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Google+: Users Want More Features
Google+ is far from dead, say many in the trenches who are finding the Google social network a platform with a lot of potential. However, as much as they like what is in Google+ so far, they are frustrated by what is not--and, in their opinion, should be--in the platform.
Several readers wrote to me after the publication of my last piece on Google+ in which I asked how people really are--or are not--using the network, especially compared with more established platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Mark Davis said Google+ is becoming his platform for professional networking while Facebook remains the place where he networks socially.
"Since I started using Google+ some weeks ago, I've developed a healthy network of people I trust, respect and enjoy," said Mark Davis. "Most of them are related to me professionally in some way. They are technologically literate, they are educated and articulate, and I genuinely want to know what they're up to, what they have to say. Adults, young and old; professionals; technologists; artists; teachers; most of them good friends of mine ... The pattern I see here is a grown-up, educated, closer, smaller community that isn't a subset of my Facebook friends."
IT consultant David G. Osayidan said Google+ is on the right track but he has been frustrated by a lack of integration with other Google services.
"They're taking what was wrong with others, including their own failed attempts such as Buzz, and doing it right," he said. "I really enjoy the concept of Circles and the level of control we have over who sees what. This aspect alone is forcing others like Facebook to rethink their own systems, and that's good for everyone. With that, Google+ has left a positive mark, regardless of how it fares in the future."
Osayidan noted that he has been using Google+ with a "dummy" account because his primary Google account is with Google Apps. He said he has been "frustrated and a bit shocked" that he pays for Google services and cannot use them with Google+. Currently, there is no way to integrate a professional Google Apps account with the Google+ service, although Google senior VP of engineering Vic Gundotra announced Wednesday at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco that support for Google App account users will be added within days. He also said that support for brand pages is also forthcoming, but will take longer to roll out.
[Get full coverage from the Web 2.0 Summit, produced by Federated Media and O'Reilly Media in partnership with UBM TechWeb.]
The addition of these capabilities will certainly be welcome, but it is this spastic method of rollout that has some users throwing their hands up. Many say they love the idea of a Google social network but just can't get past what Google+ doesn't have right now or won't let them do.
"I am a social marketer by trade for a marketing services firm and was urged to get on Google+ quickly, which I did," said Wendy Emerson. "I was able to use it for about a week and then was blocked because of my profile name, which was the same as I have it posted across most or all of my other social profiles. I had it listed as Wendy (Boyce) Emerson. It has been more than a month and my Google+ account is still blocked, to my dismay. However, as I continue my marketing in other channels, I don't feel I am missing much with this new platform. ... At this point I have decided not to bother with Google+."
CentiMark senior VP and CIO Greg Wilson describes himself as a very casual Google+ user. He concedes that Facebook and LinkedIn have critical mass and that Google+ currently is not offering anything compelling to change that, but he sees a great deal of potential in the integration possibilities within Google's ecosystem of services.
"I can see adding differentiating and hard-to-replicate functionality," said Wilson. "For example, Hangouts, inside Google+, combined with the sharing capability of Google Docs could create a pretty compelling virtual team environment that would be difficult for the other major social networking tools [to] emulate. So, as a direct competitor to the current 600 pounders, I agree that they have a tough uphill battle, but integrating some interesting functionality will allow it to be useful in academic and enterprise settings. As these products mature, some areas of focus will likely evolve."
Elizabeth McCarthy, a Google Apps for Education certified trainer and technology integration specialist, also sees the potential for Google+ in education and has tried to implement its use in an online class. However, count her as another frustrated user--this time by Google+'s age requirements.
"I use [Google+], but not to the extent I'd hoped," she said. "I had planned to use [it] for my online class with high school students. Our regular online system is Moodle, but I hate it and saw many useful features for learning in Google+, including the Hangout multiperson videos chats, Sparks to share links, and it all works with the all of the amazing Google tools. But my idea was squashed when my students went to accept their invites and were told that the age requirement is 18. I'd love for Google to see this as an online learning platform, but will have to wait and see what happens to Google+."
Web manager and telecommunications specialist Joshua Burke said all this pentup desire will allow Google to overcome what many consider early missteps. In fact, he posits, it may be all part of a grand plan.
"Google+ isn't dead, not even close really," said Burke. "Instead, it's waiting to see what people want most so it can develop in the direction that the user base wants it to go. Google is a supplanter as much as it is an innovator ... The new-ness of Google+, its 'seed' strategy within the technorati and then 'public beta' is all part of an overall scheme to create a comparison to the big boys in this space. Then, as Google always does, it will take lessons learned and bring the functionality that people have asked for rather than trying to keep guessing ahead ... I predict a Google app that is indeed a Facebook killer. It may not be Google+, but it is more of an eventuality than a possibility in my playbook."
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