Google Plus and contextual networks – analysis of the major social media websites

It’s slightly ironic that just 6 days after I blogged about “Social Networks in 2011 – it’s all about contextual networks“, Google should launch their new service: Google+, or Google Plus. Google+ is for my money, a sign of things to come and a significant disruption to the social media market. In fact, I think we will see a completely different landscape by the end of 2012 with a shift of power.

What does Google+ bring that’s new?

The most significant thing is the ability to easily build contextual networks. Its concept of “circles” allows you to group friends, enemies, mentors, colleagues, customers into easily managed lists that mean you can switch between social contexts. Don’t want to worry about work rubbish during the weekend? Switch to your friends circle and leave work behind.

Other than that there’s a bunch of useful things like the ability to chat, video chat, share photos etc. etc. I particularly like the “hangout” option, where you can video chat with a group of people that form part of a circle. As a blogger that loves the back channel, I can see that be a really useful place to have an off-the-record chat with a bunch of people.

What’s Google+ missing?

Tons of stuff. It feels pretty basic, the conversations aren’t well threaded and can be hard to follow and the email notifications are driving me a bit nuts. But none of that matters if Google invest in it and continue to improve user experience. Because they have a whole bunch of people around the world that use Google as their homepage, and those people will get their G+ bar at the top of the screen. And keep using it. Supposedly 10 million people have joined in 2 weeks, which is incredible – in the top 50 social media sites already.

Google+ vs Facebook

Facebook  isn’t under any threat just yet and probably won’t be, because the social media market needs competition and Facebook offers that. They also have incredible customer loyalty, with FB people spending on average 30 minutes a day.

But Facebook is starting to feel a bit limiting – you can’t easily group people which means that having work and personal contacts in one place can be uncomfortable, and as a collaboration platform for documents, rich media and videos, it is a bit limiting. Plus they have been slow to market with mobile apps – something which Google appear to have got right on day 1 – there is an iPad app on the way through the Apple approvals process.

Google+ vs Twitter

I think Twitter is in real trouble. It has poor support for threaded conversations and can be impossible to follow. Plus it’s really difficult to manage lists of people and keeping your followers under control is a pain. Add to that a growing spam problem and the limitation of 140 characters when most devices are rich and allow longer updates to be read easily.

Google+ isn’t taking Twitter on head to head yet, but if they improve the conversation thread, email notifications and provide excellent mobile apps, people may flock to it en masse.

Google+ vs LinkedIn

Again I think LinkedIn is in real trouble. It’s a poor platform for collaboration and most people use it as an online CV and linking engine – I often use it to check out new recruits, customers etc.

If Google build in the professional side of LinkedIn – support for places to work, recommendations, shared contacts and company sites, I think that LinkedIn is in real trouble fast, because they’re not a destination site – just somewhere that you go to get a job done.

Google+ vs Skype

Again I think Skype is in real trouble. Facebook doesn’t do video or audio chat yet (get a move on Zuckerberg) and Google+ support for chats and hangouts is fantastic – they have used the GTalk engine. My initial test suggest that Skype remains much better especially on poor connections, but Google may fix this.

If so I can see myself using G+ above Skype because it’s convenient and I’m there already, and so are my friends and colleagues. Which may be a worry for the $8bn that Microsoft just spent, although they need the technology platform for other purposes e.g. Lync.

Google+ vs Apple

It’s an interesting one because Apple are approaching it from the other angle – get your documents, emails and music in their cloud first. But make no mistake, it’s a content war – the war to get your content uploaded to their website. Once they’re there, building out the Social Media platform around it can only come next. But their position is safe building from the other direction with iCloud for now.


Just my opinion but I think by the end of 2012, we will have seen a consolidation of the major players and Apple, Google and Facebook will start to be the 3 dominant social media players.

It’s bad news for LinkedIn, Skype, Twitter and others but I think it’s an inevitable consequence of the fragmented market.

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9 Responses to Google Plus and contextual networks – analysis of the major social media websites

  1. Rajeev Das says:

    Hi John,

    As usual very well presented. I also felt that Google+ will be a threat to many small and some big social media sites in time to come. I remember using Google service – ‘Orkut’ which I have closed due to mainly poor presentation. I’m expecting in Google+ probably will be able to manage multiple social connections (professional/personal) all in one place.

    Regards, Rajeev

  2. John:

    I guess the jury is still out. I’ve joined Google+ but so far underwhelmed.
    Not excited about re-creating my “circles” but watching to learn and come to an educated opinion.

    I don’t think that LinkedIn, Skype or Twitter are comparable to Google+ at this point.



  3. You can get threaded conversations out of Twitter via Hootsuite which has a feature allowing you to both show and hide conversations. Works on the basis of an @ reply to a particular Tweet.

  4. OK, I am going to start keeping a count on who are the big G+ fans and who are not after its first few days . I now know which circle to put you 🙂

    Although I have stepped out of it for now, I plan to keep up to date with all the great analysis that keeps pouring in every day. Did you see my rant on that?

  5. John,

    Facebook has video chat via Skype – – I think the announcement got lost during the G+ flurry 🙂

    And thank you for pointing this out “Tons of stuff. But none of that matters if Google invest in it and continue to improve user experience. Because they have a whole bunch of people around the world that use Google as their homepage, and those people will get their G+ bar at the top of the screen.”


  6. Steve Rumsby says:

    I’m not sure about the Apple thing. If they had this in mind, would they have baked Twitter into iOS5 so well? They’d have left us hanging on until their thing was ready. That’s the Apple way.

    Otherwise, I agree pretty much with everything said here. I liked Google+ from pretty much the moment I saw it, but what it looks like is far less important than how people use it. It is “social” media after all, and it is the interactions that matter. I see plenty of that on Google+ already, and new ways to discover new people. I do see it has the potential to ultimately replace Twitter for me. When depends mostly on when there’s a critical mass of interesting people. It could be this year, but is more likely to be next.

    I don’t see it as a Facebook replacement, but I know people who do and that’s interesting. That Google+ can fulfil both roles shows it has a lot of flexibility, and that there is power in the circles concept. I could never see Twitter as a Facebook replacement, not Facebook as a Twitter replacement.

  7. boobboo says:


    I think you’re right about the consolidation, simply because the players will not co-operate with each other. Twitter succeeded on the back of the ecosystem and it’s simplicity, Facebook succeeded because it has a great extensible platform, LinkedIn succeeded because it filled a great niche and provides a good networking platform (Recruiter and Spam not withstanding).
    For my money G+ will succeed because again, like Twitter, lots of people are doing great stuff with extensions and learning from Facebook’s mistakes – simply look at the number of Chrome extensions already.
    I would be quite sad if Twitter lost out, I think it is a great platform with many things going for it – but if G+ had a good competitor or bought Twitter and integrated it well I would be happy. Twitter has enabled me to connect to a much wider audience, in a very easy and effective manner.

    Hoping for a consolidation that benefits us – the users


  8. Pingback: How to Manage your Time on Social Media | Social Media for B2B Marketing

  9. Michelle says:

    Google+ I keep hearing about it. I have yet to join. I’ll have to go check it out. After this interesting blog , I really have to check it out.

    Thank you John!


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