Friday, June 24, 2011

Google’s Social Network Already Here?

GoogleLogoOkay, so we all have still be waiting for Google to pop up and let us know about its new Social Media plans.  Well, what if it is already here in front of our faces, and we are don’t even realize it?  We are looking for something like a Facebook, MySpace, or even Orkut.  But why would Google, a master of search and email, want to take on Facebook in something that may not be the standard for any foreseeable future?  They don’t!

Let’s take a look at Google’s current strengths.

Google has Android.  This is THE major key for Google in social media.  It has direct ties to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Voice, Contacts, Profiles, YouTube, Picasa, Google Maps (which includes Places and Latitude), and Google Buzz.  This is all out of the box, built right into the one single device that we all are using…OUR cell phone!  Google is constantly updating it, and integrating new features into Android that tie directly into a Google Product.  We find this not only the phones, but on a variety of 7 inch to 10.1 inch Tablets.  How much more social do we need to be when we have these devices in our hands?

By hitting on Android first, we basically rolled everything into one here.  However, lets just go on and look at a couple major applications here that really pushes Google’s social networking game plan not only within Android, but on your laptop/desktop browser.

Gmail

Gmail is Google’s email application.  It has quickly surpassed many other web email offerings in a very short time frame.  It is fast, reliable and supports IMAP functionality.  Google doesn’t mind if you use their email services in a browser, OR in a desktop client such as Outlook or Thunderbird.  They just want you to use it.  The real kicker though is do you know what all Gmail in your browser can do for you?

First, right within Gmail, you have access to your email.  All of which is threaded for easy reading and viewable conversation flow.  You then have access to your contacts.  This is actually very impressive as this is the same exact contact list that you will find on your Android powered device.  You can edit in your browser with a comfortable keyboard, and have it reflected on your mobile device or tablet within seconds, if not instantly.

After that, you have Google Talk built right in.  This is a great way to communicate with friends and family.  Interestingly, this sounds a little like a certain chatting option on a certain book of faces.  On top of that, it has Google Voice and Video Chat integrated directly in.  Shame that the stand alone Google Talk app on the desktop doesn’t have this, but the Google Talk app on Honeycomb does!

Google Buzz is also tied into Gmail!  This was Google’s first attempt at a social feed for friends, but it didn’t catch on complete, but there are a handful of people out there that use it, and have it tied into their Twitter accounts.  Buzz promotes your activity to friends such as random posts, similar to wall posts, to Google Latitude updates.

These are three major social applications that Google has right there within Gmail!  Also the same three applications readily available within your Android powered phone!

Google Maps

Google Maps has quickly become that one web application that has surpassed all of the mainstays of the 90’s and early 00’s.  MapQuest used to be the go to site for anyone looking for Map information.  Now it seems to be Google Maps, thanks to its street view, and Latitude features.  What makes Google Maps a great social tool that Google is utilizing without you realizing it?  Latitude, that is how.  Latitude is a check in service much in the vein of FourSquare and Facebook Places.  You can check in, rate, and review a location.  You unfortunately can not “add” to Google Places, but you can be seen on a map at a particular location without checking in, as long as you allow your friends to view you on a map.  Google Buzz is also integrated into Google Maps on your Android phone by showing Geo-located posts in your area.

Google Talk

As discussed with Gmail, Google Talk is also a stand alone application on your desktop, and on your Android device.  This is, in many ways, Google’s answer to the BlackBerry IM application.  However, it has that advantage that it is accessible not only from your phone, but your tablet, desktop, laptop, or a browser.  It is also cross platform when you use it via a supported browser, such as Chrome or Firefox.  Since it is an open standard format, you can also access Google Talk in third party IM clients, such as Trillian and Pigeon (Linux).

Multimedia

When it comes to sharing Videos, people usually instantly think of YouTube.  When it comes to sharing photos, we generally think about MMS, email, or Facebook.  However, Google owns Picasa.  Picasa is a great site for creating photo albums, and sharing them amongst friends.  Every time you upload a new photo, your Buzz account instantly notifies your friends and family, just like Facebook.  You can set it not to, or set it so certain albums don’t share that information.  Picasa also has a powerful desktop client that allows you to easily sync folders between devices so that you don’t have to worry about downloading photos from your mobile device to your laptop and desktop each time.

Blogs

Even though more people seem to be on social networks, we still blog.  We have our favorite blogging platforms, and then find ways to incorporate them into our social profile with add on apps, or create a Facebook “page”.  Well, Google just uses Blogger.  They finally released the Blogger app a few months ago, and since then it has turned into quite the app.  It is on par with Automattic’s WordPress app.  Like all of the services mentioned here, it is tied into your Buzz account, and it is tied into “+1”.  You can also use your Picasa account to house any images you use for your blog, which makes it easy to pull them up at any time, and keep them for future use.

How does it all get tied into one?

How about “+1”?  Google has released their version of “Like” in the form of “+1”.  It hasn’t been integrated with Android just yet, but give it time, and I am sure Google will release it as an installable app.  “+1” isn’t available in mobile searches either, which would really help push this app for Google.

What about a profile?

Fear not those that love profiles, Google has you covered.  Everyone that has a Google account has a profile.  Amusingly, no one probably realizes it.  It is similar to Yahoo Profiles back in the day when you got yourself that Yahoo IM account.  You didn’t realize you had that profile to fill out so that would be friends had some immediate information to fall back on.  Well, same philosophy is on display here.  Your profile is just like your Facebook profile, with images on display, your “+1’s” on display, your basic information, and more.  Go on and check out your Google Profile!

Marketing

Google seems to be failing when it comes to Marketing.  They rest on their laurels.  We all know Google when it comes to searches.  However, would you be surprised if I told you that there are people out there that don’t realize that Gmail is “Google Mail”?  It is true.  I have met individuals that didn’t actually realize that, even after using the service for a few months.  Even more so, more people don’t realize that Google owns Android.  It doesn’t help when companies like LG (the Revolution) and Samsung (the Fascinate) remove nearly all Google apps and replace them with Bing apps.

If Google would spend a small amount of money (maybe a few hundred million dollars) to advertise to the world their Android OS, and the fact they have all of these amazing services, people would be more akin to “simplify” their lives and focus more on using what was already on their phone.  This sounds plausible mostly due to the fact that Android phones are quickly finding their ways in to a LOT of peoples hands.  Google has the opportunity to cash in on this and is doing so slowly, and quietly, where as Facebook is doing so quickly and loudly.

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