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Barry MacQuarrie

Will Google+ Kill Facebook?

Find out.

August 1, 2011
by Barry MacQuarrie, CPA

TechBytes

I know what you’re thinking. I just figured out LinkedIn and now he wants to know if I’m ready for another social network. Are you kidding me?

In case you missed the press release, on June 28, 2011, Google announced a new social media platform called Google+ and the results have been amazing. They have added over 10 million users in just a few weeks!

However, according to their website, Google+ “is in limited Field Trial.” The site continues with, “Right now, we're testing with a small number of people, but it won't be long before the Google+ project is ready for everyone.” I always thought that a small number was something less than 10 million! I guess the folks at Google are using new math.

I started using Google+ recently and have a few questions:

  • Do we need a new social network?
  • Will Google+ do to Facebook what Facebook did to MySpace?
  • Will accounting professionals start using Google+?

Do We Need a New Social Network?

Probably not, but I am not sure it is a matter of need. I think it’s a matter of want. Right now, Google+ is enjoying being the new kid on the block. Everyone seems excited about using this new platform. It's like being the new restaurant in town. Everybody has to go and check it out. For a period of time, they are crowded, have long waiting lines and then, all of a sudden, they're a ghost town.

The early adopters will help determine how long we remain excited about Google+. I think it depends on whether Google+ brings something new to the table or is just more of the same.

Will Google+ Kill Facebook?

Do you remember MySpace? It was one of the most popular social networks until we discovered Facebook. Now everyone is wondering if Google+ will topple Facebook. I just did a search (using Google, of course) on the exact phrase, "Will Google+ kill Facebook?" There were almost 43,000 hits!

I think that Google+ has to develop superior features if they want to compete with Facebook.

It’s not enough just to be new! Here are a few features of Google+:

  • Circles. It's all about sharing. The concept is that when it comes to sharing, we want to share different information with our family, friends and coworkers. Google+ is using the concept of Circles to allow us to group the people in our lives and share information with specific Circles. Sounds like the Lists feature on Facebook and Twitter!

  • Hangouts. This is the Google+ version of video chat. The Google+ site offers: “With Hangouts, the unplanned meet-up comes to the web for the first time. Let specific buddies (or entire circles) know you’re hanging out and then see who drops by for a face-to-face-to-face chat.” Did you notice that Facebook and Skype have teamed up to offer video chat from Facebook?
  • Sparks. This feature will stream content to your Google+ page based upon your interests. As Google+ describes it: “Get stuff you're in to stream to you automatically, so when you're free, there's always something cool to watch, read or share.” Could this be the answer for all that free time we seem to have? I'll take a stroll on the beach over Sparks any day!
  • Huddle. Simply put, it is group chat.

The features on Google+ are cool, but I've yet to see a reason to stop using Facebook.
Google+ has one major advantage over Facebook and it is the amount of time we spend on Google sites. The new Share button will allow you to post a Google+ update directory from Google, Gmail and most other Google applications. Also, the new Google bar includes a red notification button that alerts you to new activity on Google+. You will either find it intriguing or annoying!

Google+ has one major disadvantage when it comes to Facebook and its people. Facebook has over 700 million users. When you start using Facebook, it is easy to find your friends and build your network. It seems like everyone is on Facebook. This is not the case for Google+. It is much harder to find friends and family on Google+ during the trial period.

Will Accounting Professionals Start Using Google+?

In 2010, I launched the SocialCPAs Social Media Survey. Our survey found that the most popular social networking site among the participants was LinkedIn. Facebook ranked number two among the participants. Some may find this to be very interesting as Facebook has almost seven times as many users as LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has done a great job building a safe network for today’s professionals. I think this is why most people in our profession are using it. Will Google be able to persuade accounting professionals to start using Google+? I think it’s too early to tell. They will need to develop features that help accounting professionals connect, share information and develop new business opportunities.  

Our 2011 survey was developed before the launch of Google+ so we won't know the impact of Google+ until next year. However, early results show that LinkedIn is still more popular than Facebook with participants in the 2011 survey.

I enjoy sharing my opinions about social media in this newsletter. However, I often wonder what you, the reader, are thinking about social media. I would encourage you to participate in 2011 SocialCPAs survey. We would like to hear your opinion on this topic.

Some Final Thoughts

I would suggest that you check out Google+. It may not replace Facebook today, but I think it will become a strong social media player. Your clients, prospects, referral sources and co-workers will soon show up on Google+. It will be important that you and your firm are able to be found on Google+. 

I guess only one question remains: How long before Farmville and Angry Birds show up on Google+?

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Barry MacQuarrie, CPA, is the director of technology at KAF Financial Group. He has extensive experience working with CPA firm technologies and has expertise in social networking, workflow, process improvement, disaster recovery planning and paperless office solutions.