Social Media Math: Google + Me = ?

Google+ 1st Generation UserOn the same day the Space Shuttle launched into its last orbit, I was invited to launch into my first orbit as a first generation member of Google+ by my friend, Detroit-based photographer Hillary Fox. You can view my profile and, if you are currently a Google+ member, add me to one of your “circles.”

If you would like an invitation to join, please contact me with your e-mail and, once there are more spots available, I will send you one. When I first signed up yesterday morning there were invitations to be had, but 12 hours later, when I endeavored to invite a friend, the option was no longer there.

It appears the system is once again closed to new users to prevent overwhelming the servers. Of course, the secondary benefit mirrors the most basic tenet of economics: scarcity drives demand.

Clearly, there is significant interest in this latest social media initiative from Google. With some of their more recent efforts — Wave and Buzz — seeming to have disappeared before the end of their first act, it will be interesting to see what happens with Google+.

I have taken Google+ for a few short test drives so far, but nothing too in depth. At the moment Google+ strikes me as very similar in almost every functional way to Facebook, though with the trademark Google simplicity of design and interface. I like the threaded discussions (as in Facebook) but for some reason it seems more free and open like Twitter.

Some of the more unique features of Google+ include the following:

  • +1 Button: Clicking the “+1″ button on Google+ is similar to clicking “like” on a Facebook status update. In order to remove your +1, click the button again and it will be undone. Notably, Google has integrated the +1 button into all of it’s search results – and even into ads it serves – so if you find something you like, just click the +1 Button and it will be saved to your Google+ profile.
  • Circles: Groups of people with whom you are connected and defined in any way that makes sense to you; also allows you to easily select with which Circles you share certain content.
  • Hangout: Group video chatting allowing up to 10 users simultaneously.
  • Huddle: Group messaging function that lets users share information with certain “Circles.”
  • Sparks: News feeds about topics in which you are interested.

One notable advantage over Facebook is that you can edit a post long after you’ve made it— something you can only do in Facebook immediately after you post content on your wall. It would not appear that is a “Facebook killer” but it is far too early to pass judgment either way.

One nice aspect to Google+ is that it integrates with all of Google’s other online tools — the recurring theme of efficiency, immediacy and interactivity offered by Google+ with other Google products. Google+ definitely has potential to make a difference, yet the adoption seems to be slow.

For some reason, despite its prowess elsewhere online, Google has struggled with creating a widely used social media platform. I wish them well in this endeavor. Generally speaking I am an admirer — and user — of many of Google’s services (it’s hard not to be given their extensive involvement in everything Internet).

In March 2011 I began using an Android-powered phone; to say I am overwhelmingly impressed would be an understatement. Previously I used a BlackBerry and while it was good, it was not great. Android’s functionality and features quite simply blow me away.

Two months later, In May 2011, I began using Gmail more regularly. (My new laptop failed and I needed a temporary solution to remain in touch with the outside world while I limped along with my old laptop). Once I began using Gmail to send and receive e-mail from my POP account, I suddenly realized the efficiency and effectiveness of the service.

Notably, I really appreciate the immediate integration of my calendar and contacts between my phone and my Gmail account online. This was always an arduous task with my BlackBerry and one of my chief frustrations (in addition to my Curve 8330 being vastly under-powered and unable to run more than two applications at once).

I have also discovered the ease with which I can save documents online and forego the need for a USB drive (for most cases).  There are numerous other features offered by Google but those are just a few that I actively use.

One thing I do like about Google+ is that it integrates with all of these existing tools that I already use. Again, the idea of efficiency, immediacy and interactivity offered by Google+ with other Google products. Overall, I am unsure what will come of Google+ and what to expect from it. I am also unsure in what way, if at all, it will change my social media practices and priorities.

As it is, I am using social media more selectively and strategically, though I still find incredible value in my Twitter  accounts (I use @MatthewAGilbert and @doctorious the most regularly) and Facebook; both allow me to learn and share knowledge while making professional and personal connections that have enriched my life.

I also continue to teach several courses that directly or indirectly deal with social media and it’s impact on industries and individuals. Social media continues to evolve into an undeniable cultural and commercial force and my being able to teach it is a great way to continue learning about it.

Looking forward, I am intrigued and excited to find out what will become of Google+. For more information about it, you might want to explore this CrunchBase profile for Google+ — I found it useful.

The video below also offers a general overview of the service:

Whenever or if ever you join Google+, I look forward to connecting with you there and/or engaging with you about it here!