I have invested a lot of time diving into the Google+ social network and exploring what it has to offer. Now, Google has cut the ribbon and opened the door to the general public, so Google+ is an official social network ready to go head to head with Facebook.
The question, though, is can it compete with Facebook?
I have found Google+ to be a very capable social network, and a pleasant experience. When posting the same links and status updates on both Google+ and Facebook, I have found it easier to choose which audience to share with on Google+, simpler to post the status update itself (without regard to maximum character limits on my text, and frequently the Google+ audience has been more involved and engaged) and simpler to comment and share the posts with others.
But, at the same time I have always known that most of the things that appeared to set Google+ apart are actually possible on Facebook as well. Google just did a better job of making the tools more intuitive and available where people can find and use them.
By running Google+ as a limited Field Trial, though, Google tipped its hand and gave Facebook an opportunity to watch and learn. Facebook sat on the sidelines, monitored the features and capabilities that users seem to appreciate, and rolled many of those features into Facebook. Whatever divide may once have separated them is all but gone at this point.
But, it is hard to ignore the fact that Google+ is the exciting new kid on the block. Out of 750 million Facebook members, I have just over 2,000 followers of my Facebook Page. Not only is 2,000 a paltry sum when you consider that there are three quarters of a billion people on Facebook, but it took a long, long time to get there. I only recently crossed the 2,000 follower threshold after more than a year.
1,300 followers in a month
Juxtapose that with Google+. In just over a month I have nearly 1,300 people who have me in their Circles. That's with an audience of only about 25 million Google+ users on an invitation-only limited Field Trial.
Now that Google+ is open to the general public, it will be interesting to see how - or if - the membership explodes. Perhaps the amount of overlap between my Google+ and Facebook networks will increase substantially. Or, maybe they will remain distinct and separate and I will have to maintain a presence on both and tailor my messages and updates accordingly.
So, what is my verdict on Google+? I like it. I like it more than I did when I embarked on the 30 Days With Google+ journey, and more than I thought I would. There are still some things I don't care for, and features I would like to see added or changed, but overall I am impressed with what Google has put together.
The challenge for Google+ is one of defining its value proposition. It is a great social network, and it has a lot to offer - but what it has to offer is already available for the most part from Facebook. Three quarters of a billion people have already set up camp on Facebook. They have invested time and effort in establishing connections and building their social networks. Google+ has to give a more compelling reason for 750 million people to switch than "come use our same tools and services because we're not Facebook".
There are some unique aspects to Google that Facebook really can't compete with. Google has the benefit of the rest of the Googleverse and the ability to seamlessly integrate the Google+ social network into the Android mobile ecosystem, Gmail, Google Docs, Picasa, YouTube, and more. For some, that alone will be compelling enough. For others, that may be reason to run in the other direction.
Personally, I don't see the value right now. I like Google+, but the vast majority of what it offers are just variations of what Facebook has already offered for years. Without some compelling reason that sets Google+ uniquely apart from Facebook, I would tell anyone who asks to stick with the established entity that has 750 million members and is synonymous with social networking.
What will happen next?
What is interesting and perhaps a tad concerning is that there seems to be surprisingly little overlap between the two social networks - at least so far. I have a handful of people who are following me on Facebook and have me in their Circles on Google+, but for the most part these are two distinct audiences.
At this point, I am already invested and established on both, so I will continue to participate on both Facebook and Google+. Now that the gloves are off and they're really going head to head, things should get interesting.
Give it a spin and decide for yourself. It's free. Join Google+. Add me to your Circles. Post updates, share pictures, check in at restaurants, see what Google+ has to offer and let me know what you think of it.