Boy do social web natives draw the knives quickly when it comes to Google and Facebook. Google+ hasn't even launched yet but the judgments have come in short order. Right off the bat I want to ask the question Could we be sacrificing reflection, analysis and context simply for speed? But that's for another post.
Not having been invited into the Google+ corona I am for the moment on the outside looking in. But here's a few unbiased and admittedly speculative observations about Google+ based on a tour of the demo.
Google+ 'Circles' will allow you to share specific information with selected groups of people. For organizations which slice and dice their stakeholders into categories in order to tailor communications, this could be a way of structuring a social network to spark conversation and cement relationships. Natalie Bourre, founder of Marketing 4 Health Inc., points out that pharmaceutical companies for example, under the severest restrictions for direct to consumer and direct to patient, might create 'circles' of patients within closed networks. And, I would add, these social circles can take advantage of the user generation, visual, linking and speed elements not usually associated with online patient communities.
As I understand it from this Mashable article, Google+ 'Sparks' is "a recommendation engine for finding interesting content . . . a collection of articles, videos, photos and other content grouped by interest." Whenever I hear the concept "recommendation engine" I think of promoted tweets and Facebook ads and their ability to target people and interests.
And then there is the group and video chat functions which could take the Facebook wall to a new level allowing people to self-organize online imaged group personal conversation. Companies could use the functions for stakeholder or community meetings, and activists for planning and organizing group education, proselytizing and action.
One final comment . . . sure, it will take a hell of lot to unseat Facebook as the king of social networks. But that doesn't mean that a new social platform from the mighty Google can't make a useful, important (and yes profitable) contribution to the socialization of relationships, marketing and group dynamics.