Google Plus – It’s Not Just Social, It’s Mobile And Targeted (Why Comparisons to Facebook are Off)


Count me as one of the Google Plus fans (G+), with a lean interface and easy to manage Circles of friends that is unique in what it offers…

The challenge is many people’s perception, defining the social world in terms of Facebook and Twitter. Comparisons are not adequate to describe what’s going on here, and both of the social stalwarts were created at an earlier time, when the browser ruled the world.

Let me stir the pot with some ideas of how this represents the first, powerful move of social into mobile:

Today smartphones and tablets (ie iPads) rule, even though most of us are still stuck back in the world defined by sitting in front of a PC.

The edge G+ has is mobile, combining the best of both worlds into a sleek delivery that is just amazing on the Android (Apple app still in waiting, and still to be seen).

Everyone knows that most Facebook updates are done through mobile, as are most Tweets. So while those two can be used on mobile, there’s something unique about G+.

The Facebook app on the Android is not that great, and it was designed for a world driven by AJAX. While it’s UI is great, it’s clearly a browser design,with little control over friends in your stream.

If you were creating a social network today, you’d think mobile first, then desktop, which is why I think G+ is so different, and may take a few years to scale, as mobile usage replaces desktop browsing as the primary way people interact with the Internet.

The Look and Feel are Mobile First, Browser Second

The first thing you notice is the clean design, white space, and non cluttered. Everything is designed in small graphics and streams based on text, clearly mobile and not reminding you of an online experience only.

G+ works on both mobile and desktop of course, yet behind the scenes is the only company that owns search, owns all that data we enter on search, our behaviors, AND owns it’s own mobile OS.

While the social leaders may compete, they have to adapt to the OS world of mobile, driven by Google, Apple, and Windows of course.

G+ is going to be integrated into a majority of phones, if current projections for Android’s growth prove to continue to be correct. A social network designed specifically for a mobile network is a powerful combination, and it’s clear to me that this is the design difference, both in UI and functionality, that sets G+ apart from any competitor in the social space.

One Source for Photos, Videos, Docs That

Follows You Via the Cloud

It’s easy to include your photos and videos from YouTube within G+, and therein lies another strength.

Combining all its tools into an easy to use interface, G+ offers the power of the cloud, with the comfort of traditional social tools.

You have the stream, the wall, RSS content feeds called Sparks that you can customize, plus the testing of multi-user video via Hangouts, that works online and via mobile phone.

While I’m not convinced the video chats via Google Talk will dominate, they are useful for business now, and pretty fun to do. Time will tell whether this is just an early test or something people fall in love with, and as it goes mainstream it will be interesting to see if this usage falls into the usual, multi-user video chat space of religion, politics, and porn.

For now, G+ is like a fraternity, mostly male, intelligent, digitally driven, and often the leaders in the social space.

In true Gladwellian splendor, Google has tapped into the influencers to test and participate, and let the  mainstream know what’s up…until they can be invited.

It’s a smart launch, a mobile launch, and on my Droid X, the app is sweet. You get a few icons for Home, Profile, Photos, and Circles; the rest is up to you, and your imagination.

Plus with Circles, you can segment and control your streams much better than anywhere else, being able to put people you know and those who you sort of know into different Circles.

While you can do this elsewhere, it’s just not as easy and elegant as on G+.

Google Targeting On Steroids

G+ will have the ability to deliver the most highly targeted advertising and services ever. Combine the keywords you search, web sites you’ve visited via their advertising networks, your circle of friends and social activity for the social graph, the time you spend here, AND on search – both online and mobile – and as a marketer, I can see one of the ultimate tools in development.

Blend these all together and you have targeting that has never been possible with other networks, mainly because they could never integrate the vast search knowledge Google has.

The key word going forward to me is proximity, both physical proximity as measured in your use of mobile for local marketing, where you live, where you travel, and what you do…of course subject to how much you share.

And there’s social proximity, those associations with people in your circles will tell much more than Facebook or anyone else could do, because you tell Google the network much more. The social element of G+ is simply the icing on the data cake.

John Battelle said it years ago – the new Web is all about data, and there is so much data here that can serve the user and pinpoint them where they are physically, or online, or both! And the proximity influence of the social graph – who we know and why we are associated, the implicit side of social media expressed by relationships and not just friendships and tagging, is mind blowing to me

Like all things Google, there is one central purpose to G+, just as there is to Android…Create More Searches!

Right at the top of every screen is the search box, which is how I finish the video and this post.

Google encourages consumption to create more search and has a social tool to power this that is built from the ground up for mobile.

We’re seeing another stage in the evolution of the Internet, and surprisingly an old contender is currently on top. While time will tell whether privacy concerns and mainstreaming power G+ to Facebookian proportions, the promise and delivery of something new is here and mobile.

Talk about augmented reality, what’s your take on G+?