Google+ or Minus?



How seriously should you, your business, and the jewelry industry take the hottest new social network?

Now that we have embraced Facebook and are experimenting with Twitter, Google is asking us to take on yet another social network: Google+.

While it’s tempting to ignore yet another option in a very crowded (cyber)space, that may prove to be a challenge considering the source—i.e., the leading online search engine.

The current darling of many social media experts, Google+ is the perfect middle ground between Twitter and Facebook. It’s far more robust and less confusing than Twitter while avoiding a lot of the bloat that tends to accompany Facebook’s 750-million-user network (Farmville, anyone?). And since its debut in late June, Google+ has garnered more than 25 million users.

Keep in mind there are no business options for Google+, although the company claims these are imminent. The site is also very strict about requiring usage of legal names, so don’t bother creating a personal account with your corporation name. For now, the only way to get to know Google+ is through a personal account. But is that even worth the effort? It’s tough to say, as this could easily go one of two ways:

• Google Makes a Lasting Mark in Social Media. Google+ could end up being very relevant to both the social Web and to your business. Google’s strength in searching is undeniable, and we are quickly getting to a point where search engines and social networks are colliding. Being No. 1 in both is a nearly impossible challenge, but few companies are better suited to bringing these two digital forces together than Google.

• Google Makes Yet Another Social Flash That Fizzles Out. Google+ could end up being much ado about nothing—yet another failed effort from a company with two ­previous ­missteps under its belt. Remember Google’s collaboration platform, Wave? Or its social sharing network, Buzz? Actually, you probably don’t—if you even heard of them in the first place. You have to ask yourself if the company has the commitment to ensure that Google+ isn’t its third (and final?) strike.

Thankfully, the learning curve is not so steep. Anyone who’s familiar with Facebook should feel quickly at home on Google+. While the site is still rolling out new features at a rapid pace, there are two facets Google hopes will help set the network apart from the social pack. The first is its new approach to privacy, Circles, which makes it easy for you to group your connections into relevant categories. For example, you could split your personal friends, best customers, and industry colleagues into separate circles and then target different messages to each group.

Courtesy of Google
The buzz around Google+ is growing

The second and more exciting feature is called Hangouts. Essentially, Hangouts are video chats for up to 10 friends. While that may seem awkward business-wise, it’s intriguing: A ­Hangout certainly won’t have the same reach as a webinar, but it would allow you to host a quick video chat for a small number of customers at no cost to your store, allowing for a more intimate type of marketing that’s emblematic of a more social business.

For now, Google+ is hard to ignore. While it’s definitely too soon to embrace it to the same extent as Facebook and Twitter, it can’t hurt to have someone on your team learn about the site’s features and make connections with those customers who use it. And take the time to update or sign up for your free Google Places page (google.com/places). It’s tough to say for certain, but it seems logical that those pages will play a role in whatever business solution is integrated into Google+.

There is both great excitement and healthy skepticism around Google’s latest social effort. The early adopters like what they see, yet many feel that there is little room for another big player in the social sphere. It may be too early to tell if Google+ can overcome or even stand alongside other social giants, but this is undeniably the company’s best attempt at social media to date.

Remember: Getting social media fanatics to sign up for yet another site is easy. Convincing the everyday users who are often our customers to jump ship on Facebook will be significantly harder. Google wants and needs you to care about this because social media is becoming more important to the search-based advertising its business is built upon. Clearly this is good for Google, but there isn’t a compelling enough reason for the average consumer to make a change…yet.