In case you're keeping score -- and I kind of hope you aren't -- this is the fourth Social Media Insider column in a row about Google+. My partner-in-crime, David Berkowitz, has written two so far, which you can read here and here. And this, dear oversaturated reader, is my second.
So why aren't we done? Frankly, it's because in the three or so years I've been writing this column, I haven't seen this level of excitement in the marketplace about a new social network. And, even without saying a single thing more, that's important. The trajectory of buzz is usually much, much shorter; we've seen interest in social and technological innovation over the last few years rise and fall in a matter of days, sometimes even hours.
Minor though it may be, I specifically remember ne day when everyone, from Robert Scoble on down, was all tied up in their underwear about some big innovations at Friendfeed. Friendfeed? The last time it made any noise was when it was gobbled up by Facebook -- mostly, I think, so Facebook could hire the guy who runs it. (Yes, in case you're wondering, it still exists.)
But the same goes for other properties, such as Path -- which emphasizes small social networks of people you actually know -- or Rockmelt, the so-called social browser. I could probably mention dozens of others here. I'm not saying that things like Path or Rockmelt won't have ongoing businesses -- but, if all you're looking at is buzz, there's no comparison between these and the kind of buzz Google+ is getting.
And that includes other attempts at Google social nets. When Google created Google Buzz, I remember spending a few days playing with it, as many of us did. But two things happened. One, many of us got creeped out by the fact that Google had gone right ahead and started to create social nets for us, based on the data it already had from each user's Gmail account (it almost immediately went back on that decision); two, its raison d'etre wasn't clear, unless it was to give Google a foothold in social media. Not exactly a user-friendly proposition. Despite millions upon millions of Gmail users who have one-click access to the service, the buzz about Buzz quickly died down. I haven't visited it in months.
But this is different, even if one reason it's garnered so much interest is its you-have-to-be-invited exclusivity. Right now, it's the Studio 54 of social networking. I spent a lot of time I frankly don't have this week trying to bust down the door, which required a combination of nagging people who had invites (thanks, Ross!), and persistence. Despite claims yesterday and today that the door was open to anyone with a Google account, signing up -- which I finally managed a few hours ago - seemed all a matter of timing.
That said -- and what a dumb human I am for being so obsessed with this! -- the buzz doesn't seem to be just about the fact that Google+ is where all the cool kids are hanging out. I've barely had time to fool around with it, so what I think at this point doesn't really matter, though I immediately liked that the default was to group friends into Circles. That's just a more real worldview of how relationships work.
So, without having done as much experimenting as people way more groovy than I have, here's what I'm impressed by: the enthusiasm of those who are actually using it. Yes, there are naysayers, but if you want to get a feel for how the buzz around Google+ is different, check out Berkowitz' column from yesterday, which includes critiques from 16 people. It's obvious that Google+ has the ability to meet unmet social needs.
Barbara Walters supposedly once said, "It's Mark Zuckerberg's world, and we're just living in it." If this keeps up, that may no longer be true.
(Editor's Note: the agenda for the upcoming Social Media Insider Summit next month in Lake Tahoe is available here. Join us.)