The newest battle in the war for social media supremacy has begun. When Google launched a demo version of Google+ (called Google Plus) on June 28, the project immediately drew comparisons to Facebook. Though currently in field testing with a limited number of users, the Google+ project will let people share and discuss status updates, photos and links through specifically tailored "Circles" as a way to easily share things with specific groups of friends, family or co-workers. The service will also offer video-chat "Hangouts," group mobile-texting "Huddles" and a new content recommendation service called "Sparks."
Adam Singer, social media practice director for LEWIS PR and blogger at TheFutureBuzz.com, says that Web savvy communicators should try to be among the first to dive in and get familiar with all the features when Google+ is released. "A vital part of being a modern PR professional includes testing, tinkering and experimenting with new communications technologies, and Google+ is no different," says Singer.
When asked how Google+ may affect the ongoing efforts of PR pros on other social networking sites, Singer says that while it's premature to say, there may be a minimum expectation to show up and meet users that do try Google+. "There is an expectation that if a company is 'social' they aren't just using one tool. Rather, they are participating across the Web wherever their customers may be or where industry discussions take place," says Singer.
For companies uncertain whether they should dive right in or take a wait-and-see approach, Singer says there is no advantage to being late, and that there is a lot to gain by being early, especially as media are hungry for case studies of how companies in every industry are embracing new platforms. However, any new efforts across digital media should be aligned with a brand's pre-existing strategy on the Web. "For a sophisticated company, a strategy should (usually) involve putting an 'owned' channel such as a self-hosted company blog at the center and building a community around it, using social networks and other peoples' platforms (OPPs) as spokes," says Singer. By doing so, companies effectively create a hub on the Web that is platform agnostic and can neatly "plug in" to any emerging platform, such as Google+. "The power of having a community that is self-hosted is that your influence and traffic are diversified: if one network, search engine or app falls out of flavor, it won't have too much of a negative impact," says Singer.
After chatting with the tech-savvy team at LEWIS PR, Singer says that there is a lot of excitement for Google+, thanks to pent-up demand for someone to provide a solid alternative to Facebook. "Getting updates from your parents, coworkers, friends and favorite brands all in one place might not be as compelling as having easy segmentation, something Google+ is offering with Circles. I'm personally excited to try it out," says Singer.
PR pros can read about the new offerings and request an invite at the Google+ landing page. But keep in mind, the social Web as a whole (existing tools and new) are all blank slates, says Singer. Providing stories, content or ideas is ultimately what keeps a digital community thriving. At the end of the day, that's what matters for all communications professionals.
Adam Singer will discuss staffing, employee guidelines, social media workflow and more at PR News’ Facebook Conference on August 9 in San Francisco.