Google+ : Is Privacy the Key?

Pinterest

Google+ social networkingIn most discussions about Google+ thus far, the conversation seems to boil down to “Can it beat Facebook?” And when the answer is yes, the reason is usually privacy issues, which are regarded as Facebook’s Achilles’ heel.

But in a recent post about Google+ on Search Engine Watch, Jonathan Allen makes some very thought-provoking points, which are summed up nicely by this rather lengthy excerpt:

“Yet, if we let go of the broadcast purpose, and return to the way in which we actually network in real-life, Google+ starts to look more like a set of collaborative workflow tools that can be put to any purpose. Putting aside any notion of similarity to Facebook, the major differentiator between Google+ is its focus on live sharing…

In this way, the Google+ platform brings with it the promise of being in step with real-life rather than the promise of fame. To get the best out of it, we will have to step beyond the notion of ‘engagement’ much touted by social media gurus and solely focus on ‘purpose’. If Google wants to gain ground in social it is going to have to drop the dialectics of privacy, and refrain from asking its users “what are you up to now?” or “what is on your mind?” and squarely focus user attention on the question, “what do you want to achieve?”

Google+ needs to elucidate its own purpose fast – and privacy is not the purpose.

Rather than asking me to organize my contacts into friends, family, followers and acquaintances, the Google+ UI needs to bite the bullet and ask me what I am up for in life. If Google can get me to focus on my real-life goals, I would gladly organize those contacts into social circles that can help me achieve them.”

Privacy issues, then, are not the ammunition Google+ can use to become a viable Facebook competitor, at least according to Allen. And he may be on to something. Let’s look at the implications for business by addressing 4 key points (never mind the fact that Google+ does not have business pages yet; they’re coming).

  1. “Its focus on live sharing”: Allen describes Google+ as a “set of collaborative workflow tools” – Dilbertesque jargon for “tools that help you work with others to get things done effectively.” If we accept Allen’s argument that this is the key difference between Google+ and Facebook, that “broadcasting” is Facebook’s primary function, then Google+ could outshine Facebook for B2B businesses, a category where Facebook’s usefulness has been marginal. By allowing B2B companies to communicate in real-time with clients and potential clients, Google+ could become a legitimate driver of business for B2B users.
  2. “Privacy is not the purpose”: Privacy is not as big of an issue on Facebook for businesses as it is for individual users – so Allen’s point that Google+ better be about something else holds true for businesses as well.
  3. Engagement vs. Purpose: As a business, isn’t your purpose in using social media to engage with customers, and allow them to engage with you? Well…maybe. Social media marketing is a very new phenomenon. In fact, a recent article by Dan Zarrella (find it here) shows no correlation between engagement in the form of Facebook conversations leading to increased page views. In other words, engagement is probably not going to increase the number of fans you have. We still think engagement is crucial, though. But whether your purpose with social media is engagement or something else, the most critical point is…
  4. “Real-life goals”: Whatever social media platform you are using for your business (and you should be using several), you cannot think of it as an add-on, an internet doohickey to complement your “real” marketing program. Social media is a part of your marketing program, plain and simple, and if it’s not, you’re not doing it right. This is a notion that many businesses still struggle with. If Google+ helps businesses bring their social media strategies in line with their real-life goals in ways that Facebook has not yet been able to, it may prove to have a long, healthy life.

Of course, all these conversations about Google+ vs. Facebook present an either/or dichotomy. The history of social media is too short to preclude a scenario where Facebook and Google+ exist side by side, leveraging perhaps different strengths for users’ different purposes. In any case, it’s going to be an interesting ride in the social media world for the next little while.

10 Responses to “Google+ : Is Privacy the Key?”

  1. Clarissa

    I’m anxious to see what Google+ will be like. I’m so used to FB that it’s almost scary to think of switching over to a new format. When will Google+ be available to the public?

    Reply
    • Another Melinda

      I hope you’re right Marzipam. I, too, am looking forward to seeing Google+. After what FB has been up to the past few weeks with their experiments, I’m so ready to just dump it immediately. Perhaps FB has a great product for the public, but their business practices are sorely lacking on the ethics side. If they ever knew them in the first place, they’ve forgotten some very basic tenets of any business practice, which apply equally to small businesses as well as large, international corporations. Listen to your customers. Make them happy and they’ll keep coming back for more. Without even seeing it yet, Google+ is doing the one thing right that attracts me to their new product: THEY ARE TESTING THEIR PRODUCT ON VOLUNTEERS PRIOR TO MAKING GOOGLE + AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC AT LARGE. I will be among those who will be jumping on the Google + bandwagon. The end of July can’t get here soon enough.

      Reply
      • Another Melinda

        Thanks!!! I just read the article We’ll continue to breathe slowly until then!

        Reply
  2. Rick

    I think social media platforms will come and go. We don’t have the long-term data yet, but look at MySpace. It’s going the way of the dinosaur. Platforms seem like fads so far. They come along, boom, then collapse. Just my two cents anyway.

    Reply
    • The_Chad

      Probably right, Rick. But who knows? Seems like it’s something that will have to stabilize eventually. The history of social media is so short that it’s pretty tough to draw conclusions from what’s happened so far. And people aren’t likely to so readily jump ship as social media become more and more important in their lives. I think Facebook is much more a part of people’s lives than MySpace ever was, and that’s probably because social media is, in 2011, way more integrated into everyone’s everyday online activities than in was in 2007 when MySpace was king. So I think FB will have more staying power in the long term. I think Google+ will struggle with this issue, getting people to leave FB. If it happens, it will be very gradual…and maybe too gradual for Google+ to really catch on across the wider population.

      Reply
      • Another Melinda

        I agree with you both about the stability of social networks. I signed up for MySpace but never used it because it just didn’t appeal to me. It was more a matter of what my interests are. I joined Facebook at the insistence of friends with children. Okay, I tried it, and even spent time playing the games, and then began to use it to get my news and contact people with whom I share similar interests. I even used it to help me with my genealogy research. But with the way Facebook treated me the past month, I no longer trust them as a business. I found them to be untrustworthy, offering an inferior product with lots of leaks and holes, and putting my safety in jeopardy, attracting scammers, hackers, and stalkers. I’ve been on G+ for less than a week, but I feel as though I’ve left a crack house for kids and entered an intelligent adult realm where I’m treated with respect. FB will continue to cater to the kids, and it will continue to reap money for them. I won’t be among those filling their pockets. Yes, count me among those who are leaving FB and I do not look back with any regrets whatsoever.

        p.s. Google Plus as a button called “Send feedback.” It works, too!

        Reply
        • The_Chad

          Funny, I remember everyone migrating from MySpace to Facebook, saying MySpace was for kids and Facebook was a more grown-up social media site! ;)

          Reply
  3. Dark_Angel

    @Another Melinda: I too started off on Myspace (although I used it fervently) and took my time migrating to FB. I even started playing one of the games and quickly tired of it. I was not among those chosen to be FB’s guinea pigs so I’m sticking with FB as well (plus I have a ton of photos on there), but I am definitely exploring Google+. It seems very intuitive and I’m ready for a lot less junk in my news stream!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>