Is Google+ a Social Network?

Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of social business, wants you to think of Google+ as not a social network, but rather something a little more broad. In fact, he’d like you to not really acknowledge it as one at all.

“Google+ is just an upgrade to Google,” says Gundotra in a recent Mashable interview. He continually stresses how the goal of Google+ was to unite all of Google’s services with a social layer they now refer to as Google+. For me, this appears like marketing jargon, and brilliant jargon at that. Although he’s half right, Google has integrating Google+ across its ecosystem, stating Google+ is not a social media site is more underselling to minimize the pain of joining, rather than picking a fight with Facebook. Here’s my point.

Gundotra wants you to view Google+ as an upgrade, not as a full-fledge new product. The reason? Many who may not use Google+ currently, more than likely use Google for other reasons, and at the very least Google Search. So pinning it as an upgrade highlights to the new user that if you already use Google Search, why not make it better with Search Plus Your World? Or if you use Gmail, why not organize contacts with circles? You’re already using us, so why not make it better?

I spent awhile trying to get my brother on Google+. The main obstacle? Time. His repeated reasons were, “well now I have to upload photos, fill out contact information, and find my friends” – many of whom may not be on the site. It’s hard to convince laggards to make the leap for a benefit that may be hard to see when migrating from Facebook.

Which brings me to another problem. Comparisons with Facebook. Gundotra doesn’t want you to make the comparison with social giant – not because it’s an unfair comparison, but because it’s one they can’t win (at least right now). Google+ has done its best to give you Facebook with more competitive features within the same space – so the argument is fair.

So it seems Google wants to make the upgrade to Google+ seem as painless as possible, and for that you can’t really blame them. By playing it as an upgrade, it’s made out to be something requiring little time with potential benefits to Google products already in use. Rather than a time consuming project only replacing social media products you were already comfortable using.

But pay attention over the next year. As numbers get more competitive with Facebook for the one-year-old social site, Google might change its tune. Because for a site that now offers virtually everything Facebook possesses and more, and with a dedicated subdomain streamlined to consume it, Google+ is a beast Vic Gundotra is nurturing before letting it off the leash.

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