It’s funny how many forgive and forget when it comes to Google. One would expect the abysmal failure of Google Wave 2 years ago, stifling the public’s tolerance of giving any Google grown ‘social’ product another go. It seems though the leading search engine provider has succeeded in breaking its novice status with the creation and execution of Google+, now with 25m users and counting. Google’s best kept secret? Not anymore.
Having worked with online products for so long, I appreciate how difficult it is to nail an online platform that hails simplicity and sophistication at the same time. Add to this the already cluttered online community space that is dominated by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn amongst others, it’s quite exciting to see Google+ take the lead in what I would label as social media’s next generation of platforms. Why I draw this conclusion boils down to a couple of factors:
Google+ gives ultimate control to the individual. Unlike Twitter and Facebook where the rights of sharing is dependent on the message recipient’s willingness to connect with the sharer, Google+ allows the end user to freely add Google+’ians into user groups and share messages based on their personalised circles of individuals. It’s asymmetrical in nature, and it’s just what social junkies are looking for.
Google+ evolves the equation of a sticky platform. Think of a restaurant that you regularly eat at. What makes you go back there? It’s a combination of things: the food, the service, the atmosphere, the people you dine with. I used to think that the community for social networks was the primary determinant of a user’s loyalty (the key reason that I gave Facebook another go despite being dubious about its utility in my life). It seems now that being a ‘regular’ in the longhaul also requires a continued investment in keeping features (equivalent to the restaurant’s atmosphere and menu) on the platform attractive. And what’s cool about Google+ is that you don’t need an online tutorial or help tips: the environment is predictable to the end user, the Google+ diet is easy to digest!
Since its launch we’ve seen tweaks in the Circles module and YouTube sharing, driven primarily by screening usage (which is not surprising with Google’s advanced web analytics capabilities) and listening to user’s feedback. Crowdsourcing is a cool way of learning more about users and ensuring users remain engaged on the network.
This approach breathes the importance of iterative development, the importance of being agile with managing a living and breathing platform as more information about your users and their behaviours surface. Twitter started off with attractive features (the concept of ‘followers’ and @ mentions and RT or quotes) but responded too late to third party applications who offered more convenience in features such as shortened links and in line influence scores from Klout.
It’s great to be reminded that the social media space will never stop evolving and I’m pleased to see Google+ taking a decent leap in the right direction.
What I look forward to? I see a richer user experience across other Google web properties as a result of first hand insights from Google+ users (for example, improved relevancy on Google Search); more functionality on its mobile app, particularly for Android powered mobiles; further integration of video chat properties within its cool Hangout feature and a Google+ API.