As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been raving about Google+, Google’s new social network ‘glue’ across all it’s products, for some time now. I’ve actually been a Google fan for a while – primarily because of the excellent Google Apps service that will host your email, calendar, contacts and more. But the progress that has been made in the last yearhas been absolutely astounding.
Just 12 months ago, Google had a lot of niche products which were integrated to some extent with the search and advertising sides of the business, but not particularly well. The drive to change this seems to have come from Larry Page, who replaced Eric Schmidt as CEO back in April of last year.
Wave and Buzz – huh?
At that point in time Google’s efforts at social media had consisted of the technically impressive but difficult to use Wave, and the twitter-a-like Buzz, neither of which had set the world alight; or even started it smouldering a little bit. Page recognised that social was the future. Just look at how accurately Facebook can segment its audience for advertising purposes for an example of that, although the jury is still out on click-through rates for those ads. Without a means of gathering more information about people, Google’s lead in search and online advertising was likely to be eroded. Get it right, though, and they could even improve their share.
Their efforts up to that point had been disjointed and lacked integration with Google’s other products. So Page made some big decisions. The drive to build a winning social platform came directly from him, to the extent that employee bonuses are tied to the success of Google+. He also decided that it needed to integrate with every Google product; to act as the ‘glue’ to use their term. Finally, Google started being ruthless about supporting the myriad pet projects that were constantly being developed. If you were to compare Google’s product list today with last April you’d find it a lot shorter.
Focus and Design
This streamlined product list makes things a bit easier for Google. Firstly, they can focus a bit more on the remaining products, devote more man hours to getting the functionality just right. There has also been a much greater effort to design the products. Nowadays there is very much a Google ‘feel’ across the product range. Whether you’re using Gmail, Google Docs or Google+ there are design cues that tell you they all originated from the same stable.
In a way, you could credit Apple for this last change. Steve Jobs proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that really great design can have a huge impact on the perception of a company’s products, and needs to be consistent across the board. Google are definitely aiming for the perception of quality.
Then Google+, or G+ as it has been abbreviated to, came along. Learning lessons from previous half-hearted efforts, Google have pretty much bet the bank on G+, building integration into pretty much every other product.
The interface started off not dissimilar to twitter, offering plenty of whitespace and following the new design cues. Since then it’s had a major revision, but still has a very clean look and feel.
One of the very clever aspects of G+ has been it’s leverage of Google’s lead in search and online advertising. Instead of looking to place ads in front of G+ users, Google instead has provided a space that encourages collaboration and discovery, both of information and people. That collaboration is then used in Google Search plus Your World to target search results more effectively.
As a result, G+ is starting to act as a space in which people can genuinely collaborate effectively. On a simple level, circling (connecting) with another G+ user allows you to send messages to each other, messages that are longer and richer than other social networks. Of course, this is little different to email, so doesn’t advance the cause much.
Docs and Hangouts
But then you start looking at some of the other things that you can do. For instance, within the Google Docs suite you can now edit a document, spreadsheet or presentation at the same time as a number of other people. It’s pretty impressive, actually, to see this in progress, as the video below illustrates nicely.
Imagine doing this instead of sending half a dozen version of the same document around a group of people by email!
But it gets even better. The ‘killer’ feature of Google+, in my opinion, is Hangouts. These are video chat sessions where up to 10 people can participate. But, and here’s the real benefit, it’s not just for chatting! Within a hangout it’s possible to do some other collaborative tasks:
- Watch a YouTube video together
- Share and edit documents
- Use 3rd party apps such as Caccoo and Slideshare
So not only can you work on stuff together, but you can chat with each other as you do it. Almsot as good as being in the same room!
Want to try it out?
If you want to dip your toe into this brave new world of online collaboration, then we offer a Google+ consultancy service. We can help you decide which features of Google+ are appropriate for you and your business to use, and make sure you get it right from the start.
I also run a regular business-oriented hangout each Monday morning at 10am UK time, which all are welcome to join. Pop along to The Business Hangout for more details.