Is it Time to Add Google+ to Social CRM Tools?

Drew Robb

Updated · Jul 22, 2011

Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) might has been clearly demonstrated recently, with its Google+ social network closing in on 20 million users sharing more than a billion items a day in the first few weeks of operation. The fact that the service remains invitation-only and is still in a test phase further emphasizes that Google cannot be ignored in the social media space.

“Google was almost anti-social before,” said Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg. “The company has been very much behind in social media, but has shown they can create a compelling environment that will most likely give Facebook a run for its money.”

He called the company's previous efforts via Buzz a disaster. Tied in to Gmail, it was almost universally reviled. But by taking its time, learning from its mistakes and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the competition, Google+ has emerged as a power to be reckoned with, said Gartenberg.

Recruiters love Google+ Circles

One big failing identified in Facebook, for example, is the ability to easily separate friends into different circles. Most users end up posting everything to everyone — political, sporting and religious postings going to all friends rather than the smaller subsets to which the message applies. Google+ Circles is an attempt to address this.

Online recruiters are already singing its praises as a way to find candidates. They see it as enabling rapid search of profiles, as well as organizing them into relevant Circles. As Google+ indexes the entire profile, keyword searches can be fruitful.

By tying this new service into the many existing well-subscribed Google tools and apps, Google+ could see a meteoric rise, especially once Google starts actively marketing the service.

“If users are already using Google for something, the hooks already exist to tie in to Google+,” said Gartenberg.

So can Google+ topple the giant?

“Things change quickly in the social space, and remember that MySpace ruled not so long ago,” said Gartenberg. “This is a big opportunity for Google if it executes.”

Coming soon: Google+ monitoring and analytics

Gartenberg expects vendors to begin adding Google+ to their social media monitoring, social CRM and social analytics tools. He said to watch out for a flurry of announcements as companies vie to be first to market.

CRM analyst Paul Greenberg concurs.

“Because it's early on, the conversations may be raw and a little less focused than in a more established social network, but ultimately who cares?” said Greenberg. “If it's a significant source of discussion/conversation concerning a brand or products or trends, then it needs to be covered by the tools.”

Exactly how it will be tracked, though, remains to be seen. Greenberg said part of it depends on what Google+ allows beyond the firewall. The company may choose to retain that data internally, only make it available to certain sources or preferred partners, or release it broadly. Time will tell.

“I expect it to be tracked like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn this year, though on a smaller scale than the other three,” said Greenberg.

Sage is one of the many companies paying close attention to the Google+ phenomenon.

“It's clear they have been testing this product internally for quite some time and have also learned from their previous social efforts such as Buzz and Orkut,” said Greg Tirico, senior social media manager for Sage North America. “As a field test product, this is more than an excellent start for Google.”

What he likes, in particular, is the user interface. He calls it clean, simple and easy to understand. He's also a fan of the Circles feature. He's uncertain, though, about how it will fit into the grand scheme of monitoring and analytics.

“Until a proper API is released, I would be cautious about the monitoring and tracking that is being done,” said Tirico. “Without an API, we are limited to screen scraping and other less than exact methods for collecting data.”

He pointed out that is already doing a good job of tracking growth and demographics for early adopters. That site is running an opt-in program, but the data seems to be able to be used reliably as a proxy for overall Google+ use. The site accurately predicted the 10 million user mark, for instance, before Google formally announced it during their most recent earnings call.

Tracking, though, will be limited until an API is forthcoming. In the meantime, it is only possible to track sentiment about Google+ and thoughts around the use of the tool using a standard analytics package.

“I suspect that Google+ business accounts will need tracking information,” said Tirico. “Google has recently accelerated the application process for business accounts, so tracking (or an API) are probably not far off. If Google+ is not being properly tracked through an API in less than one year, I will be very surprised.”

As for overall market evolution, he believes there is enough room for Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to grow together. As they grow, more defined roles will become clear for each of the networks.

“Google does not have to kill an existing social network in order to grow share and reach critical mass,” said Tirico. “Facebook could perhaps be limited to personal relationships, Twitter for news and signals, and Google+ for heavier reading and research.”

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  • Drew Robb
    Drew Robb

    Drew Robb is a writer who has been writing about IT, engineering, and other topics. Originating from Scotland, he currently resides in Florida. Highly skilled in rapid prototyping innovative and reliable systems. He has been an editor and professional writer full-time for more than 20 years. He works as a freelancer at Enterprise Apps Today, CIO Insight and other IT publications. He is also an editor-in chief of an international engineering journal. He enjoys solving data problems and learning abstractions that will allow for better infrastructure.

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