Monday, April 29, 2013

Google Plus: Why you should be a part of it

I would like to thank +Leandro Westfal for the translation. I owe you one!

Understand, in a simple and direct way, why you should already be in the internet giant’s social network – even if the numbers are not that impressive – if compared to Facebook, the most successful social network of today.

For those that keep track of Google Plus’ development since its foundation, noticed how much it has evolved. Glitches were fixed and new functions, interfaces and tools were implemented. I have tested them to the extent possible, and I can assure that things are going well.

Because it is one of the biggest in its league today, when Google launched its social network, it brought anxiety and left people imagining a revolution in this category. Many spoke of an inevitable battle between Google Plus and Facebook, that still stirs discussions – which in my opinion, besides being saturated, many times it is defended by inconsistent arguments, and that, in a general aspect, points toward a matter of personal “taste” rather than something initiated by the two companies. As a matter of fact, the numbers reveal a considerable difference between both products.

Facebook is the most successful social network today. According to the information published at the end of 2012, the network has reached a total of 1 billion active users – that is, users who post content regularly, and besides its impressive success, it is still growing. There is no competitor that matches such impressive numbers – Google Plus itself, also considering data from the same period above, has 100 million active users.

What we could and should anticipate from Google Plus is that it follows the path of a natural development for services of its kind, where new users subscribe and, little by little, start becoming active. And this process will only be sustained if the social network is interesting to the public outside of it. That is why I usually say that the momentums of both products are very distinct: if things in Facebook are much more intimate, in Google Plus there is a need for public content, not limited. However, this is not a rule.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the difference seen between both networks is absolutely temporary. In the beginning, even Facebook, in order to take its stand, went through cycles that were no different: to attract new users, friends were invited to join the network or public content of general interest were posted to achieve new friends that were more compatible.

Today, a publication of specific/technical category does not catch the attention in Facebook. The interest of these users is basically limited to pictures and short text that are in a personal level. Therefore, do not get disappointed if your scientific article does not get any “likes”. It is more likely that users look at the size of the publication and stop reading, or even the topic is not interesting to most, which is most common.

And what does this all mean? Nothing really. It is simply proof of what was stated before: the great majority of Facebook users have interest in details of their friends’ lives and in news from them. There is no mystery.

In regards to the beginning of Google Plus, the performance disappointed many people. Several imagined that it would conquer Facebook territory with ease. And that is where the confusion begins for those who believe there is a fight between both networks.

What happens is that both networks – because they are the biggest and most solid – set new market standards, and these changes are noticed by some users as incisive actions.

The most recent examples are the changes made to the profile pages of both networks, with an improved visual quality, motivating the use of larger and more customized pictures - and animated GIFs, adopted by Google Plus; an interface with a clearer and simple feed (Facebook) and stream (Google Plus); photos and videos publication highlights, among others. But, once again, keep in mind that these are improvements and innovations – which are continuous – and must not be interpreted as an attack or a defense: it is purely and simply the evolution of the products, based on the market’s demand.

Things happen this way!

Now, in regards to my constant recommendation for using Google Plus, besides having a personal taste factor, it is also a strategic decision: Google is working on integrating its main products so that all are compatible with Google Plus and take use of its benefits.

Do not be intrigued if in the near future your are able to share files with specific Circles in your social network, allowing a joint editing of text and spreadsheet documents and printing them from your workplace or home, to a friend or a colleague at work – in this example alone, four Google products were involved: Plus, Drive, Docs and Cloud Print. And you can already do basically all of that.

The market is very advanced in regards to using software in a cloud environment and sharing the content.

Do not expect that Google Plus works like Facebook. At least not right now. Initially, you will have to adapt yourself to the product and, especially, get rid of some paradigms brought by Facebook. It is also very likely that you won't have many acquaintances there, not to mention that the dynamics of the product is different from Facebook – you will be "added" by people that you've never seen before, mainly because of the "friendships" principle not existing there and being based more on "followers". However, this is exactly what Google proposes.

In a conclusive manner, I believe it is interesting to register that this post was written using my perception of what is happening today in the market. There are ideas and opinions that are different from my own, and I am open to discussing them with you furthermore. The important thing to know is that the more knowledge we gain, the more we will evolve these products. Therefore, getting to know the tools that are available in the market, is an important step to provide improvements to all the alternatives out there.