Google+ Open for Business?

By | Sep 11, 2012

Google's social networking platform, Google+, is starting to be integrated into the Google Apps enterprise toolkit. The interesting question for midsize firms and their IT departments--and also for Google--is, does it matter?

And the answer seems to be, very possibly, yes. "Social" has become the buzzword of the decade, laden with a great deal of hype. But all business is, after all, human beings doing business with each other, and in that sense all business is social. And Google's focus is not getting consumers to give Facebook-style likes to brands, something that may or may not show any real engagement with those brands. Instead, Google is offering its social platform as a collaborative tool within the enterprise.

A Tool for Collaboration

After an impressive initial launch, Google+ has been getting a fairly skeptical reception. Its total user base lags far behind Facebook and Twitter, and some analysts have questioned its level of user engagement.

But these critiques may misunderstand the objectives of Google's social platform. Google has always said that it was not simply a Facebook competitor. And recent developments may bear this out. As Rachel King reports at CNET, Google is rolling out support for the platform in Google Apps, specifically the "enterprise portfolio."

Clay Bavor, the director of product management for Google Apps, remarked that they were designed from the outset for collaborative use. And when Google launched a social platform, he says, "immediately we started thinking about how to bring it to Google Apps customers." Bavor also noted that some social site members were already using their personal accounts for workplace tasks.

Among the newly rolled-out features are private sharing and restricted posts, fuller integration of Google+ hangouts into Google Apps, and new administrator controls, for example allowing setting of sharing defaults.

A New Perspective on Circles

These developments suggest that many of us--perhaps most of us--have misunderstood Google+ from the outset. We have thought of it as a variation on Facebook, when it is really a collaborative platform. A good example is partitioning a user's social universe into Circles.

From a consumer perspective, this is a nice alternative to Facebook's throw-everyone-together model. But from a business perspective it is an absolute necessity. For IT managers at midsize firms, Google+ begins to look less and less like a social-marketing gimmick and more and more like a readily available and "open" alternative to proprietary business collaboration platforms. For many IT shops midsize firms, this could be a very good thing to have on hand.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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