Shauna Causey, Kathy Gill, Sean Malarkey, and Adam Loving hold a Google+ “Hangout” to discuss the new social network. In part two, we talk about the implications for businesses, what new Google+ users should try, and whether Google+ will “kill” Facebook.
Adam: So, one of the things we were talking about while we took a quick break there was the implications for mobile. And I was going to have a survey of who’s on Android and who’s on iPhone. But all four of us are on iPhone. So one of the strategic advantages I thought might be behind Google Plus was the fact that they’ve got good integration as the default social network for Android. But of course, that’s a battle that’s still being waged, and the four of us are iPhone fans, obviously, so we can’t really speak to that. The other thing I wanted to really make sure we touched on tonight was, What are the implications, if any, for business accounts? You know, I get called on a lot as a developer to implement integrations – that API isn’t available yet, or Google Plus. But you know, I’m sure people are going to be wanting to do that, for their business. Shauna, obviously – it’s also the number of big companies on their social media policies and marketing and all that. Do you guys have anything on the radar with regard to Google Plus for that, or do you see this being just one more channel that you’ve got to go find your customers on?
Shauna: Well, one of the reasons I would like to get on as soon as possible as far as business use – which we’re still on this data list right now – is because I think that when you look at the early adopters, they’re exactly the people that I would hope that we can talk to. On the other hand, as a user, I think it is kind of nice that we don’t yet have businesses there. There’s less spam. Obviously, you would opt in to get their updates. But it just feels like a cleaner experience, and it still to me feels a little bit more like a neighborhood. You know, when Twitter just came out, it was like all of your tech friends are there, but you also don’t have these – at least I haven’t had very many weird accounts from weird names or weird people yet.
Shauna: So that feels like a nice clean experience. But yeah, I think the implications – there are so many. I saw Ford – you guys may have seen Ford talking about, Well, should they do an analyst call and a hang-out, or how can they start incorporating Google Plus into the entire business cycle. So, looking at all the things that they do and figuring out how can we better use this technology and use it in different ways than we’re using Facebook. And I think now it’s pretty similar for how you can use both, except that there is that serendipity level of different people being able to follow conversations and being added that you don’t have on Facebook, or it’s not as easy. So I’m really excited to see what happens. And I’m surprised it’s actually taken this long for them to allow more businesses to actually use the platform.
Sean: I think it’s a big screw-up on their part.
Kathy: I think that someone underestimated how the demand was. I mean, that’s the only thing that makes any sense to me is that somebody underestimated the demand. Because I’m with you guys. It just seems like, Oh, my gosh! This is so obvious.
Adam: Well, yeah. They were right that keeping it personal, not launching with an API did keep it cleaner. Everything that you see on there was posted by a human, and it was probably someone you have corresponded with by email. So that makes it a friendly, safe place to start. And then they kind of take riskier steps as they go.
Shauna: I’m so impressed, still – I don’t know what you guys think – but at the way that they rolled it out with that data invite. And just seeing it spread. I’m sure they’ve got a great info graphic that I haven’t seen yet on how that spread actually – you know, what that looked like.
Kathy: That first 24 hours, you mean?
Shauna: Yeah, or even the first couple of weeks, just seeing all the different connections and how people are invited. And then I think the fact that for awhile we couldn’t invite people, and “when is the button going to be back up” was newsworthy. I actually was just – I mean, we saw the same thing with Google Wave, you know, a little bit. But I just still couldn’t believe the hype that it created just in that whole invite and data process.
Kathy: All the work-around’s. This is how you get someone on, even though you don’t have an invite button. This is a sidestep, Adam, and kind of may be backwards a little bit, but I really want this platform to succeed, because I would like to Facebook to go back to being a reciprocal relationship with my friends, where I don’t have to deal with the business stuff, and my students and faculty, and I can turn it back into what it is for normal people, which is friends.
Adams: You closest friends and family.
Kathy: And have this be my public me. That will make me happy.
Adam: Right. That makes sense. And one other thing, Shauna, I’m interested in asking you about is, the amateur marketer in me, or semi-professional marketer in me, was very intrigued by this possibility of segmenting everybody into circles and then addressing them very specifically. Am I getting too excited about that too early? So, for example, if I created a list of just my previous clients, people that had hired me previously, and another list of people who found me via my blog, and who like social media – that it could be rewarding to share very specific things, or you know, get to the level of marketing where you’re selling a different product to each different circle. Do you think that’s promising, or do you think that would be too much work?
