Google+ leverages Google’s strength as a communications platform

I’m watching the Google+ “launch” with great interest because at its center appears to be great “friend management” tools (see links below for the best detailed reviews).

Friend managment has been the bane of my Facebook experience because I don’t want to share everything with everyone. I also made the mistake of accepting far too many friend invitations with the result that I share very little on my “personal” account. While there are tools like Facebook Groups and friend lists, they are incredibly cumbersome and difficult to use.

Google+ leverages the fact that you already have your “real” friends listed and possibly even organized in your address book. This is especially true if you are using Gmail. Take a look at your Gmail address book and you’ll see your top 20 contacts already identified. Google knows this, and also knows who you frequently email together as a group (parents of your child’s class, book club, family reunion email list, etc.) and uses that information to drive the insight needed to suggest natural groups for you to form inside of Google+ Circles.

Google can leverage all of that behavioral information into helping you easily manage your relationships. Because face it–who you share with, how often, and with what other people you do that sharing provides valuable insight into the nature of the relationships.

Now for the scary privacy part — remember that Google also “reads” the contents of your email to show you ads on the side of Gmail. For the most part, we’ve gotten over this. But what if I gave permission (note: permission is crucial!) for Google to make recommendations on if and when I should add someone to a group? If I’m emailing someone frequently about biking trails, Google+ may suggest that I add that person to my biking Circle. Fundamentally, you would have to have a deep, trusting relationship with Google at a different level for this to happen. But the benefits could be tremendous. (See my post “In Google I Trust” for more discussion on this.)

Take that level of trust to a different level if you have an Android phone. Would you be OK with letting Google mine the contact, call, and texting data on your phone to help you build a more social experience with those people you communicate the most? What about your Google Calendar or Google Voice data?

I say this because most of my communications, both personal and professional, are run on Google’s platforms. Facebook does not have insight into all of the “real” sharing that I do in real life, while Google does.

My take on how this will play out is that Google has the natural ability to pull together groups based on communication patterns, and to also leverage the natural groups that already use communication platforms. It will be a no-brainer for Gmail to start using Google+, a much harder sell for non-Gmail users.

The result will be unified sharing, as opposed to unified messaging, on Google platforms. This won’t happen overnight and it will be far from being a “Facebook killer”. Rather, it’s a smart move by Google to leverage its strengths in communication platforms, algorithms, and trust of core users to move into social.

Lastly, I don’t expect Facebook to stay still for long. Look for them to roll out improved friend management tools in the near future. But regardless, they will always lack the behavioral intelligence to help me truly manage my friends, unless I am a devoted Facebook user.

Links to detailed reviews:


Google Blog



SearchEngine Land

9 thoughts on “Google+ leverages Google’s strength as a communications platform”

  1. I’m genuinely excited by this Charlene, not for the fact that google “is getting in the game” by creating a “new facebook” but for two reasons:

    1) It appears at first glance to be the clean, easy and uncluttered sharing environment that facebook seemed to be years ago before apps and ads became prevalent.

    Life should be easier to do what you actually want to do.

    2) Mobile is built in. With the phenomenal growth of android, creating and sharing content is a no-brainer. Disruptive technology in the form of photo-sharing apps for example, are a thing of the past. They are part of the OS.

    3) Seamless intergation with the digital footprint i leave behind. Everything i do that involves leaving an indexable “footprint” google has the potential to make my sharing and friending experience more relevant and therefore valuable.

    My only downer on it so far relates to point three, where is the serendipity if my future discoveries are only based on my past activity?

    Either way, I look forward to playing with it very soon!

  2. Loved listening to you last week at ISSMM! Perfect follow up to that. My only beef with Google+ is the dreaded “invite only” thing. For this situation people are so entrenched in FB I think that if Google doesn’t open it up sooner to the masses the masses will forget about it. As my own devil’s advocate it also depends on how much press they get out of this over the next 3-6 weeks to keep reminding people about it. Press will need to be mainstream, not for those “in the know”.

    Thanks again for last week. Loved it!

  3. Charlene,
    I am thrilled with your work – just discovered you this week! The concept of open leadership os so on target and is visionary – it is where we are headed – Thank you!

    Reading your review of Google+ brings up two conflicting thoughts/feelings. On one hand it is very exciting and looks like the next level of innovation in digital friend and relationship management. And it seems to leverage the extensive profile data available to Google allowing for great insight into each one of us which be translated into powerful personalized service and “one-to-one marketing”. On the other hand it really starts to feel like Google just might be knowing a bit too much about all of us and the whole spectrum of privacy comes to mind. There is so much data and an increasing amount of data available about us in the digital world and seeing Facebook surpass Google in the most visited site last year tells us just how invested we are becoming in putting it all out there into the digital ether.

    So, This Google+ innovation is mind boggling in terms of where this social networking explosion is going and at the phenomenal potential to facilitate new levels of connectedness while at the same time it is a bit scary in terms of privacy and potential manipulation of all this personal data. I’ll point you to another very intersecting and insightful blog post that I commented on recently – very interesting – “The ‘Opt-In’ Panopticon” – .

    I’d be very interested in your reaction to this. Are both sides of this also on your Radar?

    All the best,

  4. The issues of privacy will always be there, but we live in a super transparent world, whether people want to acknowledge it or not. Unless you’re completely off the grid, a lot of companies know a lot about you regardless of the Internet.

    I like the idea of unified sharing and bringing us back to a circle of friends or at least a legitimate sphere of influence. Time will tell if +1 will have the desired outcome.


  5. I look forward to taking Google+ for a test drive. I was a little slow off the mark due to a busy work week, so waiting for a fresh batch of invites at the moment.

    The piece in your article that chimed with me is friends management in Facebook. I actually ended up creating two Facebook accounts – one for “real friends” and one for work.

    I know this will upset some social media purists – you should just be yourself online, but my motivation was purely out of consideration for my “real friends” – they have no interest in my work related output so I found myself not fully utilising Facebook for business.

    Sounds like Google+ may be better equipped to target your social output based on the intended audience.

  6. One thing Google doesn’t do well, when mining activity/contacts/calendar to determine relationships or the strength of a relationship, is differentiate between email contacts that I email because I’m posting something (for example, a photo to flickr) and email contacts who are, for example, parents of my kid’s friends.

    I like the “Favorites” on my Android phone because it’s mostly people I contact a lot and gives me easy access, but there’s also noise in my “Favorites” because I txt or email posts/uploads a lot. That “Favorites” is really sloppy tech but it’s better than my iPhone. My iPhone doesn’t have a feature in the contacts/phone to keep track of contacts frequency and tag the contacts that I txt/email/call a lot.

    I shrug at Google’s ability to recommend anything for me because I don’t primarily rely on their apps for all of my communications. I spread my communications across multiple platforms and servers and apps and services so no specific entity has access to the majority of my info.

Leave a Comment

Get the Disruption Dispatch

Get on my mailing list for a monthly dive into the world of disruption.