It’s been about a year and a half since Google+ launched and while the debate still rages on regarding their overall impact on social and if it will contend with Facebook in the long run.
Google+ has had its growing pains and still has a long way to go in terms of becoming a thriving, social ecosystem that can compete for the masses’ online focus, but that doesn’t mean the platform isn’t there.
Over the past couple of months I’ve been using Google+ much more to learn about its features, the community, and its potential. Through this experimentation, I can fully say that the Google+ platform is better for community building than Facebook is. That isn’t to say that Facebook is going to lose its social media supremacy, this is just an analysis of the platform and how it allows brands, organizations, and individuals to fully engage with their community.
Here are some reasons why:
Hanging out is much more fun
Probably the crowned jewel of Google+, Google Hangouts has allowed individuals and brands to up the ante on communication and leverage live video in the public space. While video is still a very awkward communications barrier to many, Hangouts have put a huge dent in that mindset by creating a fun platform that screams COMMUNITY.
Brands can now host live chats with their community and create a two-way dialogue that we consistently crave for, but don’t exactly get with the other platforms. In the a space where brand trust is so important, being able to tell your story or share quality information through video is becoming a key component of keeping your community involved and excited.
Trust me, if you asked people what built trust more: a back and forth on a Facebook Wall or a live video chat where they were able to have a full conversation, it won’t be a contest.
Events focus on the before, during, and after
Google’s events feature isn’t widely used yet, but it beats the pants off of Facebook’s. While Facebook’s event platform is great for getting the word out to your community, it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to actually building excitement or capitalizing on a successful event.
Google’s events not only help you get the word out, but they have a “Party Mode” where event attendees can add their photos form the event to the page in real time. Through this feature, you’re able to create engagement around the page before, during, and after the event when everyone goes home to see all the photos in that one place. The lifecycle of a solid event is anticipation, execution, and storytelling… Google has figured out all three.
Social needs to be local, and mobile.
Google+ has recently launched their Local feature and app, allowing users to use the platform to find out what is around them, read reviews, and local businesses to engage in a social community. While this feature is new and the review system can be a bit confusing, this is a big step ahead of Facebook in the local market.
Facebook is a great way for local businesses to connect with their community, but doesn’t offer much for exploring what’s around you in real-time. Google+ Local allows you to do that, and as social becomes a layer on top of everything else we do, that presence in real-time is becoming increasingly important.
Now while foursquare and Yelp have a stronghold on the exploration market, Google has the user base and potential to create a social experience that both mobile and desktop users want to engage in – so, the potential is there for them to create their place.
As I said before, Google+ still has a long way to go to become a full Facebook rival, but the reach and platform is there. And while those in the social media space should continue to primarily focus on Facebook and Twitter because of their clear impact, Google+ has to be factored into that long-term vision. From a features standpoint and integration into our daily web use, Google+ is the best platform for community and real engagement that isn’t just spelled out in “Likes” and Shares, but a tangible brand experience.
Ultimately, I could be wrong and Google+ will never be the platform we need to engage with our community. But for now, explore the platform because it will make you a more creative and better communicator.