Google+ - The Facebook Killer?
Guest contributor: Dr. Justin Bazan, OD.
Could Google Plus be a Facebook killer? That is the question people all over the internet have been asking for the last two weeks. Facebook now has over 750 million users, and many optometric practices routinely use Facebook pages for practice marketing. Many thought that Facebook, with its Like buttons scattered across millions of webpages, had become the permanent social foundation of the web. Now that search giant Google has released its own social media network, called Google Plus, with many of the same features, could it be that Facebook is actually threatened?
What is the big deal with Google+?
Imagine what Facebook would be like if, instead of evolving slowly from an exclusive Harvard directory, it was designed by Google specifically to make all of its other applications (like web search, email, video, news and so on) function on a social level. Google+ is like Facebook – just better. Or so the Google+ cheerleaders would have you believe.
Google+ is just what you would expect – you set up a profile and you can share information with friends and family, show your approval on posted information (the +1 button), and comment on previously shared information.
There are however a few key differences between Google+ and Facebook that are important to understand. The first is the asymmetric nature of relationships of its “circles.” With Facebook, friending someone means you see what they do and they see what you do. That is considered a symmetric relationship. With other applications like Twitter, you can follow others without them having to follow you and vice versa. This allows for people to get information from a variety of sources without necessarily forming a relationship or feeling obligated to interact.
How do Google+ circles work? Circles allow a Google+ user to create categories of people. Then on a case by case basis, they can determine who they want to share information with. They can also choose which categories of people they want to read updates from at a given time. This is a very flexible system and, over time, people could prefer it over the old-school “friending” of Facebook.
Another new and compelling feature of Google+ is the “hangout”. Hangouts are video chat rooms for up to 10 participants that are surprisingly easy to use. Like the rest of Google+, the interface is sleek and simple. The hangouts can be private or public depending on which people and circles you invite. One interesting component is the integration of YouTube that allows participants to share and discuss any video on YouTube without leaving the video chat. I’ve had the opportunity to hangout with several folks including Mari Smith and EyecarePro.Net’s very own Daniel Rostenne, and have been impressed. Hangouts will allow for some pretty interesting video chat developments, but they are not going to single-handedly knock out Facebook.
There are some little tweaks that make Google+ a much more satisfying user experience than Facebook. The first is the clean interface that makes Facebook look old and bloated. The second is that you can go back and edit posts and comments that you have written, saving you from having to delete the entire comment and start over. And my favorite new feature is the “mute this post” option where you can contribute a thought to a post but opt out of receiving a notification from every single person that follows you.
What about Google+ for Business?
It is too early to know how effective Google+ will be for practice marketing. The buzz in the business scene appears to be that medium to large companies can use Google+ internally to coordinate groups of people. It is not clear that this applies to most optometry practices, but there are some applications for doctors to virtually meet and share information, both on clinical and practice management topics.
So is Google+ the Facebook killer? No. Not for a long time. I do think it is better than Facebook, but simply being better does not guarantee success, as Betamax proved. But the strength of Google+ is not just that it's a better Facebook, it is that it so intimately integrates the Google owned applications that people use all day, every day like Gmail, Google Documents, Picasa, and YouTube. This integration is only going to grow in the future, essentially making Google products social by default. That is pretty powerful stuff. And it may not kill Facebook, but it will give it a run for its money. And in the long run, that is a good thing for all of us.
Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford is an optometrist specializing in the vision of infants and children, practicing out of his Tampa office, Bright Eyes Family Vision Care. He received a degree in Environmental Science at the University of Florida, graduated from the Illinois College of Optometry and completed his residency in Pediatric and Binocular Vision at Illinois College of Optometry.
Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford is a social media evangelist and he founded “Peripheral Vision,” an organization with a mission to educate eye care professionals about social media. He is the chair of the social media committee of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. He is the past president of the Hillsborough Society of Optometry and is the Chair of the Florida Optometric Association’s Children’s Vision Committee. In 2010, Dr. Bonilla-Warford founded Foursquare Day with the help of many talented Tampa Bay individuals. He has volunteered at the Special Olympics and as a member of Volunteers in Optometric Service to Humanity he has performed charitable vision screenings in the US and Nicaragua.
Dr. Bonilla-Warford lives in Tampa with his wife, two wonderful children, and a fish.
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