We have heard both sides. Reports come out every few months that suggest Google Plus is commonly used, but even I (a G+ advocate) admit that few of my 'real world' friends are active. What's the deal? What is my opportunity on Google Plus?
#1 - Do Some Social Networking.
Crazy idea, right? If you dive into G+, you'll soon realize that there are lots of active folks there - you just don't know any of them yet. It's true - you are not likely to find activity from your high school buddies or your old college roommate on G+ like you might on Facebook, but you can find people to connect with about the things that you care about. After you make these connections, you'll realize that you have "G+ friends" that you'll never likely meet in person.
Example: I work in marketing, and I own a bearded dragon. If I want to get or give information on these topics, I've really got nowhere to go on Facebook. Yes, a few of my 'real world' friends work in Marketing as well, but this community is much larger for me on G+. I have virtually no friends on Facebook with bearded dragons, but I'm connected to more than 100 people on G+. In fact, some of them have said that they learned how to care for beardies from the G+ community that I created (and many G+ users contribute to).
Your G+ friends will become friends of common interest, and your FB friends will continue to be people you've bumped into on your life's journey. After a while, you'll feel a yearning to check G+ in order to connect with this new community of 'interest based' friends and you'll realize that it doesn't really matter that you are probably never going to meet them in person.
#2: Google is Powerful - Use the Tools.
- Picasa was amazing, and it still is now that it's G+. The Picasa Editor is an easy way for consumer-level people to make simple edits, and organize their photos. In fact, G+ photo editing options VIA website or App are also quite impressive. The search feature is also able to find pictures of things like 'dogs' and 'sunsets' that were never tagged or named with those keywords. It's fantastic.
- If you are a marketer, I shouldn't have to explain the value of G+ participation and it's integration with Google search. In fact... I won't. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google it.
- Hangouts are tremendous and have been since the beginning. Why pay a virtual meeting company when I can VOIP, share my desktop, video call, conference call, and wear silly digital hats on G+ hangouts for free?
- 'Locations' is helpful, though some may call it creepy. Google's location sharing service saves me from the dreaded "where are you" phone call or text. I'm happy to say I've eliminated those from my life, at least with the friends and family members I've talked into using G+. In the future, it will also allow me to ask my wearables "where is bill" and it will show me.
All of these tools have been carefully researched and developed - spared no expense. Even if it was true that nobody was on G+, think of all that R&D being done just for you - remember, it's all free!
#3: Be Ahead of the Game.
Google is basically saying "resistance is futile" with G+. Many of the people who make Google the 3rd or 4th most popular social network (by the numbers) may not even realizing they are using it. It's integrated to Gmail, Android, and YouTube and there is more to come.
G+ numbers are high because Google is successfully folding their more popular products in to the social network. Based on what I've seen, I'm confident in making these predictions with the caveat that some of them may take 5 years to fully happen.
- Gmail will become G+ messages. Did you ever notice that there isn't really a 'message' feature on G+? If you want to notify just one person, you have to do a post and mention that person. Why? I believe it's because Gmail will one day become G+'s messaging system.
- YouTube will become G+ video (and in some ways already has). If you missed this one, you are living under a rock. On my G+ profile page, YouTube is an option right after posts and photos and it's been there for quite some time. Let's not forget that YouTube commenting was merged with G+ already. In fact, look no further than the 'post' feature on G+. The "video" icon is YouTube's. With YouTube itself as a powerful social network, and G+ raising in the ranks, why wouldn't Google want to merge the two in hopes of combining numbers and toppling Facebook? If this is the case, the'll need to go very slowly as to not anger the masses.
- G+ will continue to leverage their power in search. If you don't know what I'm talking about and have not Goggled it yet, read this SearchEngineWatch post.
- In general, more and more will be brought into the G+ fold. Recently Google announced that it will be integrating Google Plus and Google Play.
- G+ Local and Google Maps will slowly merge in hopes of taking on Yelp. Remember when Forbes said "The New Google Maps Is A Social Network In Disguise?" They were right.
If you know what's coming, you can organize your life or business ahead of the game.
I believe that people will continue to dislike G+ primarily because they already decided it wasn't cool. If people took a step back, they'd realize that folding many of Google's services into G+ is a fantastic idea. It will organize Google's products and create a better experience for us users. People would also realize that G+ really is a fantastic social network that offers some great, unique, free tools. I sometimes wonder if the biggest mistake Google made was actually announcing G+ as a social network. If they were going to be so 'late' to the social media game, I wonder if they would have been better served to slowly merge everything until it just 'became' a social network. Then they could have just said "oops - we just toppled Facebook."