Google+ may miss the big opportunity: spanning internal and external social networks


I was delighted to get an invite to Google+. Then amazed when I was told I can’t use Google+ because we use Google Apps.

It seems that Google is expecting to make Google+ available to Google Apps users “in a few months” with some .edu users possibly trialling it sooner. As many others have expressed, it is very frustrating to be delayed several months into the hottest new social space because we are more dedicated Google users than others.

Andy Pattinson kindly pointed me to the following video and form for ‘entities’ (companies, brands etc.) to apply for a Google+ profile.

This is fair enough, but it is coming from exactly the same mindset as Facebook. Individuals build social networks around their Profiles, and companies, brands, media etc. build Pages (in Facebook) in which there are slightly different parameters on how you communicate with their network.

The big question now is how Google+ will be implemented in Google Apps. It appears that the implicit view is that if you have a Google Apps account, you are an enterprise, and everyone with an email account in that Apps account is primarily an employee of that organization.

So does that mean that Google+ will be implemented differently in Google Apps, so that it is designed as an enterprise social network? The way Google Apps currently functions suggests that will be the case.

In this case, how will individuals whose primary personal and work emails are the same use Google+?

Over the last 5 years and more that companies have been attempting to build internal social networks, one of the key challenges was staff wondering why they should maintain a company social presence when they already have one they invest their energy in, often on Facebook. In most cases using Facebook for company social networks doesn’t work well, not least for confidentiality issues. The way people approach Facebook also doesn’t usually align with work practices.

The introduction of Google+ provides a fantastic opportunity for a social network that allows people to have a single profile for enterprise and social purposes, but which is implemented differently across those two spheres. Instead of having distinct networks, a single profile can have two different views, from work and from social connections.

The enterprise social network can be secure, built around documents and workflow, enable effective sharing, and facilitate finding and working with people across the organization. The social network can have the characteristics we know of facilitating personal connection.

Some of your colleagues will also be in your social network. But you choose them. It is not as if you are merging your personal and work social networks, as happens when you invite colleagues into Facebook. The two domains can overlap to the degree you choose.

This is a massive opportunity for Google. Facebook, for many reasons, is not well positioned to move into enterprise social networks, and probably doesn’t want to. LinkedIn is not positioned to move into social networks.

Yet at this point, there are no signs that Google understands this. It looks like they may implement Google+ within Google Apps solely as an enterprise social network.

That would be a great pity. I hope they get this right.

  • Luis Alberola

    Interesting thoughts Ross. I think we are still just beginning to understand what virtual profiles are and how they should relate to our professional and personal lives. At the same time, frontiers between these two are blurring (or at least changing in their nature).

    It seems indeed that Google is getting ready to launch a “professional social network”. I agree with you that they should not try to meet corporate demand (which obviously entails managing frontiers, security, confidentiality, …, and all this from a classic control and command mindset), but instead pursue social innovation (which, by the way, Google+ is).

    Let’s hope to be surprised

  • Yejianqiang3001