Simon Says: Google+ has a chance to sit next to Facebook

Google vs Facebook

Google+ started life as an attempt to be another Facebook. If I am honest it did a better job - but then again, it's not hard to stand on the shoulders of a giant (metaphorically speaking). The problem with Google+ is it doesn't offer anything additional to Facebook on first viewing.

Google+ is beautiful and easier to use than Facebook - my mum could set up an account on her own which is saying something. But after half an hour she was back in Facebook. Why? None of her friends were using Google+.

So does Google+ stand a chance? Until recently I would have said no.

Facebook has missed the point of "sharing"...Not everything I read, listen to or buy needs to be posted on my wall. It reduces the value of shared content when everything is posted. I trust my friends to post links to content they love and, in turn, think I will love. As a direct result of all this "real-time" sharing I've almost stopped using Facebook unless it is for work and I know I am not alone.

Google+ doesn't have these annoying apps (yet). So in my eyes this is a major Plus One.

There's no denying Facebook has both a large pool of backing funds and a thriving advertising platform. But at last count almost everywhere on the Internet (that isn't Facebook) has Google ads. And Google has somewhere in the region of 40 billion just sitting in the bank ready to invest in this new, long-term tool.

Google already has a phone, the Nexus. It's not the most popular phone in the world, but it does have a first mover advantage over Facebook who have denied making a phone for some time.

If Google integrated Google Wallet, Google+ and the Nexus you would have a mobile, cash-free and social payment system. If you throw in Google Deals, you might have the ultimately offline, local, social experience.

Facebook has tried Deals, but knows it can't do this as a "side-project" to it's current offering. It needs to develop its "check in" service and more localise its content to make a Deal offering more attractive. They might be working towards that with the recent purchase of Gowalla.

Google (currently) owns more of the web than Facebook. They control the search results, supply us with email and have started to invade our offline lives with hardware as well.

The sheer number of tools available from Google means I use them all the time. Although they all feel like separate products. But now Google has released the "Google Bar" which looks to change that.

When Digg launched the Digg Bar, I wasn't impressed. I saw it as an attempt to copy StumbleUpons tool bar. But Google isn't copying anyone, they are the market leader.

By combining all the products together in the eyes of the consumers Google is making Google+ part of our daily searches. As soon as it starts to effect search results through your friends "+1s" the game will really heat up.

I think Google's big push will come if they hit Facebook in two ways; the first, merging the "contacts" in people's Gmail accounts into their Google+ profile. Effectively doing what Facebook did with its messages / chat function. And secondly targeting photo content. Google already "owns" video content online having purchased YouTube. Photographers are using Google+ because it's presentation and functionality are much better. I wouldn't be surprised if Google had their eye on Flickr (currently owned by Yahoo) or another large photosharing service to rapidly increase the content offering.

"Hangouts" is an awesome product. When combined with Google+ Circles you can see how both friends, professionals and brands could use it. Facebook has video chat, and an instant messenger but if we're honest it's a little annoying and I've found it to be overly complex, but useable.

Making and adding people to your Circles is actually fun and an effortless process. Unlike making lists of people in Facebook and Twitter. It's so easy and as a result so is using Hangouts. Smart brands and networkers will be using this feature in the future as well as brands wanting to offer live customer service.

Facebook is still your passport to the social side of the Internet. How many websites / apps can you log into with just one click because it grabs your Facebook details from its open graph/API?

I think going forward but Facebook and Google+ will find a userbase for certain bits of their products. I believe Facebook will be a platform for sharing the life you want people to believe you're living and staying in contact with old friends (from a distance) and Google+ will become the place you share quality content from around the web with close friends, family and (to lesser extent) workmates.

Another thing that's often overlooked is not everyone is on Facebook. Yes they have a userbase close to a billion but there's a large movement of people using the site sparingly or even committing "social suicide" by removing themselves from the platform altogether. As a service you can never take your users for granted. I get the impression Facebook is. This small (but growing) group of people are ripe for Google+.

I firmly believe people do not like to have all their data in one place which is why trying to be the "one stop shop" online just will not work. Each platform needs to establish its place and continue to improve that service. If they want to try and expand on that so be it, but it's not going to be an easy ride.

I'd love to hear anyone else's thoughts on Google+ vs Facebook...

Photo (cc) Esther Vargas

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