Brian is a sharp dude. He’s also fearless (at least it seems that way).
Jumping ship from a growing tech company to go start your own business is a gut wrenching experience. Yet, that’s exactly what Brian Deyo did a few months ago. And he’s not looking back.
In fact, Brian rarely looks back, because he’s always focused on what’s next and how he can be a part of it and contribute. We recently got in a conversation about “What is Google Plus” and “Does Google Plus really matter to startups?” After a lengthy debate and healthy discussion, I invited him to write this post. I can’t think of anyone better to scribe the first Google Plus post on this blog.
Enter Brian on “What is Google Plus and Why Does Google Plus Matter?”
You should really join Google.
Sounds odd, huh? Join Google? You read that right. You should join Google.
It may be obvious, but what I’m referring to here is Google+ and my call for you to join isn’t just because it is the next big thing or because I want more friends. The point of this post and my call for you to join Google+ is because it is for your own good, for our community’s good, and for the good of our startups.
First of all I need to explain the reasoning for the ambiguity about Google vs. Google+. Much discussion has taken place about the reason Google created Google+. On one side, people think Google just has Facebook envy and wants to be the big player in town again with their own social network. While that sounds nice, I think Google is a little more rational and intentional than that. They don’t undertake big efforts like Google+ without some end game in mind.
On the other side there are those saying that Google+ is just a way for Google to improve search results; bringing social and search together but keeping the interface of search intact and just adding social indicators to the algorithm. About two months ago it might have seemed that these were reasonable assertions. Now, however it is clear that Google+ is so much more than just a social network or one more piece of a larger search algorithm.
So what is Google Plus?
Google+ is actually just what the title implies. It is Google plus all of the things you don’t immediately think of when you think of Google – Gmail, YouTube, Messaging, Reader, Blogger, Picasa, Talk, Voice, Places, Android, Calendar, etc.. All of those apps are, or will eventually be, integrated into one service. The process will take time, but we already see it happening with simple things like messaging and video chat.
Contact groups in Gmail are now circles and sharing in all apps happen on Google+. Talk and Chat happen in all platforms and Picasa will soon be gone entirely to be replaced by what Google Plus is doing with photos. The experience is so tightly integrated into Android that Google promotes it as a major selling point of their latest version (4.0)
It is also Google.com plus more. Meaning it is traditional google search plus so much more. Search Plus Your World (SPYW), Google’s latest search algorithm update, is not about just integrating a few Google+ result into search engine result pages (SERPs). The point is to bring all of your content into one place; bringing your pictures, posts, articles, blogs, music, apps, etc. under the umbrella that is search.
Google’s mission is to “organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Up until now, that just included the public facing web. Now that includes an increasing amount of your own information whether public or private. Your Google search bar is personalized to your content. That’s a big shift and important for all of us to understand.
What Makes Google Plus Different?
Google+ on the surface looks much like Facebook. There are fairly long form posts with comments and likes. You have people, chat, messaging, photos, videos and a stream. It isn’t quite that simple and a few fundamental differences have created a very unique environment that is different than Facebook. I’m going to focus on two aspects of Google+ that distinguish it from Twitter and Facebook.
User relationship Model
First, Google+ shares much more in common with Twitter’s user connection model than it does with Facebook. Until a recent change including a subscription option with Facebook you had to have a mutual relationship with someone. I would ask you to be my friend and once you accepted we were mutual friends.
With Google+ and Twitter, the relationship is much different. Instead of mutual friendship there is a following (circling) model. Our relationship is really much more like it is in real life. I have the option to follow what you do publicly and until you decide to do the same for me, we are in a one way relationship. Practically, that just means that like on Twitter, you have to work for your credibility and followers. It is a little more difficult to get someones attention and grow your influence, but those who do can really influence a lot of users.
Long Posts and Active Conversations
Second, Google made one very important decision when they launched Google+. They allowed long form posts with basic formatting. It may not seem like much, but this has blurred the line between what is a blog and what is a social network post (see relevant discussion here).
