There’s been lots of discussion over the past week about the introduction of Google’s own social network platform named Google +. Just two weeks since the initial beta launch there’s reports that there may be over 20 million users by the weekend.

Like the introduction of other new social media platforms, Google + will continue to evolve and release new functionality as they irons out bugs and gets functionality right. There’s a useful cheat sheet on mashable that explains some of the key terminology if you’ve just got involved and an introductory video that helps put the platform in context.

My initial thoughts:
Some may say that there’s enough time already spent updating existing social networks and we don’t need a new one added into the mix. However, as technology evolves, it’s pertinent to explore some of these new tools and consider how they may be integrated into your existing communications mix.

I already use google for so many of my online activities – google analytics for my website, key word tracking via Google alerts, ad words campaigns, email, google business etc., that I can see potential for this network if they get it right. With so much power in their search engine, google knows the importance of this social space. They are already showing some great features that will challenge their big rival Facebook including:

Personalising Circles to share content– I love that I can build my own communities of interest and share relevant messages and content to a particular group without needing to share to everyone I’m connected with. Whilst there’s some ability to do this on Facebook with personal lists, this feature has much more relevance and reduces the risk of over-sharing if you set up the right circles from the outset.
Hangouts present a real opportunity to connect and host discussions. These are basically a video chat room using your webcam – I’ve yet to explore it fully and it’s only basic functionality at the moment but I can see much broader relevance as this is rolled out for Virtual wine tastings, Customer Service responses etc.
• Google Sparks – a great way to find people with common interests and also source content to share with your own community. Rather than having to search using hashtags or key words via platforms like twitter this helps to organise content simply in a good stream of activity.

There’s already applications developed for some mobile phones (Iphone coming soon) allowing you to upload from your mobile and I suspect as the Beta testing gets more feedback we’ll see other functionality emerge – (already reports coming through that a new series of changes will emerge before the week end). You can also embed the +1 Function into your existing website to encourage sharing.

What about a business profile? Should I be setting one up?

If you’re a business/ winery thinking about setting up on Google + there’s no need to rush in and immediately set up an account. Google has indicated that they are working on a version for brands/ businesses that will be similar to Facebook Fan Pages to be released later in the year. Sit back and play with the consumer profile functionality for now and wait till the proper business platform is ready to be released.

Like any new platform, it will take time to learn and changes will constantly take place but it’s another opportunity to build a community and connect with people who have common interests. Need an invitation to get involved? Let me know or connect with me here.