Over the past week, the amount of attention given to Google+ has only grown, partially because of the thin pipe of people being let on to the site to discover for themselves. And partially because we all felt pretty complete with what we had: Twitter for news, Facebook for friends and family, LinkedIn for business. So what would we give up? Who would be disrupted? Or would lose? How could Google+, so late to the game, ever "win."
Today at a lovely lunch in the garden at the Duke of Sussex pub in Chiswick with a group of smart-phone brandishing London entrepreneurs and social media folks, I decided the big loser (if any) will be LinkedIn, although in the grand scheme of things there doesn't have to be a loser. Each network will find its own audience, and they will all co-exist. Here are a few of the reasons why:
1)Collaboration, especially virtually, is one of the big problems to be solved in business. As the nature of work changed from bringing the people to the work (factory) to bringing the work to the people (remote employees), all kinds of platforms have developed. At today's lunch, one woman worked for Dell, another man worked for Paypal. Both live in London and work remotely. Some of the pre-lunch conversation focused on conference calls, and how much time they wasted.
The Hangout function of Google+ is perfect for conference calls, if you put your team in a Circle and share the Hangout information with your team Circle. And it's free, and presumably more stable than Skype. LinkedIn doesn't have a video conference function.
2) The people who weren't on Plus yet wanted to be there because the opinion leaders are already there. The people who ARE there feel it will be most useful as a business tool, especially if they aren't Apple fanboys. The opinion leaders can be seen on Google+, whereas on LinkedIn, it's much more difficult to contact someone you don't know. LinkedIn was not designed for discovery, except in a very narrow way, through intermediaries who must WANT to be helpful.
3) Threaded conversations are a big draw. That's what I loved about Friendfeed, which never had a chance to come into its own, because its developers were quickly swallowed up by Facebook. Threaded conversations allow people to get to know each other in a leisurely fashion. That doesn't happen on Twitter, where the news streams by and you have to reach out and catch it by clicking on a link to find out what has really happened.
4) The ability to post media, and embed video, is a big winner. We are moving toward a much more visual web, and Google+ is smoother with multimedia.
5) Google will be able to monetize this more successfully than Linked In or Twitter can, and perhaps even more easily than even Facebook, because Google literally wrote the book on targeted advertising. It has so much information about me that it would be frightening if I cared.
On balance, people really want to work together and network together, and the better the tools the happier they are. Google+ doesn't have to be earth-shattering, it just has to be incrementally better.
On the other hand, none of these tools replaces the face to face meeting. Sitting in the sun-laced garden over lunch, I asked my co-host, Ecademy founder Thomas Power, how these monthly lunches came to be. "People wanted to get out," he said. "We're all so virtual that every once in a while we want to meet real people."