On Facebook and Twitter it is clear that the posts are intended to be short. Facebook promotes quick comment responses in place of line breaks in comments to promote speed over depth. Google+ from the very beginning attracted a much more detailed and thorough post type. People would add significant commentary to articles or links. That, combined with a small community, created a lot of conversation around each post and the conversation has not diminished as the platform has grown.
Even though Facebook has now opened up posts to a nearly uncapped length (5000 characters), the environment just isn’t quite the same. The posts on Google+ are more formal, more detailed, and more active.
Now that we can see that Google+ is different and not just another social network, why is it important to you as a founder, marketer, mentor, or investor and why should we care as a community?
Why does Google Plus matter to you?
Google+ is important because it is influential. Just like understanding SEO or being an expert at e-mail marketing or knowing how to run a successful PPC campaign, this is one more area where your ability to influence the world around you is being expanded. In the case of Google+ it is especially important because the reach is so great and because it marks a monumental shift in the way Google views content and authority.
Google Plus Your Business
Google famously patented Page Rank, what has gone on to be one of the most studied algorithms in the world. Now with the new Agent Rank or Author Rank, your credibility online may be greatly defined by your influence on Google+ or at least your connection between your site and Google+.
For founders and marketers, that means we have a great opportunity to be a part of something that is now small but growing rapidly and will be very influential in search. Google+ needs to become an important part of your personal branding strategy and your company’s.
While you may not end up with as many likes or followers as you have on Facebook and Twitter right away and you may not see immediate referral traffic grow, Google+ already influences search and if it helps you win a few more terms for your product it could lead to success.
Beyond that, it is also a place where you can still be heard and be influential. Very popular tech icons are getting just about equal traction and response on Google+ as they are on Facebook. The difference is that you can get them to engage with you and respond to comments while Plus is still new. That is a huge opportunity to promote your product and brand and should not be missed.
The overarching point here is that smaller startup and technology communities, like Indianapolis (where I live), have an opportunity to be influential within the tech community at large. Right now, a disproportionate amount of that community is on Google+ discussing everything from smart phones to the best task management app.
The voices of the smaller tech communities need to be a part of those conversations because it provide a unique perspectives, which often lead to insight. Over time, these contributions will help smaller communities build more influence in the global tech community and, over time, help these smaller startup communities gain recognition as technology and startup hubs.
Google (Plus Your Deal Flow)
For investors and mentors, Google+ could become a great place to find and learn about potential companies and up-and-coming founders, while engaging in the most relevant topics of the day. For reasons that may be obvious, there are not many good places for founders, investors and mentors to congregate and communicate.
While live events foster that kind of engagement, there is massive potential for benefit from online engagement between both parties. Google+ could become a great way to follow and get to know people who may make great business partners in the future. The topics are focused and the conversation is low pressure. And on top of that you can see someones body of work and what they care about when they aren’t pitching.
As Google+ grows up, I’m confident we’ll see engagement from the whole community and not just the marketers and founders. The question is: Will smaller startup communities be ahead of the curve here, or a lagging indicator?
Most of you understand the value of being on such an influential platform for business reasons, but beyond that it is a great place to engage in detailed and complex discussions about the technology and businesses we all care about so much. In my startup community in Indianapolis, we have wonderful places like Verge startup events and local startup clubs like the Speakeasy startup co-working space, but we don’t have a good place online where we all congregate and share ideas and get to know each other. Wouldn’t it be great if Google+ became that place for us?
Google Plus Tips (via Jeff Jockisch)
Ready to kick-start your Google+ engagement? Here are some great resources and Google Plus Tips to use as a starting block…
General Google Plus Tips:
Google Plus Formatting Cheats:
Brian Deyo is the Founder of Last Bite and co-founder of the Wedding Music Project. Last Bite is a location based service that lets users rate, remember, share, and discover specific food items at restaurants. Prior to Last Bite he worked for two years at ChaCha search. He loves new technology and understanding trends in the digital world. You can find him on Google+
We’ll be hosting our first Verge hangout on Google Plus this Friday to talk teach, startups, and whatever else inspires the moment. Are you on Google Plus? You can find Verge on Google+ and Add a link to your profile in the comments below and we’ll add you to our circles.