It’s becoming nearly impossible to avoid the hype social media has been generating. The cumulative effect of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pushing into nearly every sphere of our lives has resulted in a me-too phenomenon and a rush to jump on the social media bandwagon. It’s hard to know what the social media landscape will look like in the next few months. Many folks were arguing when Google+ launched that it didn’t stand a chance in an overcrowded social media market. That was obviously a grave miscalculation. Google+ didn’t just launch; it took off so hard it left singe marks on the launch pad. Forecasting the future of the social marketplace is clearly tricky at best.
Social media wonks are wrong quite frequently. MySpace was supposed to be invincible and Google+ had no chance to compete against Facebook. I didn’t listen to them then, and I’m not listening to them now. As the initial Google+ novelty has worn off it’s been interesting to see how many users will remain active. I actually thought that once the Google+ buzz wore off some early users would go back to their previous social network of choice. I think I was wrong. Many Google+ people seem to be navigating through how to incorporate it in such a way to replace some activities that would have been relegated previously to Facebook functions.
It is too premature to assume that Google+ will necessarily take Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn’s lunch money. But I also wouldn’t bet the farm that it won’t. How Google+ may affect Twitter is unclear enough that I’m not even going to venture a guess. But Facebook and LinkedIn look like they could be targets. There seems to be a small percentage of people who jumped on the Google+ bus just because it was the latest thing that the tech geeks were raving about. But a large chunk of Google+ users have figured out that sitting at home with your laptop open and four different social media sites open on your browser is not only inherently inefficient; its vaguely ridiculous.
With plugins that allow you to have your Facebook newsfeed run on Google+, it’s only a matter of time until Facebook begins to lose some of it’s social market share. That may be close to blasphemy in some circles but humans actually prefer efficiency. When one social media platform has the capability to incorporate social media roles that previously required individual platforms, it’s inevitable that users will tend towards efficiency. That is, if users are intelligent enough to realize the potential for efficiency.
The Google+ Hangout seems to be catching on as well. The idea of a virtual hangout is sort of intuitive, especially if you want to catch up with friends and have a conversation. But I think that the hangout has huge potential for much more than recreation. In the last couple of months there were many intelligent and provocative pieces written about the huge potential of the Google+ platform. The thing people were quick to seize was the brilliance of the Google+ circles and how professional networking could be done much more easily than on Facebook where people are either your friends or they aren’t. I think that’s a legitimate argument to make, and I’ve noticed that I’m doing a lot more networking and maintaining communication with work colleagues on Google+ than anywhere else.
The hangout feature may be just as revolutionary for professional networking or even business chats as the Google+ circles. LinkedIn is already sort of lacking in dynamism. Everybody has a LinkedIn profile but sometimes you get the feeling that it’s because it’s kind of mandatory. Nothing real exciting seems to be happening there. It’s a good personal branding tool but as far as dynamic interaction, it’s not really happening.
In the next few months the big question is going to revolve around the issue of the +1. What are the ramifications of Google feeding their own SERP with +1′s? How important will live search updates be to Google in the future? Google initially contracted with Twitter and tapped into their search page so they could incorporate trending topics into the main Google search page. When the contract ran out they got rid of the feature but then we saw the birth of the +1 button.
The +1 essentially allows you to tell Google what you like. In some ways the functionality of +1 is separate from Google+. They play well together, but in theory at least, +1 is able to influence the SERPs all by itself. It will be interesting to see what this means for Google going forward. And will Facebook have enough relevance and timeliness to benefit Bing in live search results? We should gain a glimpse in the next few months. Google may have a runaway success, but there is always the distinct possibility that they’re starting to dip their fingers into too many of their own pies.