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Why police forces should not move to Google+

Google plus was launched in a ‘restricted beta’ form recently, and there has been lots of interest in how the search engine giant has approached social media. Google’s track record in coming up with something to compete with Facebook and Twitter has not been untroubled – Google Wave is no more (despite being a brilliant concept, it was too complex for people to grasp easily) and Google Buzz is a forgotten backwater in social media terms. So why do I think that forces should not engage with Google+?

1. Too early – despite high demand for invites (which have been limited by Google) it is too early to say what the takeup will be on Google+. The technology is very slick (Two standouts for me are the ability to separate personal and professional posts via the use of G+ Circles, and the fantastic feedback/bug reporting tool, which you really must try), but slick technology will only work if people are using it. It is too early to say if people will abandon Twitter or Facebook for G+, or use it alongside existing social media platforms.

2. Not ready for business – Google themselves say that the beta site is not yet ready for business, and whilst some are already using personal profiles to build a business presence, I think that there may be some extra business features that are planned that will be worth waiting for. Remember that this will be the first serious social media platform that has been developed from the ground up since businesses started getting serious about social media. Facebook and Twitter have developed from essentially personal tools – and it shows.

3. Clarity – Google+ looks like another social media platform, and in many ways it is. What is interesting to me is the strengths that Google bring to this field, which others lack.

* Integration – Google own YouTube (which incidentally is the world’s second largest search engine…after Google), the online photo site Picasa, the blogging site Blogger and many more tools, which are either leading the field or second/third level contenders. They have an integrated calendar, one of the leading mobile smart phone operating systems (Android), and have launched their own PC operating System (Chrome) alongside Chrome Browser. Each of these is or will be integrated into G+ in many different ways. I imagine that these integrations will adapt over time in response to customer demand. Until detail of how integration will work in practice is made clear I think it makes sense to hold fire on a move into G+. Crucially for those already using non Google services like Flick’r and WordPress, or other browsers and smartphones how non-Google services are integrated into G+ may also change. Google likes to own everything in a process, and forces wishing to move may find that they need to migrate existing platforms to Google platforms to get the best out of G+.

* Search – Google own the world of search, and already have pretty good search links with Twitter (although much less with Facebook). The rise of social media is in some ways a threat to the traditional search engines, which rely on static websites and incoming links to identify high quality content. Social media updates – often ephemeral and short – are harder for search engines to rank, and most rely on some form of user ‘thumbs up’ to rank good content (likes, re-tweets, follows etc). G+ is heavily integrated with Google’s +1 button which you will see increasingly on many websites. This has the benefit for Google of increasing their search effectiveness by taking account of this user input, but exactly how this will affect existing website search results is hard to say at this stage.

* Privacy – Google’s record is reasonable here, but they make profit from selling user information to advertisers, and are far better at this that either of the two leading social media networks. Whilst I am taken with the possibilities of having a single account that allows me to share personal and professional updates with different circles, I am cautious about how this information may be used by Google. Currently I use Facebook mainly for personal and Twitter for professional information, with a second Twitter account for specific interests. Many others have multiple accounts on Facebook for the same reasons.

4. History – the tech world is littered with examples of superior technology that came along too late (Mini Disc which failed to compete with emerging MP3 players) or was allied with the wrong partners (Betamax, which failed to get the content in the VCR market). Public opinion can be surprisingly hard to predict (look back at early coverage of the Nintendo Wii for examples of people dismissing this console as simple, low powered, and having a silly name). There is little early adopter benefit to getting on board with G+ yet, so history would teach us to wait, to be patient and see what happens over the next few months.

5. Still learning – police forces in the main are only just coming to grips with Twitter and / or Facebook. One or two have ventured further afield and looked at blogs, Flick’r and YouTube. Adding another possible platform into the mix, before the benefits are clear, is just not sensible at this stage

Of course you may well be curious about G+. If so go and have a play (you may still need an invite, but there are plenty of people with them – ask me if you are desperate!). This post from the Marketing Professor gives 40 tips for newcomers, just to get you started. (Hat tip to Stuart Davis for this link)

 

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