When I was at SXSWi, I got to see Guy Kawasaki interview Google’s Vic Gundotra, who’s responsible for Google+ -- Google’s comprehensive new social layer that integrates all of Google’s disparate services. Kawasaki, who helped bring the Macintosh computer to market when he worked at (as it was called then) Apple Computer, said Google+ is as much of a game change as the first Mac was back in the day.
Kawasaki has channeled his enthusiasm for the service into his first new book since 1987: "What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us." In it, he seeks to convey his enthusiasm for Google+ -- but also all the ways in which both individuals and organizations can use it to make good things happen.
Before I get too far into my review, however, let me give you a little context, which comes straight from the horse’s (that is, Gundotra’s) mouth. I described Google+ as a social layer that is an overlay to all Google’s services, such as Gmail, YouTube and Search. Google has “some objectives for that layer,” according to Gundotra. “We want to become an engine not just for information, but for individuals. Before Google+, our notion of who you are was muddy. We want to remedy that. We want to build a common notion of who you are.”
The “big brother” aspect of this ambition has been troubling for many people and government regulators. Gundotra believes the issue folks are having is that their context for “social” is within a traditional “walled garden.”
“Google can be much better for you if we know even one bit of information about you -- for instance, if we know you are a vegetarian, when you search for a restaurant you’ll get vegetarian options in your neighborhood.”
He says 100 million people have come back to Google+ in the last month. And the chances are that these and tens of million more of the uninitiated won’t use the social layer to its fullest potential.
That‘s where Kawasaki’s new how-to book comes in. It serves as a primer, so if you’re already an advanced user, it may not offer too much in the way of fresh insight. For my part, I would say the book is a must-read, and delivers valuable information.
The chapter on optimizing for social search is one example. It’s information every search marketer should know. As Kawasaki writes: “Social search should bring a smile to the face of every marketer because this is one of the few comprehensible ways to influence search results: post stuff about a topic, and you’ll probably be included when your friends search for a topic. Social search means goodness for all: searchers get more relevant and valuable search results and ‘searchees’ know how to appear in those results.”
Another area where Kawasaki provides great illumination is about Hangouts, which is Google’s (free) answer to WebEx and GoToMeeting. Anyone can organize a Hangout for any reason for a little one-on-one face time, or to coordinate a group video conference.
At SXSWi, Kawasaki expressed wonder at why Google would provide what must be a hugely expensive service completely free of charge. Gundotra said: “Hangouts are expensive, but are free because we feel we can change the world through face-to-face interaction.” That’s a big deal. And that sort of thinking gets to the heart, I think, of why Kawasaki believes Google+ is such a transformational service.
Kawasaki always asserted that the Macintosh is the better computer, but wondered at its small market share. His conclusion? People just didn’t get it. My sense is that he believes Google+ is the superior social network, and the fact that people aren’t flocking to it the way they have to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn is because they similarly don’t get it. His book seeks to remedy that problem.
At 100 million returning visitors, Google probably isn’t too worried about irrelevance. The fate of the Mac certainly hasn’t harmed Apple over the long run. Google’s got the time and resources to keep investing in Google+ and win converts. After all, when you look at the billions of ways people interact with a Google-owned service each day, it’s only a matter of time before everyone on the planet touches and is touched in some way by Google+.