Google+ opens to the public - but will it be a success?

Design

Waiting for big news relating to the search and social environments seems to be just like waiting for a bus. You can be there for ages, listening out for an announcement, and then all of a sudden, they all come at once.

This week, not only has Google opened up its social platform (Google+) to the public, it has also introduced its social search facility, accessible via Google+, which allows users to find relevant people and posts as well as popular content from around the web.

We've also seen Facebook (probably in an effort to draw attention away from Google's announcements) launch a redesign of its popular website, and of course, Facebook's f8 developer conference is also taking place this week.

Whilst I'm already tired just thinking about everything that's going on at the moment, it goes without saying that the week is shaping up to being a particularly important one in the grand scheme of things, and will probably influence how our online worlds will be shaped in the months and even years to come.

So what's Google up to?

Google+ is rumoured to have reached the 20 million user milestone, yet in recent weeks, many industry experts have presented their arguments which explain why they believe Google+ is already dead - or at least destined to fail. Dan Reimold, of PBS MediaShift delivers a damning assessment of Google+ stating that it will 'literally fade away to nothing or exist as Internet plankton' and that it will probably be 'fun to stumble onto once in a while [but will be] completely irrelevant to the mainstream web'.

I certainly don't agree whole-heartedly with what Dan has said, but do recognise the struggle Google faces to prize people away from Facebook. Even when Google+ introduces new features like Circles, which received great reviews, Facebook simply emulates the application and incorporates it into its own facility. Google is definitely up against it.

The way I see it, Google has 3 things going for it and by using those 3 things effectively, the search giant may just be able to turn Google+ into the success which it could not create through Google Buzz (its previous social project).

1) People use Google search everyday. The audience is there. Force Google+ onto them.

When I opened up Google this morning, just before I signed into my Google account, I was greeted with a message from the search giant telling me that Google+ was now open to the public. Not only is there a small message ("Thanks for waiting. Google+ is open to all! Join Now") under the search box, but Google has also made it blindingly obvious that it wants you to take notice of the '+You' option, seen in the top left of the screen, by using a huge blue arrow to point it out.

Google Plus Live to Public

The approach is hardly subtle, but Google shouldn't be subtle. It needs to let everyone know about its new service and there's no greater way of doing that than getting the message across on Google's homepage. People 'Google' stuff all-day everyday, so the audience is there. Google needs to force Google+ onto the audience.

2) Force people to signup to Google+ in order to use Google Social Search.

Prior to the launch of Google+, Google provided an interesting little 'social search' tool which used social channels such as Twitter, to bring its users live data relating to a particular topic. The facility was awesome and it gave users a chance to find out what was going on in the world right now, without having to log into Twitter or Facebook.

The agreement between Twitter and Google expired just before the launch of Google+, and I was lost without it! Google representatives often spoke of how they were looking to improve Google Instant, and incorporate it into Google+ and that's exactly what they've done.

I was always under the impression that Google Instant would return to its previous position, nestled within the search results pages. However, Google has so far restricted the service to Google+ accounts, and I think that that's probably a wise decision.

Google Social Search

The service has only just been launched, and people are already talking positively about how Google has combined search and social media. That said, I'd probably keep 'Social Search' behind closed doors, giving only Google+ users the opportunity to use it. That way, anyone that wants to see what all the fuss is about, will need to signup for an account.

3) Introduce Google+ Business Pages quickly, but make sure they do the business.

The third and final point which I think is likely to help Google+ take off, is that Google+ Business Pages are imminent and businesses will probably be easier to convince into using Google+ than individuals. As soon as Google tells businesses that having a Google+ business page helps with rankings, businesses will quickly jump on the bandwagon and sign themselves up for an account.

If Google does it in the right way, individuals will soon follow businesses into using Google+.

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