LinkedIn has always been the “other” social network. We have Facebook for friends and family, Twitter for following like-minded people, brands and industry experts and LinkedIn for connecting to business-only contacts. Despite the fact that over 100 million people have LinkedIn profiles, how many actively use the network?
I think Google’s latest foray into social networking holds far more potential in becoming the business social network of choice than it does in killing off Facebook. Here’s why:
Google Circles Will Change The Way We Share With Everyone
I could not count on all my fingers and toes how many friends, family and colleagues have LinkedIn profiles who only have them to “be on LinkedIn.” We use LinkedIn profiles as a professional social network profile/online résumé. We count on it appearing in search engine results when someone with business intentions searches for our name.
Could a Google+ profile replace the need for a LinkedIn profile?
The idea that one network could be used among both personal and business spheres isn’t unheard of. However, up until now, it has never been expected to group your contacts into lists.
With Google Circles, organizing your contacts into groups is a core feature. Now that more people are familiar with the concept of grouping contacts into lists (see: Facebook lists and Twitter lists), Google Circles will make it easy to share with both your professional contacts and your friends/family who use the network.
But Google has far more in their business networking war chest. First, there are Google Places and Google Maps.
Google Places and Maps
How many times have you searched Google for a local restaurant seeking contact information, hours of operation and reviews? I do it all the time.
Google already offers Place pages to local businesses that they can then manage and update with photos. Along with Google Places, Google Maps brings in the StreetView perspective for a business and directions.
Continuing further still, Google also offers their AdWords advertising platform which could produce some very interesting results if it’s integrated with Place pages and Google+ accounts (think Facebook ‘Likes’ for Facebook Pages.)
Take all of the above into consideration: A Google Place page with reviews and details about your business, Google Maps that give directions to your office and list nearby businesses and AdWords where you can advertise your business to Google+ users with relevant interests and searches. You can see how Google would be well positioned to overtake Facebook’s business pages and LinkedIn as the social network for business owners and users.
Looking Ahead: How Google Could Bring It All Together
Image Search and Photo Albums
Google’s recently announced updated image search was mostly overlooked in the real estate industry. The potential that lies within uploading a photo of a locale and having Google return results with other images of the same place and matching website pages is huge.
The power of Google’s image matching search could amplify that by allowing photos tagged as local areas by Google+ users to be shown in Google’s image search results.
Could curating area photos be the next frontier in being seen as a local real estate expert?
Speaking of photos, the 800 lb gorilla in the room is Google’s Android mobile phone platform.
Android Phone Integration
Android is a huge player in the mobile phone market with 49.5% marketshare as of June 2011. Apple’s recent announcement of Twitter integration throughout their next iOS update, iOS 5, makes it all the more obvious why Google created Google+.
With Google+, users can upload photos from their Android phones to Google+ (similar to iCloud’s photo stream service) which is useful to agents wanting to create listing photo albums.
For consumers, imagine being able to take a live photo of a neighborhood and Google’s image matching search identifies and pulls up more information about it right on your phone. It’s a stepping stone between text search and augmented reality.
What Does It All Mean?
It’s still too early to tell where Google+ will ultimately lead but should it take off in a meaningful way, I think we’re in for a redefined “search” experience.
Have you signed up for Google+ yet?
Update: Google has yet to renew their Twitter deal which allows them to show realtime search results based on what people are talking about on Twitter (example: Twitter chat about the Oscars.) Instead, Google cites Google+ as a possible alternative to Twitter‘s realtime conversation results. Something to watch…