to respond favourably to Google + as the social media tool of choice for future generations.