July 06, 2011

Google+: social networking suicide?

Google is a big part of many people’s daily Internet routines. They check their e-mails on Gmail, find directions on Google Maps, and use its namesake search engine multiple times a day.

But there is one digital arena that Google has failed to succeed in, and that is social networking. After Google’s 2010 flop with Google Buzz, it is still Facebook that dominates the scene. The social networking giant touts around 750 million active users, and is an Internet staple for many. These successes are due to Facebook’s strong brand, which conveys social connectivity that is easily accessible by anyone.

Last Tuesday Google announced its new try at social networking — the Google+ Project. The network is very similar to Facebook — users can share status updates, photos, videos and links with their friends. However, one of Google+’s most unique features is their “circles,” where users can place their friends in categories (“friends,” “family,” etc.) and decide which information they want to share with each group.

This venture shows that Google wants a social networking brand position that is distinct from Facebook. Google wants to be associated with something that more closely imitates the connections you have with peers in the real world, where there is secure and personal control over who gets to know what information.

“In real life, we have walls and windows and I can speak to you knowing who’s in the room, but in the online world… you share with the whole world,” Google product management Vice President Bradley Horowitz told the New York Times. “We have a different model.”

A problem with Google’s brand strategy, however, is the network’s striking similarity to Facebook, in content and in layout. Some users won’t want to add a new social network to their repertoire if it has the same look and feel of what they’re already using. Google, as a leading web innovator, could have brought more to the plate here.

Regardless, the launch of Google+ shows the world that Google wants to continue positioning itself as a multifaceted and technologically relevant brand. The corporation has been largely successful thus far in its developments from a simple search engine into a go-to resource for news, images, and even as the owner of Youtube. Now it’s looking for a way to maintain its image of simplified versatility, and social networking is the next frontier.

Do you think Google+ will chip away at Facebook’s hold on the social networking market?

Contributed by Allison Meeks

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