Want proof that Google+ is no ghost town? Look at how it’s being used

Google products

Google products

Google+ has been Larry Page’s main project since he took the CEO reins of Google and has pushed strongly for it to be the social spine that knits Google’s products together. The evolution of the social media platform over the past few months, from YouTube comments to Authorship show that the so-called Ghost Town is finally becoming what Larry Page envisioned it to be.

Social Media
Social media as we know it is diverging, with Facebook appearing to take most of the brunt. Some argue it’s because of the overloaded news feed, others because of its dodgy privacy practises. Even US President Barack Obama has noticed, saying: “It seems like they don’t use Facebook anymore,” during a meeting to learn more about 18-34 year olds, in order to entice the demographic to sign up for the Affordable Care Act.

As teenagers, who are the most prolific users of social media leave Facebook (three million since 2011), they are moving to more niche platforms. Regardless of the reason users are migrating to more image and privacy based platforms like SnapChat, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest. Out of a supposed “Ghost Town” meanwhile, Google+ has slowly built up a massive following to the extent that it has surpassed twitter in active users.

Social graph

Image: wearesocial.net

One could speculate they would gravitate towards the privacy that comes with the Circle structure of Google+ that allows you share what you want, with only the select people you want. Or for the enhanced photo features that put Facebook to shame and, according to renowned photographer Thomas Hawk, get far more exposure.

Google+ usage

Image: wearesocial.net

Photographers
Photographers and photographic orientated brands such as National Geographic also fit well with the platform. In fact, strong photographic community has helped the nature publisher go past five million followers on the platform. I would venture this has to do with how well G+ shows and hosts images as well as its usage rights policy.

News and reporters
News sites use it to propagate their articles and it helps with the page rankings within Google. Some of the most renowned and respected news powerhouses such as TIME and ESPN utilise the platform. Reporters and bloggers for that matter are also seeing the advantage of Google Authorship which gives the Byline and the journalist profile image right in the results like this:

Google authorship martijn .jpg

However it only works if the writer has a Google+ profile.

The new online live teaching service Google Helpouts works the same way. If you want to gain credibility as the person to learn something from as a personal tutor you have to build a Google+ profile showing you know your field. Since many of these tutelage hangouts require payment, the selection of who a user decides to ask for lessons becomes competitive.

Celebrity
Celebrity brands are doing very well, utilizing it as a new medium to interact with fans, the hangouts feature helps this. Alicia Keys has used the feature many times to talk directly to her fans and she is not alone in utilizing the service as an interactive PR and marketing tool.

A wide range of celebrities can be found on the platform from 50 Cent (3 448 759 followers) to Britney Spears, who is in 8 304 633 people’s circles.

Even billionaire businessmen such as Richard Branson utilize the platform to garner exposure for their projects.

Social media competition
Based on users accessing Google+ or Twitter at least once in the past month, Google’s social media network is gaining very well. Joining Twitter at 35% usage in the last month and even surpassing Twitter in ownership of an account.

[slideshare id=29791716&doc=wearesocialsguidetosocialdigitalandmobileworldwidejan2014v01-140107235800-phpapp01]

One feature some might find annoying with Twitter, is that many brands use the platform primarily as a free way to advertise their products/brand and don’t engage with the users, or only mention users as a way to try get them to click on a link to their site. Google+ has made sure this kind of spamming can’t be done. A company’s Google+ page can only interact with a user if that user has decided to follow the company’s page. In other words since I follow Team Coco, it can comment on a post of mine or post directly to me, but Angry Birds can not, as I have not followed them.

People need to understand that Facebook is like dinner with friends, while Google+ is like going to a concert with friends you chat to them mostly but also meet many other people with similar interests.

Google products integration
Google+ gives you a central identity within the entire Google product range.

Off the top of my head here are some examples:

  • The review you make in Google+ Local of your favorite restaurant will show up in your circles look for restaurants in Google Maps.
  • When you post a link in Google+ it will have higher ranking for those in your circles when they do a Google search.
  • When you make an insightful comment on a YouTube video it will rank higher if it’s known your profile is connected more closely with the subject matter.
  • Via the Pages on Google+ your website can gain more exposure and higher ranking as well as give your customers a way to interact with you, this traffic and interaction can be monitored by Google Analytics and give you more insight.
  • With the advent of Google Helpouts, your Google+ profile will show your credibility in the field you want to teach and thus rank higher than the next guy.
  • In a similar way with Google Authorship articles written by someone with their Google+ profile attached gets more credibility and ranking to their article.

These are the connections I could think of, there are more I would imagine. I can’t tell you for certain all the connections that they have in mind for G+ and how they see it progressing but I can tell you is that G+ will be far more reaching than what any of us predict.

Potential uses in the near future
Google Glass will have facial recognition software and see the online profiles of those around you.

Google will know whether you’re using one of its automated cars or merely your Android phone, that you are traveling home and will warm up your house for you via Nest.

Google has been buying an average of one company a week since 2010. So it’s not going to stop growing and immersing itself in your life.

And this will all be connected to your central Google profile.

Creepy side
It needs to be said that although this might all make our lives more streamlined and easier it also hands over a ton of our personal life details to a company. That is a scary thought, Google has made mistakes in how it’s handled its customers private information, remember the Buzz fiasco.

The recent YouTube Comments change could have also been done with more grace, but these were growing pains of a young platform and mistakes are inevitable.

The decision is yours, at least for now. Personally I prefer to trust Google as I like how it operates and quite frankly trusts it to have my interests vastly more in mind than any government has with my details, which might still try to get it via NSA. Even there though there are sticking points. Governments take our data to spy on us whereas Google asks for it in order to serve us custom ads so it can provide all its services to us for free.

It’s coming
It’s a powerful platform and only growing, this ghost town is thriving. I’ll see you there.

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