Thursday, July 21, 2011

An expert view on the future of google+

Last week, I shared with you my thoughts on Google+ in this post. Given that 10 million people have already signed up to use the service, I believe that Google+ is going to give Facebook a run for its money. But I thought I’d ask our senior vice president of Millward Brown Dynamic Logic’s Emerging Media Lab, Ali Rana (@Alirana), to share his views of Google+ from a technology perspective.
How would you describe Google+?
Google+ is a hybrid of several different services, incorporating aspects of Twitter, Facebook, group messaging, video calling, and photo sharing. It’s linked to your Google profile and is integrated across several other Google services. Users can group all of the people they share with and follow into Circles, such as friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, and more. Every time a user updates, he can choose whether to share it publicly, or among certain Circles.
What do you like about Google+?
There are several features layered on top of the basic elements like Sparks (to help you find new and relevant content) and Chat (akin to Google Talk). Probably the coolest feature is Hangouts, which allow anyone in your Circles to join a group video chat.
One of the other promising aspects is how good Google+ is at discovery – it beats both Twitter and Facebook in helping you find others you might be interested in adding to your Circles; it suggests a variety of people you can follow and learn from, without them needing to share back with you.
And the cons?
Google+ is in beta, and has yet to demonstrate its unique utility or sustain a critical mass of users. The mobile experience is very slick and could be a significant point of differentiation, but is limited to Android users for the time being (iPhone and Blackberry apps are in development). On the desktop, the design isn’t quite intuitive – there’s more of a learning curve to Google+’s quirks than we’ve seen on other new platforms.
How do you think brands will use it?
Right now, it’s too early to tell. Google has stated that brands are not yet eligible to join Google+, although some have. That being said, the Google+ brand profile has the opportunity to build a more flexible, scalable platform for brands that allows for more custom creative development than Facebook or Twitter.
Here are a few of our ideas of how things might shape up:
  1. Deep integration with other Google creative services, like YouTube. Brands can post videos, commercials, product announcements, and more.
  2. Segmentation for customers. Brands can create Circles featuring employees, top consumers or influencers.
  3. Retargeting = monetization. YouTube, the Google Content Network, and Search are all prime areas – brands will be able to seek out the followers they already have to provide them with more relevant messages and information across the web.
Which product categories might benefit the most?
We expect brands will take some time to get settled in and learn the ins and outs of Google+, but we’re already imagining the possibilities for different categories.
Retail. Google+ Hangouts can take unboxing videos and customer service to a whole new level, particularly for technology brands – instead of a brand tweeting you instructions or a direct number, they’ll be able to show and tell on the product while simultaneously being able to see and direct you setting up your new device.
Automotive. Hangouts, Chat, and Huddle will be killer for scaling enthusiast knowledge out to other fans – and also for involving the crowd in the creative process. Followers could submit design sketches, or ask questions while an expert gives a guided tour of a new model.
Travel and Transit. Travel companies will have a huge opportunity to show off destinations, amenities, and aircraft through guided tours of exotic locales, check-in maps for suggested itineraries, featured travelers, trips and more.
So there you have it, some interesting ideas from Ali and ones that continue to suggest that Google+ is more than a flash in the pan. My own experience so far suggests that given the necessary critical mass, Google+ is going to be a compelling addition to the social network scene for individuals and brands alike.
What do you think?

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