What you already know: Google+ attracted 10 million members faster than any other social network in history. It took Google+ less than a month to achieve what took Facebook and Twitter years.
This is even more impressive considering Google+ was launched by a cash-strapped, small indie Web publisher in Brook… Oh wait, OK, this is Google’s baby — so it certainly had a running start. But if it were a bad product, it wouldn’t succeed, regardless of the company’s formidable marketing muscle.
The fact is, Google+ is a truly great product, and so far they are playing their cards right. I was so taken with the social network, in fact, that I deactivated my Facebook and pledged to use my Google+ profile exclusively as my way of communicating with readers. (Others have done the same. Tech writer Mike Elgan is probably the most famous example, with his Google+ diet.)
Whereas Twitter encourages users to put each other on silly little pedestals (“followers”), Google+ circles are an innovative way to keep tabs on the personalities and friends you’re interested in, without the awkwardness of a Facebook “friend request.”
Here are some areas, specifically, where Google+ is acting with a great degree of wisdom:
Ad-free (so far) — Those semi-predatory “Local Area mum Makes $77/Hour From Home!” and “This One Weird Trick To Lose Weight!” ads, ubiquitous on the other big social networks, are nowhere to be found on Google+. That’s because there are no ads on the network yet — I’m pretty sure Google does just fine with the ads on every page of their search results, judging from their most recent quarterly results. This gives the network a degree of credibility and class that’s lacking elsewhere, in my opinion.
Keeping the velvet rope nightclub vibe — The only way to get into Google+ is still an invite link or email from a friend, and we’re now limited to inviting only 150 people. Keep in mind, much of Facebook’s crucial early growth period occurred because of, not in spite of, the fact that you needed a university email address to become part of the club.
The longer Google+ can keep the exclusivity feel, the better. Once you let in creepers and those social outcasts without even a single friend willing to send them an invite, the quality of discourse will absolutely go down. At that point, Google+ becomes another communication medium — a commodity — and not a cool club of like-minded tech fans.
Keepin’ it real (literally) — Google’s insistence on a “real name policy” was criticised by some who wanted to participate in the network using fake profile pictures and pseudonyms, but I think Google made the right call here: online identity is a huge part of the puzzle. You want to know who you’re talking to. You want them to know who you are. I think accountability leads to better discussions, and more meaningful connections on a social network. There are plenty of online communities that offer anonymity. This is something different, more human.
Notifications bar — Whenever I’m checking my Gmail or other Google services, I’m lured in by the little red notifications icon at the top right. This is the Internet equivalent of crack cocaine. It will keep the pageviews coming, which ensures that growth-hungry Google will continue to invest in its budding anti-Facebook.
I could go on, but those are the biggest ways in which Google+ is doing it right. What do you think?