Since the announcement of Google’s own social network on June 28, I’ve been closely following the development of the Google+ phenomenon. I even grabbed myself an invite and joined. Google has designed this program strategically, to say the least – not only in the new ways it allows people to connect with one another, but also in the structure of the launch.
Many of us may not remember joining our first social network, whether it was MySpace, Facebook or Twitter. I joined Facebook in 2006, and at the time I had no idea what kind of giant it would become. If I did, I would have paid more attention to its evolution, rather than just being surprised each time I logged in and my page looked different. From watching Facebook explode into what it is today, anyone who is halfway savvy in social media knows to pay attention when a new network bursts onto the scene. And if this network also happens to be a Google product, well, we’re hooked.
Google took one critical step when it introduced Google+ to the world – it only opened the network to a few key influencers, and gave those people a select number of invitations to share with others. That means people like me with minimal influence in the social media world had to patiently wait for an invitation to trickle down the online ecosystem. It was a painful two weeks, but while I waited I read blogs and articles to learn more about Google+ before I even had the chance to join. To say the least, I jumped when my opportunity finally came along. Had it been completely open to the public from Day 1, I doubt I would have been nearly as enthusiastic to try it out.
New network, new rules
Google+ is like Twitter in that adding someone to one of your customizable “Circles” – which is the network’s way of organizing your contacts – isn’t a mutual process. You can add anyone to a Circle, without them ever needing to acknowledge you, and vice-versa. Facebook friendships, on the other hand, are mutually agreed upon interactions.
So what’s the norm going to be on Google+? Will it be common courtesy to add people to a Circle who add you? Or is it all about your level of comfort and controlling who you prefer to interact with?
While I’m afraid Google+ may be one more account to keep up with, it’s exciting to witness the beginning of a social network. No one knows where it’s going at this point (rumor has it that Google+ has already reached 9.5 million users), but it’s a case study waiting to happen.
However, in all of its new and shiny glory, Google+ wouldn’t be getting the attention it is currently receiving if it wasn’t considered a competitor to Facebook. So how successful can a newborn network be if its immediate success is largely dependent on a perceived competitor? We’ll all have to wait and see.