With a little over 10 million new users signing up during a “trial phase” in a little less than two weeks, the future of social media is here, and it’s not named Facebook. Its name is Google+. To put this crazy growth into contrast, the official Facebook timeline from Facebook.com shows that from Facebook’s creation in February 2004, it took until December of 2006 to hit the 12 million mark. It’s taken Google+ two WEEKS to do what took Facebook over two YEARS.
So, you’re probably asking two questions right now:
1. How can I get on Google+?
2. Why is Google+ so popular?
The first one is pretty simple, find someone who was invited to work with Google+ during its “trial phase” and ask them for an invite. They send an e-mail and you sign up for it with a Gmail address. If you’re a Facebook fanatic, don’t worry about betraying Facebook. Even Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has a Google+ account. He may be loyal to his brand, but he recognizes potential in products.
The second one is pretty simple too. What Google has done is taken the basic Facebook formula with commenting, sharing, posting, and incorporated Google into it. There are a ton of features associated with Google+, like Hangouts (video chat using Google+ or YouTube), your Circles (the friend/following system), the new Stream (similar to a newsfeed), or an underrated feature called Google Sparks. There isn’t really a ton of buzz on Google+ Sparks (Yes, there is a pun intended on the buzz comment, go look at Google Buzz), and it made me question what exactly Google+ Sparks is. Here are my findings.
Google+ Sparks is an update to how old SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) works. As you can see with the Google+ homepage (Image 1), right below your Stream on the left-hand side is a category of search terms that are saved. See, when you click on Sparks, it brings you to a page (Image 2) which you can search for terms, view the most up to date results via Google’s search engine, and save those search terms.
For example, let’s say I have a serious interest in the NFL lockout and what’s happening with that situation. As my search term, I enter “NFL lockout news.” What then happens is Google+ Sparks searches all of Google for the most recent and credible online content (which can be news articles, videos, or audio) with the keywords of “NFL lockout news.” You can add any search term you want to the Google+ Sparks section on your homepage, and when clicked on, Sparks will automatically re-search Google for the latest articles.
So how does this impact businesses or marketing you might ask? It allows the user to access more information quicker without having to search page after page, after page, after page, of information. Quicker information at the ready means quicker and more informed decisions from the consumer. It also allows smaller companies to be seen by millions of people. It tries to steer users away from the cheap, sales-orientated, websites where consumers could be misled and tries to bring creditable articles to the user. Sparks weeds out websites that don’t have the user in mind and don’t have the credibility to be what Google deems as newsworthy.
With no official announcements on exactly when businesses can have Google+ accounts, the future of Sparks and promotion via Sparks or Google+ is still blurry. But one thing’s for sure, Facebook and Twitter have a new competitor to deal with.
*UPDATE* As of Wednesday, July 20, 2011, experts have predicted that Google+ has expanded from 10 million users to about 18 million users. Growth, believe it or not, has slowed down. It was expected that, based on growth rates, Google+ would be at 20 million users by now.