Google's Reinvention of the Social Network: Building for Business?

Loraine Lawson
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I inadvertently found an unusual use for Google+: It's a great way to separate out the real technophiles from the posers.


I nabbed an invitation - and yes, I stayed up late on Twitter just to get one - and I sent out a few of my own, eager to try out this new app. I was majorly disappointed when my invites were ignored by several women colleagues, who waved the white flag and claimed "social network fatique."


That's too bad, because I don't think Google+ is about having yet another social network. The value - for users and, I suspect, for Google, is in having a social network that's well designed for enterprise use.


This is pure conjecture on my part, of course. But before I explain why I think that, let's discuss a little secret that techies and, oddly, celebrities have long understood, but many end users and business people miss: Social networks are not interchangeable. In fact, they're not trying to duplicate or necessarily even replace Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FormSpring. They all have their own purposes and uses.


This may seem obvious on the surface, and yet, when it comes to using social networking, people always seem to expect Facebook. I've seen this over and over, particularly on Twitter. A friend joins Twitter, then starts following the same people, posting similar material - but often even more mundane than what they include on Facebook - and a week later, they dismiss Twitter as useless. "I'm already using Facebook to keep in touch with my writing friends," one former co-worker told me recently.


Boy, does that miss the point. Twitter isn't for following your friends. In fact, it's been said Facebook is for the people you went to high school with and Twitter is for the people you wish you'd gone to high school with.


Twitter is for following your interests, and people who share those interests - whether you're struggling with SharePoint, watching a presidential speech, or attending a conference and wondering what others think about it. What makes Twitter powerful are the hash tags, plus the fact that you can follow and be followed by people you don't know - regardless of whether or not they follow you.


LinkedIn is great for longer discussions and deep analysis on work issues. Its value proposition is as a means of connecting with colleagues, past, present and, perhaps, even future. Personally, I suspect everyone is on LinkedIn because they hope someday it will help them land their next job - but that could be my cynical side.


Google+ is something of an exception in that it actually is duplicating - and in some situations, improving - the experience of all three of the main social networks. You can post a professional resume like LinkedIn, connect with and share all sorts of information with friends like Facebook, and even group them for more effective communications. Plus, you can follow strangers based on interests and post publicly, like on Twitter, but with the added benefit of using the circle concept to organize the feeds based on interests and relationships. So, for instance, all the data management people I follow no longer have to see my posts making fun of finding Bigfoot. Smartly, you can even find and connect with others based on location, which, as far as I know, is unique.


All of these features are nice to have if you're an individual. But where it really gets interesting is when you think about how this might be put to use within a large business or organization. You could not only connect with colleagues based on work interests, project involvement, but you could also manage contacts outside the business based on roles, such as customer, business partner and supplier. Plus, very conveniently, it's only a click away from Gmail, Google Calendar, Google docs and Google Talk.


What's this got to do with integration? Well, as it turns out, with a few plug-ins and tricks, you can actually import your Facebook contacts to Google+, view your Facebook and Twitter content and even cross post within the Google+ dashboard, effectively creating a single portal for managing existing social network profiles and content. (BEWARE: I recently learned about concerns that some of the add-ons floating around might contain malware.)


While playing with this integration, I soon began to see how this could be a single point for managing (almost) all of my social networking tasks and be extended to managing communications with existing colleagues, business acquaintances and potential new sources for information on integration.


Already, there's a button for importing Yahoo contacts, which, conveniently enough, you can in turn use Yahoo to import all your contacts from Facebook. I suspect Google will continue to encourage this migration to its platform. It'll be interesting to see whether Facebook can stop it, but even so, it may not ultimately be very relevant if, as I suspect, this is a beta of a social network platform for the enterprise.


Unfortunately, this isn't a two-way integration street: Google + doesn't allow any third-party access to its API, according to TechTipsGeek.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 19, 2011 6:59 AM marciasong marciasong  says:

Furthermore, Facebook is really a communication platform between people, even what's publicly posted and shared is just communication, and I just don't see what sort of valuable information you could glean trawling Facebook, besides marketing data.

Jul 21, 2011 11:12 AM Tamara Dwyer Tamara Dwyer  says:

But which businesses? For some odd and unfathomable reason, Google not allowing it's enterprise users who administer email and documents for Google Apps (offers Exchange and Sharepoint combined) access to Google Plus. They are leaving the true fans in the parking lot.

Jul 21, 2011 11:26 AM Steven Earle Steven Earle  says:

Lorraine, you must be joking or a Google fanatic, this product does nothing business like that I can see

Jul 21, 2011 12:12 PM Loraine Lawson Loraine Lawson  says: in response to Tamara Dwyer

Well, it is in private beta. I'm sure Google wants to work out the kinks before even thinking about enterprise support. I just think that it was designed with that application in mind.

Jul 21, 2011 12:13 PM Loraine Lawson Loraine Lawson  says: in response to Steven Earle

Not a Google fanatic, although I am a fanatic about free stuff, so that does win a lot of points for Google with me.

Jul 21, 2011 12:28 PM Sheridan Sheridan  says:

I'm moving from Facebook to Google+ for my personal networking, but for business I'm retaining Linkedin.  I like keeping personal and business separate.  I also like that with Google+ I can lock it down to where only my friends can see my personal profile and they can't share it with anyone else. 

For business, I don't care who sees it because if anyone is offended or turned off by my linked in profile I would hope they wouldn't hire me.  My personal life is none of their concern.

Jul 27, 2011 3:41 AM dsparks dsparks  says: in response to Loraine Lawson

Not only is it still in private beta, but the apps available to Google Apps for Business subscribers typically lags behind what is available to users of the free solution.I.

Aug 4, 2011 12:28 PM Shay Shay  says:

I am all for Google if they can improve the current options especially in the areas of security and privacy.  Perhaps it will push the others to improve as well which only benefits the users in the end. 

May 16, 2016 4:21 AM Peter Peter  says:
Great post! It's kind of still working in 2016 which is pretty interested :) Reply

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