I have been spending time on Google+ since its launch, and though people on Google+ are talking a lot about Google+ (isn’t that breaking the first rule of fight club?) every day I begin to see its potential take it into different directions — not based upon the platform itself, but rather based upon its interoperability with Google’s other properties. Seamless YouTube video integration. Real-time photo sharing via Google Photos. Music library streaming via Google Music. Document sharing. Connections via Google Talk. Surely, more features will be rolled out over the coming weeks to millions of users still trying to figure out the purpose of the platform. And that’s the beauty of platforms — the users get to figure out how they are ultimately used, and shape their evolution.
But it seems that there is a path that Google+ is headed down, with or without our complicity: a media-sharing and discovery powerhouse. Its tight integration with Google’s own suite of content creation and consumption products and properties make Google+ a wonderful real-time content-sharing and discovery engine. As we have seen with Facebook, nothing engages consumers like good content in their social networking streams, and there is no shortage of that in the Google ecosystem to proliferate and reverberate through Google+’s echo chamber.
Echo chambers often start out as just that, until they become more mainstreamed. Twitter has been on this path for years, and is about to take their next great leap, iOS5 and iPhone integration. With “Share With Twitter” an option throughout the new iPhone operating system, millions of people will be introduced to a service that has been differentiated enough from Facebook to attract celebrities and their fans, as a means of constant connectivity — especially around spur-of-the-moment photos and videos. With a Twitter/Apple alliance, more photos and videos will be shared via Twitter than ever — putting Google in a position to defend their territory.
Play around with Google+ for 10 minutes on an Android-powered phone and you’ll get an idea where this is all going — to the same place that Twitter is: real-time multimedia content sharing and discovery. Photos you take get instantly uploaded to the cloud (via your Google account) and displayed in your streams, and +1s on links and content get factored into Google’s search algorithms — and your profile. If you want further proof that Google is in the content sharing/discovery/curation/programming business more than ever, take a look at YouTube’s experimental redesign.
I have ranted a great deal about the importance of brands’ commitments to making their content portable (and better and more plentiful), and it seems that will never have been more important than it will be within weeks, when critical masses start adopting the new features of platforms and gateways that they know and love, connecting to each other around content that they all find relevant, sharing it with others they know will care.
Brands are about to get two very important content distribution channels (in addition to Facebook), and should be developing their content distribution strategies now, if they haven’t already. Facebook will likely remain a channel for consumers to have a relationship with the people and brands they “like,” but Google+ and Twitter look to be on a collision course as channels that may drive significantly more content shares and views due to their platform, device, and software integrations. Add Google’s Search and product importance into the mix, and you don’t just get distribution, you get filing, storage, and streaming as well.
Google+ is not a fill-in-the-blank-killer just yet. But it will impact the way we find and share the stuff that we find interesting — especially for those dependent upon Google products and mobile devices. If you’re a brand, figure out how to get interesting very quickly, as the quality of your content is going to affect how and why people engage with you across every device and platform.