A love/hate relationship with Google+

I once commented with a fellow colleague at Live Content that working in social media is like having practically a new job everyday. Why? Because things change almost on a daily basis.

We, as social media professionals, live of change, because change determines where we act next. In Portugal it happened massively with Facebook (early 2009 based on my professional experience), it happens now and then with Twitter (clearly neglected in the portuguese context, due to lack of critical mass/know-how to leverage the existing user base) and since there's a new player in town, it's happening right now with Google+.

So here's the million dollar question: is Google+ any good?

My answer: yes and no. I have a love/hate relationship with it.

Larry Page has recently announced their new milestone: over 90 million users worldwide with 60% daily engagement. Impressive... up to a point. Here's the way I see it: "don't be evil" was a fine slogan/motto back when Google faced no true competitors — let's face it, Google IS search and always has been. So it's easier to stick to a moral principle when you know you're winning the technical and user battle.

What about when you're placed second? Google has tried over and over again to do social, and it failed. Google+ may seem a valid play in the social media chess board, but there seems to be no check-mate in sight, at least not for now and most importantly not to be achieved by forcing users into your platform. So this is what bugs me the most about Google+: it grew and is growing based on something else rather than the original Google message, or in other words, screw fair play and genuine utility; long live numbers.

There's an upper side in this, however: Google+ is no mere social platform where people are to connect, post status updates and life happily ever after. It's turning into an authentic identity ecosystem, and sure you can argue that Facebook also has information regarding what you already like, but there's one thing they don't have — data on what you're interested in liking in the future.

Think about it: we search because we're interested in something. So why wouldn't we, given a certain result and fulfillment of our knowledge gap, want to connect with what represents a credible source to that object? Given the fact that Google+ boosts your SEO rank sky high, as a content producer, if you share enough on subject A, you'll more likely come up on search results for that. And people who are truly interested in knowing more about A will have a reason to think they actually are willing to trust you for providing the information.

In the attention game, it's all about creating trust contexts — if I don't trust the information, I'm not buying it, plain and simple. But what if I get it from a credible source, or from an until then unknown source but via a credible platform? Totally different situation. If Facebook dominates our social graph, Google is using it's existing search power to provide you with a whole different way to connect with new information and new sources. Sure, search is a complementary tool to help us find what we're looking for, but you might argue that no search algorithm can replace a friend's advice. But what if...

... what if what if your social graph reflects nothing of your own beliefs, interests or needs?