Google + offers new challenges, opportunities for marketers

Google + is more than just a new social network and a chink in Facebook’s armor—it’s a critical piece of the Google puzzle. Google won’t stop until it gets it right, and when that happens, I think we’ll see a significant shift in our digital universe, which will have a defining impact on the landscape for marketers, brands, start-ups, consumers and the creative services industry.

Basically, we’re not just talking about a new social network. We are looking at the Googleverse becoming real. If G+ gets significant critical mass, Google’s large suite of products could come together, in unison, to power our whole digital life, 24/7.

On a product level, G+ is good. Even as a beta product, it won fans immediately after its launch. To start with, G+ is easy to use, which is the first essential step in creating value. I find it simple to use the features, find things and change settings. G+ provides me with the ability to manage my life according to the tribes that I associate with via circles, providing a nice balance between sharing publicly and privately with close groups. This is turbo-charged with video chat rooms G+ calls “hangouts.” Dell is already talking about using this feature for customer service.

I can also subscribe to streams of “interest.” I’ve tested this feature on several areas that interest me personally and professionally, and have already found the information useful. G+ may begin eat into the time people spend on Twitter and Facebook, though I believe integration with other social media would be a better option.

I haven’t heard much about the G+ feedback feature, but it’s impressive. On the bottom right of the page there is a “Feedback” box. It’s the most sophisticated feedback system I’ve seen, making it very easy for users to offer specific suggestions, identify bugs, or recommend new features. Google seems to be very serious about rapidly iterating and building a product that users value.

However, the bigger picture Google is aiming for is a total Google universe. Think of all the disparate Google tools and services available: Gmail, search, Blogger, Picasa photos, YouTube, +1, Calendar, Maps, Docs, Reader, Analytics, Trends, Insights, Groups, Books, Alerts, Voice, Google TV, and its extensive AdSense network are all going to be threaded together through G+.

Now add in the Chrome browser and Android. When developers start to connect all the dots, living between any of your hardware devices and the applications and services you use will be truly seamless—you won’t even need to think about changing applications, as you would be plugged into one digital life.

And with the creativity of developers and a growing ecosystem, we haven’t even scratched the surface of how consumers and brands can find value. As this ecosystem develops, Google’s revenue from search will grow even more, and will be complemented with revenues from ecommerce, display, digital outdoor, and the application ecosystem.

Right now, marketers need to watch the G+ space very closely. If continues to gain traction and the product grows quickly, marketers and brand managers need to figure out where, when and how to play. They will need to plan ahead and understand the new landscape. They will need to plan on how to operate in the G+ environment and its ecosystem.

The best agencies will be the ones that can help clients navigate this technically woven universe. It’s going to take more “smarts” to figure out how to manage clients’ budgets across a mix of creative, technical, social, search, content, and traditional media, as well as product development, biz model innovation, and partner networks. Campaigns as we know them will fade compared to persistent ‘brand baked’ digital investments.

This is all pretty amazing stuff, but it’s still early for G+. Is it enough to be a real contender?

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