One of the four names that most people mention when asked for examples of social networking is Google+ (the others are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). Google made three attempts before Google+ to get into social networking and it is a mark of the company’s global power and ubiquity that the networking public did not refuse to have anything to do with the latest offering after three failures. Be that as it may, Google+ is thriving and has a huge number of members.
The service offers the usual ability to post photos and status updates and has multi-person messaging as well as facilities for text and video chat. Relationships can be defined and separated as Circles and lessons learned from other forms of social networking have led to the provision of cloud-based photo albums which can be public, private or a hybrid of the two.
But is it, really, a social networking platform? It certainly was when first announced but what it calls itself now is “a social layer across all of Google’s services” and this function of allowing access to the various and growing services the company offers is both an advantage and a drawback.
Many people only sign up because not doing so means that they can’t access a Google service that they want to use. It follows that the number of registered Google+ users (some three hundred million at the present time) is not a good guide to how many people actually use the service for social networking.
Researchers have measured the average amount of time a Google+ user spends on the site and it is known to be very small in comparison with time spent on – for example – Facebook. Nielsen came to the conclusion that it was less a Facebook competitor than a means of gathering information about Google services.
Nevertheless, it’s there and any social network developer wanting to give members the maximum possible exposure should use it. The Blendapps interface provides an excellent way to do this.