Unless you were avoiding the Internet, newspapers, television and the radio earlier this summer, you probably heard that Google introduced its Google+ service in late June. Google took a page from Steve Jobs and managed to create a big media splash and a race for coveted invites to early adopters. In less than four weeks after its introduction, Google+ had 20 million users. Pundits quickly asked how long it would take for Google+ to surpass Facebook in popularity.
Google+ is a collection of online tools to help people connect with each other. Google has studied Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tools and has cherry-picked some of the best attributes of each of them. Google+ lets you categorize your contacts (friends, family, co-workers, followers) into various “circles” and then communicate with these smaller groups. Google+ creates a feed for you to follow your friends and others as with Facebook and Twitter. You can follow the latest on topics of interest by creating “sparks.” And, in what I think is the “killer” feature of Google+, you can easily create videoconference “hangouts” with multiple users.
Yet, two months later the hoopla about Google+ has died down. It’s hard to figure out where things stand with the service. Some reports in August suggested that the number of weekly users was decreasing. But with Google flinging the doors wide open to the world, Google+ may once again be quickly building momentum. Given the uncertainty about where Google+ is going, is it worth making an investment of time to build your Google+ presence? After all, Google+ is still officially in “beta” and Google has been known to kill projects that fail to gain a foothold in the market. (How many of you had a Google Wave account? I did – but then I remember New Coke as well.)
Why you should think about Google+ for your practice
I think the answer to whether you should try Google+ is a qualified “yes” – particularly if you are a sole practitioner. Here’s my thinking:
1) It’s easy to kick the tires. It doesn’t take too much time or energy to set up a Google profile and check it out. Google will help you to find friends and colleagues. See how they may be using it. (It’s also possible to move your Facebook friends to G+ through a workaround. The process described here works.)
In addition, G+ is another platform to get your name out to new people. As you start to participate in Google +, you may find a new audience who will add you to their circles and have your name for the future. These people may be new referral sources for you.
2) Hangouts – quick videoconferencing for your practice? The Hangout feature allows you to quickly set up spontaneous video conferences. If you have a camera built into your computer or tablet, or some smartphones, starting a videoconference is as easy as pressing a button. You will be able to quickly communicate with clients and others – either individually or in a group – with this feature.
3) It’s Google – Part 1. Google watches its users’ movements like a hawk. Before Google rolled out Google+, it started to add “+1″ buttons on it’s website in other places sprinkled around the web. (Google+? +1? Yes it gets confusing… Apparently Google couldn’t have spent a sliver of the bazillion it’s got on hand to try to come up with two different names.) These buttons are Google’s equivalent to the blue “Like” button found on Facebook.
The search provider has been watching what its users like and is using +1 information to inform its search results. With all of the social media tracking that it gets through its Google+ users, it’s hard to believe that Google won’t use G+ info in its search algorithms. So what does this mean for you? If your clients are reading and responding to your G+ posts, you may get a boost in Google ranking. At this point, this is all speculation, but it’s not a stretch to see a link between G+ and SEO.
Plus, you’ll have a jump on things as a sole practitioner. Right now, Google+ is only open to individuals, not companies. So you’ll have a head start on the mega-firm down the block.
4) It’s Google – Part 2. Google is the proverbial 800 lb. gorilla on the Internet, but it is fighting a battle with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets to maintain its relevancy. It has tried to fight its way in to the social media arena with various products such as Wave, Buzz, Dodgeball, Jaiku and others. With everything that it has thrown against the wall, something is bound to stick. The fact that Google has recently opened Google+ to “public beta” suggests that Google thinks this service will be around for a while.
For more information, attend a roundtable discussion hosted by MSBA’s Computer and Technology Law Section titled
“Google+ Puts Facebook in Check and Facebook Moves its King” on October 10. (1 hour CLE credit applied for)
And go ahead. Log on to Google+ and take a look around. 50 million users can’t all be wrong.