Sean: That’s a good question. Were you going to say something, Shauna?
Shauna: I was just going to say that I think you hit the nail on the head, and that’s the number one reason why I’m excited as a business to use Google Plus. And I think even just segmenting, just alone being able to segment men and women, which we can’t do on Facebook right now from our page, would make all the difference from our end. I cannot wait to use this platform just because of that one thing. I think that’s a great point, Adam.
Adam: I hadn’t thought about that, but yeah.
Sean: From a business perspective, that would be huge, I would think, for you guys, if you have certain promotions that you’re running that would appeal to women and not to men, and vice versa. But Adam, back to your question – I mean, for me, yeah, segmenting is huge. And we do it with email lists. But I know to a certain extent that if I send an email, 20 percent of the people are going to open it. Whereas on Google Plus, I don’t know if I’ll get 2 to 3 percent of the people to see that update. So back to you question, is it going to be worth the time?
Sean: I don’t know, you know. And for me – I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time right now to go through – I think I have close to 1000 people following me here – I don’t have the time to go through them. I should do it, but it would probably take two hours to go through and segment that list. And how accurate that data would be – I might know, honestly, a third of where they came from – in other words, how to segment them. I wouldn’t know.
Kathy: But this is kind of how I’m trying to talk on Google Plus, and I’m not doing it like a business, I’m doing it by interest. Are you a journalist, are you an educator? Are you somebody that’s a friend of mine in Seattle? It’s the same sort of thing, and I’m with Sean in that it is labor-intensive. But I think your messages have a better chance of coming through when they’re that targeted. And a part of it’s going to depend on how people use their streams. Because I do both. I look at notifications and I look at streams. And I don’t see the same things because of that.
Adam: Right. Yeah, I know that’s interesting. I mean, I think as a developer, I’m looking forward to the day a couple of years from now when you can fully automate the entire cycle. So, if someone clicks a link somewhere, that they’re automatically tracked into a certain circle, and you can address that circle as people who have opted in on a given link, or they found you by the blog. The circles, I hope, will be created automatically, and therefore – I mean, it still comes down to what you’re trying to accomplish, if that equally weighs out with the amount of time maintaining those circles . Because you know, the more focused the stream is, also the less serendipitous it is, right? Like, I think my “customers” or clients might be interested in my biking occasionally, or might be interested in my dog occasionally, and it makes me look more personal. So, I don’t know. But it’s probably better for me not to share all the funny cat pictures with all my bosses! (Laughter)
Shauna: Well, really, just from a business standpoint, it is so brilliant. Because right now, if we want to segment on Facebook, we have to pay for an ad. And if you think about putting that in a stream and being able to segment it. Given that everything is moving into a more specialized world – I mean, I think as consumers, I can see myself in four or five years – or sooner than that, probably two years – where if they’re sending me updates for men’s jeans that I’ve opted in for your account, I’m going to think, Why is this company doing this. You know, they’re sending me something that I would never – unless I want to buy it as a gift – would never care about. And I think we’re going to start being able to be more selective about how we get business updates, which is exciting to me from a consumer standpoint and from a business standpoint.
Adam: Right. And I know Robert, who was going to join us tonight, but I got his message on the side that he’s babysitting – he’s a real big – he was vice president of marketing for [JIST]. And one of his big themes, one of the things that he would always talk about was marketing as a conversation. And you know, the more you segment your audience – obviously it’s more overhead and expense for your business to do this, but the more conversation you can have, the better, to get to know your customers better. And that’s the whole promise of social media, I think.
Kathy: Can I ask Shauna a question?
Kathy: Shauna, have you thought about scale, and the scale issues associated with a company like Nordstrom, managing multiples of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people?
Shauna: For Google Plus, specifically?
Shauna: Yeah. And the way I see it is, there are really only a couple buckets right now that appeal to me as a start, and it’s really figuring out how we can segment men and women.
Kathy: OK. That makes sense.
Shauna: And then, you know, I almost see another one where it might be people who have engaged with us already, and maybe one with people whom we want to engage with but haven’t yet talked to them, and there’s some reason why we might want to reach out to them or learn from them. So I almost see those four buckets as a start. But I think you’re right, you could get all the way down to people who are interested in beauty products, or people who, you know, love Nordstrom’s shoes, or things like that. But I see that almost as a detriment in some ways, because we would like to, if we’re talking about products or asking people what they think of products or getting feedback, we’d want to have that go to a broader group, unless they’ve opted only to get updates about shoes. So we can show them the different types of products they’re getting, but not have something that totally doesn’t make sense show up in their stream.
