The Google+ social networking project, at just over a month old, has grown faster than either Facebook or Twitter with over 25 million members. And unlike Google’s prior attempt at social networking with the Wave, the early reviews are generally positive.
So where does Google+ fit in for the business to business marketer? On first blush what intrigues me the most is what they call “Circles.” Circles is a feature that allows you to share information with a group that you define. Nobody knows what circles they are in so people can’t unsubscribe. It is a more subtle version of Facebook Groups and has a privacy aspect that I personally prefer and if handled correctly could be quite powerful.
But the real power in Google+ may simply come from the fact that it could allow for an easier integration of your work and personal lives on one platform. Whereas many of us think of Facebook for keeping up with friends and family and LinkedIn for work, Google+ has the technical flexibility and undefined brand position to be both. But can they attract the users fast enough? And will users stick with it? Only time will tell.
In 2002, I was totally dismayed when a senior partner at an AmLaw 100 firm dressed me down for recommending they spend their hard earned money on the World Wide Web. He described the Internet as a passing fancy for geeks. Fast forward to a week ago when once again I was in a major law firm and this time just got blank looks when I talked about the impact of social networking on business to business marketing. A highly talented lawyer, in his early 50s, said social networking was for high schoolers. (In all fairness I think this lawyer still has his secretary print out his emails for him to read).
So we have decided to start formally collecting the stories about how people have become connected in business through social networking whether it be general sites like Facebook or restricted networks for lawyers like Martindale Hubbell Connected. Stay tuned for what we learn.
Wow. Tech Crunch reports that Facebook has just crossed 300 million users worldwide. Besides being the biggest social network what’s more impressive is they are now cash flow positive. Despite the exponential growth, we still have some nay sayers wondering what long-term role Facebook has in business development.
We don’t have the crystal ball but expect the effectiveness of Facebook advertising to reach targeted groups to simply get stronger and stronger. And increasingly we hear stories about friends connecting with old friends leading to new opportunities. It is simply the modern version of those old high school reunions but they are occurring day in and day out. And you don’t have to shed a single pound before connecting!
Drawing the line between our professional and private lives has never been easy and social media just complicates matters. Should someone’s personal Facebook page be of concern to their employer? Does your firm or company need to be on LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook and Twitter? What kind of social networking policy should a company have? There are countless questions about what role social networking plays in company branding. As I write this, some company’s reputation is being impacted through one of the some 200 Tweets that happen every second at peak times.
So what is a company or law firm to do about social networking? For starters recognize that it needs to be part of your marketing and operations plan. According to a recent Deloitte study only 30% of companies have social networking as part of their business and operations strategy. Yet 74% of those same employees feel that social networking can damage a company’s reptuation. Companies and professional service firms need to sit down and really embrace social networking as a tool that is here to stay. The sooner they take this step, the sooner they will stop playing social networking roulette with their brand.
The 2008 LexisNexis® Technology Gap Survey is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the shifts in how white collar professionals of different ages view technology in the workplace. The web based survey included 700 legal and white collar professionals — Gen Y (workers under 28), Gen X (aged 29-43) and Boomers (aged 44 – 60). Some findings confirmed what we already know — 88% surveyed feel technology such as PDAs, laptops, etc. make us more productive. But the truly interesting reading is to see the gap of what each generation doesn’t use.
One particularly potent example is behavior around Social Networking sites. In a typical day, 86% of Baby Boomer never visit a social networking site such as Facebook. 61% of Gen Xs also never visit but only 38% of Gen Xs stay away from social networking sites. So when you look a the typical recruiting committees at law firms and the average age of the members, you can understand some of the hesitancy about moving away from the print brochure.
The complete survey can be found at www.lexisnexis.com/media/pdfs/LexisNexis-Technology-Gap-Survey-4-09.pdf.