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article imageOp-Ed: Google+ full of potential, but must find its place

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By Justin Crann     Jul 10, 2011 in Technology
A lot can be said about Google's latest swing at social networking. It's clean, efficient, and it looks fantastic. It also shows a lot of promise. But the question remains, is Google+ too late to the social networking party?
By now, most everyone who is heavily involved in the world of social networking has heard about Google+. Those people have probably heard about the 'insane demand' for invites that forced the world's largest Internet search company to lock out new members to keep up.
Demand for invitations to the service was so high that a number of Internet tricksters and scam artists seized the opportunity to ship out false invites, leading to links soliciting erectile dysfunction medications.
And while it's true that the new social networking service has raised Google's market cap by US$20 billion, there also remains a steep amount of criticism from the Internet community.
CTV News reported that Google+ has no relationship status for divorced or separated people, and one astute Twitter user pointed out that Google's other big crack at social networking also started strong. And while we're at it, where's the iPhone app?
So, what's the big deal with Google+? Is it the next big social networking thing, or is it too late to the party?
In an article I wrote for Digital Journal the week the service launched, I said that Google+ could become a serious contender for Facebook's social networking crown, provided the team kept maintaining and updating the service. I realize now that I should have added a few more caveats to that statement.
People need to believe they need Google+
Everybody knows by now about Facebook's huge user base, featuring over 750 million active users. Mark Zuckerberg's social network has become a firmly entrenched part of global culture — so much so that Facebook is now defined by Merriam Webster as a verb.
But Facebook has had years to develop such a large and, for the most part, loyal following. Unlike other social networks, it has accessibility built in to its core, making it far more user-friendly. Further, easy access to games and other "fun" applications gives it a far more casual feel, and keeps users glued to the network for longer periods of time than they spend pounding out a quick, 140-character tweet.
Also, many people already struggle to maintain all of their social networking presences. Between a Facebook account, a Twitter feed, a Tumblr blog and a LinkedIn profile for professional purposes, who wants to add any other sites to the mix?
If Google wants to tread water with its newest endeavour, it needs to convince people that having one more profile is important. If it wants to truly succeed, it needs to convince people that Google+ is better than Facebook, with which it directly competes. And right now, it simply isn't, because Facebook is taking the best of what Google+ has to offer and assimilating it into an already established network.
Google+ should set itself up as the social network for professionals.
Google+ should set itself up as the social network for professionals.
Kyle MacDonald
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Google+, therefore, must establish a foothold. And to do so, it must find a niche and capitalize on it.
Doing so would be simple, because Google+ seems ideal for business people and journalists, who can use the 'hangouts' feature to hold impromptu meetings with colleagues and sources, the 'sparks' feature to keep on top of the markets and breaking news, and the finely-tuned 'circles' feature to streamline communication with specific groups on Google+'s wall analog, the 'stream.'
Google+ should continue this trend by targeting professionals first. It should aim to be an effective workplace tool as well as a social networking site for professionals. And once it has dominated the professional field, it can make a play for the casual audience that Facebook has all but monopolized, as well.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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