Kathy: Yeah. It’s going to be interesting to watch.
Shauna: Mmm-hmm! I could see some companies having maybe a hundred different circles. And you’d have to figure out how you’d hire for that, and scale for that. And then, how do you track it and measure success? Because that’s another thing – as we start using Google Plus, it’s not built into any of their systems yet to track like every other network does, and to monitor.
Kathy: And it won’t be until you have an API.
Adam: I can’t wait for that. I can’t wait for the API! So I’ve got a couple of broad questions that I just want to end up with. We’re all very hooked in to social media, obviously. We’ve gotten good social and business benefit from it. But we all know those people that say, Oh, I’m too busy. This is just one more social network. I signed up, but I never went back. What’s the one thing that you could sort of encourage, or you think that those people might be missing out on specifically with Google Plus? What’s the one thing that you think people should do, colleagues or co-workers – not necessarily family, because they’ll come when the photos get there. But other professionals – what’s the one thing you think they should do or try on Google Plus?
Kathy: Well, not try so much, but the thing that is so easy here that’s not easy on Facebook is sending a targeted message and knowing exactly who you sent it to. The privacy stuff here is just so simple compared to Facebook, that for anybody that’s frustrated with Facebook – if they’re not frustrated with Facebook, and they don’t have friends here, they’re probably not going to come here. You go where your friends are.
Sean: For me, I guess it all just depends on what someone’s goals are. But one the biggest advantages I see with Google Plus right now is the exclusivity of it and the access to top-level people. And just about any niche, industry, or field that you’re in, you know, if your goals are to make some progress in a certain arena, it’s probably the easiest time ever, since, I think, Twitter came about, to access those people and befriend those people, and build your network as someone who’s known in those circles .
Adam: Right. Excellent point. Any other tips, Shauna?
Shauna: Yeah. I would just add to what Sean said. I think one thing that I sometimes recommend to people who are just starting out, for instance, on Twitter for the first time, is figure out who you want to talk to or who you would like to meet, and look them up and start following them. And I think Google Plus is another great way to do that. I’d probably also recommend that they try and hang out.
Adam: Right. This is good. I’m enjoying it. OK, so my last question is one that we can all just weigh in on for whatever answer we want. But if you had to guess, is Google Plus going to beat Facebook? Yes or no, and why?
Kathy: Define “beat”! (Chuckles)
Adam: The way Facebook beat MySpace. So I’m giving away my answer. Sorry. So in the beginning there was 6 Degrees – anybody remember 6 Degrees? This was in the late 90’s, where you’d say who your friends are.
Adam: And you could navigate to their friends.
Adam: And then there was Friendster, and then there was MySpace. I’m probably leaving out five or ten that were big in the Philippines, like High-Five, and all that – and Amebo. It seems like Facebook sort of killed them all and was able to become the global social network. Do you think that Google Plus has the potential, or could likely render Facebook obsolete?
Sean: In my opinion, no. I don’t think so. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of years, but I think it’s just going to be another network that – like all of us, we spend – I mean, I haven’t left Facebook. I know a few people who say they’ve left Facebook altogether, and that’s fine. But my mom and my sisters, they’re on Google Plus yet. My good friends that aren’t in the tech world are on Google Plus. And certain things about it – I don’t see it killing it, I just see it as being another network that’s out there. And I think it’ll definitely put a dent in Facebook. I think the best thing that comes out of all of it is the innovation that will come as a result of Facebook fearing its death from Google. But if I had to put money on it, I don’t think Facebook – I think Google is a threat, but I don’t think it will kill it.
Kathy: So, I’m with Sean. I don’t see this being a slighter. And the death of the predecessor thing, that’s fairly new in this field. I mean, think about it – people still have 45’s and LP’s. Not many people, but –
Adam: I’ve got some right here under my desk!
Kathy: Yeah. But the 8-track didn’t kill the LP, and what did die was the 8-track, due to technology. But I see it changing. Again, I would like to see Facebook – I mean, I would just personally like to Facebook go away. But it isn’t going to go away any time soon, and for some people, I don’t know that it every will. MySpace has not gone away. It’s just changed.
Kathy: It’s kind of back to what it was when it started, which is music.
Adam: Right. Shauna, yes, no?
