For many businesses and individuals the challenge of social networking has been how to separate business/pleasure/leisure within a single network/platform. Some people or organisations separate different personas between different platforms; Facebook is personal, LinkedIn is business, etc. - this is time consuming and cumbersome. Others maintain a persona to address all audiences - which is fraught with the perils of a 'personal' friend posting a picture of you pissed at that party last weekend - this approach is stressful to manage and ultimately leads to a less-than-authentic on-line version of you or your business.
Another far more important challenge for many businesses in this regard is knowing how to separate customers from prospects, evangelists from decenters, high-rollers from occasional punters, etc. The result is communication via social networks is spray and pray - one message for the entire audience, regardless of your relationship with the recipient. After years of building and investing in CRM systems and eDM strategies that allow us to send highly targeted, evermore granular communications to our contacts - we've been set back 20 years and may as well be sending direct marketing via the mail, for all the measurable ROI it brings.
Ouvrir is putting it out there that Circles will prove to be the single most important innovation in social media that will change the landscape for consumers so fundamentally - because Circles will provide the key to social media ROI marketers and businesses long for. If you are an Ouvrir customer, or follow our news, Circles should come as no surprise. Over a year ago we shared with you The Real Life Social Network by Paul Adams at Google. This presentation was the blueprint for Google+.
Does Google+ stand a chance?
There has been a ton of noise and conjecture about Google+; the inevitability of the situation is that Google will continue to acquire new users, well beyond 100 million, who will continue to dabble with the platform, whilst maintaining their existing profiles in Facebook and Twitter, etc.
The acquisition will continue to be driven in the first instance by the buzz and hype that the Google PR and marketing machine has created, and the further amplification of this by advocates, bloggers, social media commentators, etc. Growth will be sustained to a degree by the consumer-facing toys like Circles, Hangouts and Sparks, but eventually the acquisition will reach a plateaux at which point Google really needs to go-to-town on curating the community of active users to reach-out to their connections and promote the use of the platform.
What we've found interesting to watch is the business context, or lack of, on the platform - but it's coming. When first released into the closed beta community, some brands including Nike and General Motors tried to create a brand profile out of the personal profile provided by Google. Google's answer to this - take down the profile. It's not that they're anti business as explained by Christian Oestlien, Google+ Product Manager on 6 July.
We predict the growth profile outlined above (on a time-line probably takes us to this side of Christmas) will culminate in the bringing together of a number of Google assets to see the real explosion of the platform and a sea-change on the social media landscape. Google's Business Centre is now pretty mature, with most semi-savvy businesses having created a profile. Businesses do this because it gives better results on Google and puts you on the map, literally, on Google Maps. And is it any coincidence that Google offers is now in Beta?
When you combine the attributes of a digital ecology that allows you to segment your contacts and interact in a personal way within the context of underlying foundations that include geo-location data, business information, search history, preferences, offers, news, video, etc. it can easily become a very compelling proposition from a user experience perspective. If the resulting data and insight from such a platform is made available to businesses via Google Analytics, giving measurable ROI - they'll knock it out of the park in terms of their business audience.
Ultimately it comes down to the consumer. The utility and value exchange Google+ can deliver, capturing users and keeping them coming back for more is what will win the day. The battle field upon which we consider this war will be won is mobile accessibility and functionality. The meteoric rise of social media has been most recently due to the explosion in the use of smart phones and tablets. In recent weeks and months the Facebook mobile apps have been slow and unreliable - but hey, look at how many users they're serving. Early indications and anecdotal feedback on the Google mobile apps is that it is quicker, simpler and more intuitive - and if anyone has the infrastructure to scale, it's Google.
The big question when is comes to the consumer is this: can Google keep their consumers on-side and believing they have the consumer's best interests at heart?