We’ve all felt that something big was coming. The apocalypse-leaning camp attributes it to an ancient Mayan prophecy about the end of the world. The Tea Party attributes it to the re-election of Obama. Surely, even my Star Wars loving friends have felt something. Well, it is here. Google is calling it Google Plus Communities and they have exploded onto the scene.
It has been quite a while, if ever, since I’ve seen such a feeding frenzy in the social realm. Google has essentially gone bionic on us. They have taken the limited functionality of Facebook Groups, and rebuilt it. Better, stronger, faster. Those in the know immediately started creating new communities in an attempt to gain a foothold in what could be the cornerstone of Google’s social foundation. Most people, though, had no idea Google had quietly rolled out it’s latest and greatest offering. For some, their first clue was an overflowing inbox full of Google+ community invitations.
What is very significant to me is that Google+ has been called a ghost town, a wasteland. Even I wrote a post referring to it as the Just In Case Network. I felt like people were joining Google Plus in the hope that it would be the next best thing, but that it was not yet living up to our expectations. However, I believe now Google has given us a game changer. Indeed, there’s been a disturbance in the force. The Force, of course being Facebook’s compiled domination of all things social. The Evil Empire.
In case you are wondering why Google Communities are such a big deal, lets review the latest G+ stats: Over 500 million users, 135 million of which are active users. They engage. They post. They share. Compare that to Twitter’s 140 million (Twitter.com) users and you start to get a better glimpse of the big picture. That translates to massive exposure for your brand, your thoughts or even your kitty pictures.
Now, add in the ability to create categories within groups. Let me give you a comparison to illustrate the significance of this one little feature: We have a group on Facebook called Social Swap. Like minded social media folk can help each other share their content, etc. The problem is that it gets messy, sloppy. Someone has a tweet they need shared on Twitter. Someone else has something to re-pin on Pinterest. You have to endlessly scroll to find what you are looking for. Now, compare that hot mess to our new Social Swap community on Google+. We have separate categories: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, etc. Looking for new content to tweet to your followers? Simple. Go to the Twitter category. Need a new pin for your board? Go to the Pinterest category.
Another feature that differentiates Google+ communities from Facebook groups is the fact that on Facebook, anyone can be added to any group at any time, without permission. There is no opt-in process. If you do not want to be in a group, you have to specifically leave the group. Google+ is much, much more respectful of our time by requiring an opt-in. You have to specifically accept an invitation or request to be added to a community, if the specific community requires approval. To me, that is the single best feature that puts G-Com in a league of its own. It addresses and remedies an aspect of Facebook that I personally find reprehensible. Those are just two simple examples of the vast improvement in functionality offered by Google+ Communities. If you would like a comprehensive overview of the new communities, please see Carece Slaughter’s excellent post.
Now, I am not so naive as you think that all of the Google Plus critics will suddenly wake up to a new dawn and declare Google+ king. However, I am pretty certain that a few of them will rethink their position, perhaps even do a little back-peddling. For the die hard Google Plus evangelists out there, it is a time of celebration, backslapping and perhaps even a few well deserved “I told you so’s”. For those of you who understand the irony (and you are probably the G+ early adopters) I will quote Marie Antoinette and say, “Let them eat cake”.