Shauna: Well, I agree with what everybody said. But the interesting thing is with this finite amount of time that we have, where are we spending more time, and where are we concentrating our efforts? And I did an informal poll last week. And it was very interesting. I just asked people if they were spending more, less, or about the same amount of time on Google Plus as they were – and this was a month after launch that I asked. And there was this line right down my friends. And it was if they were friends – if I knew them because of technology in some way, they were spending more time on Google Plus. If not, they tried Google Plus and then they left and haven’t really come back.
Kathy: And they won’t until their friends are here. Until there’s some critical [inaudible]. I mean, Sean made the point earlier that there are what, 750 million people on Facebook?
Kathy: I mean, it’s an iceberg. It’s not going to move easily.
Adam: It’s a social phenomenon. It’s about critical mass more than technology. But Google Plus has made a few advances – I mean, the new stream that Facebook invented is only a few years old. And so we’re just starting to see the first iterations on that, and this really interesting channeling of content, and segmenting of audiences, etc.
Shauna: I’m really interested, though – and this is the only other thing I would add – to see how each network treats advertising and spam. And I think if one fails in a big way, and people feel that it’s not a good experience any more, or there’s a much better experience in a better place, then I think we’re going to start to see things shift. That’s the main indicator for me on what might be a differentiator.
Kathy: It should be privacy, but you’re right. It will be advertising.
Sean: And you know, there could be some innovation that none of us have heard of which Google can come up with, and it gets us all over here.
Adam: Yeah. My answer would be it seems inevitable that through evolution it would be slightly better, probably slightly more users than Facebook, but still it doesn’t have that much of a lifeline beyond that. Maybe they get to be the biggest for three to five years. But the good news that you guys were hinting at is that the internet is designed to be distributed, designed to be a very competitive feature dish or evolutionary soup, right? So the best thing, hopefully – my opinion is that the next best thing always has a fighting chance. So who knows what will happen:
Sean: You know what’s interesting? Everybody talks about it being a Facebook killer – and this is funny coming from me, being a Twitter guy – but to be honest, Twitter is getting less time from me because of Google, more so that Facebook is. I don’t know why – I guess I just find this a little bit more appealing because it’s new and it’s fresh. But I find myself going to Facebook, going to Google, and then Twitter, or Google, Facebook, then Twitter.
Kathy: Well, but Twitter’s niche as a news source is – well, Twitter as a news source is not going away. And if you’re using TweetTech, or if you use TweetTech well, for information density, nothing beats it, if what you’re trying to do is high scan, environmental scan, and what’s going on in the world. If you want conversation, then Google Plus is like Friend-feed. So Google Plus to Twitter is like Friend-feed to Twitter.
Kathy: It’s a place that’s Twitter-like, that enables a conversation that’s really impossible to do on Twitter. Why are you laughing?
Adam: I’m just imagining, you know, some of my friends listening in on this conversation, which I could have all night long about – is it Friend-feed to Twitter, is it – I think maybe a better question to ask is, If you had to pick one – but I agree that I love them all, and like Shauna said, I just find myself dividing up my time into smaller segments on each one.
Shauna: But it’s interesting to note that even Tom from MySpace is on Google Plus.
Sean: I think he’s on the payroll! (Laughter)
Adam: That would be a very smart marketing move, yeah.
Sean: I’m being facetious with that, but I think he’s spending more time on Google Plus than any other user! So he’s putting out brilliant contact.
Kathy: Brilliant contact! But Adam, if I had to choose, I would choose Twitter.
Adam: I’m thinking that would probably be my choice, too, because it’s the lowest friction. I mean, I don’t spend the most time there any more, but if I had to choose one, you get the advantages of the social network, and it’s a really pared-down one. And you get lightweight messages, and it’s public. I don’t know.
Sean: If Twitter could just evolve just a hair more, I’d be there if I had to choose one. But I’m leaning towards Facebook, much as I hate to say that. That will be the out-take from this video – I’m just going to give it to Kathy.
Kathy: And everyone will know that I was talking about Facebook!
Adam: Well, thank you guys so much for joining me tonight. I’ll let you go, because I know it’s getting late, and I really appreciate you hanging out on a week night. Anybody have any last-minute thoughts, or anything they wanted to say that they didn’t get a chance to say?
Kathy: Thank you.
Adam: All right. Well, it’s been great, and I will try and get this posted as soon as possible, so we can share it out.
Adam: All right. Have a great night, guys! Good talking to you. I’ll talk to you soon.