Will your business Google+?

Business is usually slow to react when something new comes along. But Google+ might be a chance for CIOs to get in early with the latest social networking tool.

When Twitter, MySpace and Facebook started up, they began as garage ideas that steadily grew. Eventually, they exponentially grew and they became global phenomena. Google+ is a very different animal. It's not coming from a suburban garage. Its origins lie within one of the world's most recognisable companies. It's backed with significant resources and has a ready-made audience of millions, if not billions, of people.

Google+ might be the first social networking service that makes it easy for businesses to be engaged. If you look at MySpace it was really focussed on teens and young adults. There was little structure but it allows lots of freedom of expression. Facebook started as a glorified phone directory with almost every piece of interactivity added later. Twitter is fun - I'm a big fan (follow me at @Anthony_Caruana) but it's very limited and starting to be overrun by spammers.
Despite a few hiccups, Google is largely regarded as an ethical company that is well resourced and capable of delivering a solid service.

CIOs can start, with the support of C-Level corporate communications, marketing and other executives, to look at what opportunities might be available for customer engagement, media communication and marketing.

The core differentiation between Google+ and other services is that sharing, privacy and contact management is built into the service from the start. With Twitter, Lists (a way of grouping Twitter followers or contacts) came well after start up. Facebook, added link and media sharing later and still isn't great at separating family, work colleagues and other friend groupings.

With Google+, you organise contacts into Circles. When you share something, you can choose whether to make it public or only share it with a specific circle. Contacts can be placed into multiple circles. For a business, you can potentially share some things with one group of customers and not others.

Of course, one of the problems with social media is the potential for productivity loss. The reality is that no CIO can truly control all of the organisation's communications. If Google+, or any other social media service, is banned staff can simply revert to their smartphone.

One great advantage of Google+ over other social media services is that there is an easy exit strategy. Most sites make it very difficult or impossible to bundle all of the content you've created so you can make an offline copy. The Data Liberation function can be found in the Google+ settings and it allows you to grab all data stored in the services Google manages and integrates through Google+. This comes from the ongoing data liberation project run by Google.

Most businesses are typically slow to react to new social networking services as they aren't able to get in early. Google+ offers businesses a rare opportunity to get in early on a new service that is well supported, getting lots of early adopter buzz and seems to overcome many of the problems CIOs see in other services.

Will it be more than a passing fad? No-one can know at this early stage. However, the savvy CIO should be watching closely and briefing the executive suite so that they don't miss a potential opportunity.

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