In 2011 Google Plus was born and was almost immediately met with a mixture of skepticism and disapproval. It was even the butt of quite a few jokes. We all wondered WHY we might need yet another social network when we were already so enamored with Facebook and Twitter. And we really couldn’t figure out the mechanics of Google’s new offering. How do I share photos? Where is everyone?
In the past three years, however, Google Plus has grown substantially. Its user base is expanding more rapidly than both Twitter and Facebook’s and some experts predict it could overtake Facebook as early as 2016.
It must be awesome then, right? The best thing since the mobile app? It all depends on your perspective.
I, for one, don’t like it. The best products and services are always the ones that solve problems. They make life easier, more fun, or more cost effective. We feel happier or more empowered when we use them. Many disagree with me on this (the debate is heated and ongoing), but I fall on the side with folks who feel that my life—and yours—just got a bit harder.
Here are some problems you have now that you didn’t have before.
1. Your To-Do List is Longer
If you are an entrepreneur, a small business, a blogger, or anyone else looking for exposure on the web, you’re already using social networking as a springboard. You simply have to. And for individuals and small organizations, the organic networking route (without using ads) is critical. So you’re already sharing and talking your heart out on Facebook and Twitter and possibly even other places like blog networks and forums. I’ve done this myself. It’s without a doubt one of the most fun ways to kill hours, but it’s important to your mission. Guess what? Now you have to be on Google Plus as well.
2. Your Business Isn’t (Just) Your Business
The bottom line is that Google’s access to information is growing by the day. This is all happening with our consent, of course. They’re not breaking any rules. But using Google Plus provides Big G with even more data about your online activities and preferences. Have you noticed that when you do a Google search, some of what you see in the results is familiar? They tailor results to the user based on previous activity. They already had insight because you were using other services like Gmail, YouTube, and even their browser, Chrome (which I happen to love). But getting on the G+ bandwagon gives them even more visibility on what you’re doing.
Tip: To get a “clean” result, make sure you are logged out of Google products and use a private or incognito browser tab.
3. You’re Watching a Lot of Reruns
The average individual or small business using Google Plus doesn’t have a large marketing department at its disposal. And like many of us, they’re “also” on G+, meaning they’re still networking and marketing elsewhere but have added Google Plus to their list. The result? If you’re following the same people and companies on G+ as you are on other networks, you’re going to see a lot of the same content. New blog post? Shared across all networks. Contest or giveaway? You’ll see it everywhere. Sure, larger organizations can diversify their posts across the networks, but some folks don’t really have time for that.
4. You Can’t Escape
You’re firmly in Google’s clutches at this point. Unless you just want to unplug altogether, you are bound to brush up against Google’s services and influence on the internet even if you try to avoid them. But suppose you want to avoid using Google Plus? Well, if you want to use Gmail or if you want to comment on a YouTube video, you’ll find a challenge. Many people were outraged by Google’s new requirement to log into YouTube with G+ accounts, though they were well within their rights to implement this since YouTube is theirs. And I have personally encountered minor harassment via my Gmail account. I had two G+ profiles – one associated with my work account and one associated with my very personal and several years old Gmail account. I didn’t want to show up twice in search results so I deleted my personal account since I don’t use it. The result? Every time I log in to check my email from my desktop, I am firmly reminded by Google that I don’t have a G+ account. The good news is that if I simply close the tab and open another, I can access my Gmail without further delay. And of course there’s always my mobile phone email access which is uninterrupted. Nonetheless, this is several moments of each day that are lost.
Do you use Gmail, Blogger, or YouTube? If so, welcome to my world. We’re all in this together and we are all quite trapped.
5. You Feel Like a Sheep
Unless you are one of the people who genuinely love this product, you probably feel forced into using Google Plus. You know that you must because everyone is doing it. Not to engage is to risk losing out to your competitors or missing the revolution. You might want to take a stand and say, “I just won’t do it!” But you don’t because you know you need those +1s for search rankings. You know many influencers are singing G+’s praises. So off you go to log in. I, personally, feel a tiny bit of self-loathing every time I sign on or share something on Google Plus. I’ll admit it because I’m not doing it out of genuine desire. I’m doing it because I feel that I MUST do so or perish. I’m not influential enough to take a stand on the issue. I can’t “just say no.” Would that I could, but I do as many others do and toe the line instead. “Baaaa.”
But….Some People DO Love It
There are quite a few influencers online who actually love Google Plus – or at least they claim to. They’re working it to their advantage and generating entire streams of content based around Google Plus advice and tips. So, whether they love it for its own sake or because it’s a tool for them isn’t always clear, but they’re out there—these G+ lovers. Some of them are thought leaders that I follow on Twitter (the irony isn’t lost on me here- I read their G+ suggestions on a different network).
Why You Have No Choice
You’re stuck with all of the above. If you’re ambitious, you need to use Google Plus. The reasons you can’t simply discard it are clear.
- It’s not going anywhere, and it’s the fastest growing social network.
- Done well, it CAN increase positive exposure for your business or brand
- If you don’t use it, your absence might reflect negatively on you (at some point)
- Search results ARE influenced by those +1 sentiments
It Does Solve ONE Problem
There is ONE thing G+ has that might be considered a problem solver. It’s something that the other networks don’t offer. This would be the seamless integration of Google Plus with Google’s Hangouts feature. Hangouts makes it possible to get together with a group over text, voice, or video – and it does a good job of it. There are a lot of influencers on G+ that are hosting Hangouts where they discuss ideas and events within their industries.
Off we go into the wild social yonder. I’ll be there with right along with you. And I’d love to hear your thoughts on G+… but if you wouldn’t mind, please share with me on Twitter where I spend most of my time.