Google+ The New Enterprise Social Network?

by Charlene Li and Chris Silva

Google announced Google+ for Enterprises today with Hangouts integration into Docs and Calendar as well as administrative controls such as default posting to only within the company. We’ve been doing some research on the topic of enterprise social networks and, with Google moving into this market, have some thoughts around why this is a bigger deal than just another Google feature announcement.

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Google In The Office, Image Courtesy Of A Prescient Post On Using G+ At Work By Digital Telepathy


Google has a few things going for it that the pure plays like Yammer and Socialcast in this market don’t have and that tools like Microsoft’s Sharepoint have not yet built out:

  • Google Plus wins on affinity. Google has been steadily building it’s devoted network of over 5,000,000 enterprises that initially looked to the search provider for email support based on cost, and stayed due to apps and integration. Many have seen additional cost savings given the ability to move away from costly office suites as Google offers a parity of experience for simple document editing and sharing, with additional features such as support for mobile environments and better collaboration tools. Adding Google+ with tight integration just sweetens the pot. If social networks are a communication and community buy and not a technology buy, the affinity power of the Google stack of apps and services is a formidable foe for pure plays like VMWare’s Socialcast tool but less so for tools that integrate with larger systems such as Salesforce’s Chatter. It’s worth noting that, as of the announcement, Google was mum on what integrations with other, third-party enterprise apps would take place to allow Google+ to feed other stores of information. their ultimate decision on this advanced level of integration could determine long term success against tools like Chatter and, to a lesser degree Microsoft’s Sharepoint.
  • Google lowers the enterprise social barrier to entry. Many businesses will be tempted to try social networking inside of the org for the first time since the product comes at no additional cost. Some may migrate from their existing third party tools like Yammer or Socialcast to Google+ given that it works with a wider swath of tools that competitive offerings when considering integration with Google Apps. There’s a downside to this Googlification of the enterprise, however. Many users will have an existing personal Google identity they’ll need to reconcile Google+ to, though support for switching is possible across multiple accounts on most Google services of late. A more pressing problem is that someone could have TWO activity streams on Google+, which would be confusing at best, downright creepy at worst. This concern may not be too much of a hurdle given the overall challenge it’s been to get consumers to embrace the network, but it is a problem that other social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn have figured out because they are not tied to a specific email address but to a person.
  • Google has figured out how to make its tools intriguing. Elements like Google+ Hangouts were the stand outs at the time of the original Google+ launch, but relegated to the walled garden of the Google network. The company has smartly started to expand potential use of the tools outside of simple social contexts by adding Hangouts to Google Mail, recently Google Docs and what believe is the killer feature, Google Calendar. Companies that don’t yet “get” social are likely to see the addition of Hangouts as a collaborative tool with a great audit trail. And the social interaction — as well as the inter-team communication that it fosters — will be an organic side benefit. That said, Skype is a solid asset in the Microsoft arsenal with no small user base – wel over 400 million at last count – and making similar integration with existing office tools should be a minor addition for Redmond; having said that, it hasn’t taken place yet, which boggles the mind looking at a company so focused on the idea of collaboration.

Will Google+ for enterprises save the oft-maligned network? We think that a better way to think of this is what Google+ for enterprise reveals about Google’s intentions for its social efforts. Google+ doesn’t seek to be the biggest social network or the one where people spend the most time. Instead, Google+ seeks to be the most embedded social feature in the lives of its loyalist users so that they will never want to leave Google.

Look at Facebook’s biggest problems — it needs to constantly innovate and offer new features to fight off upstarts and retain its users. LinkedIn struggles to get people to even come to their site for more than a few minutes a month. Google+ isn’t a destination — it’s a ubiquitous presence that’s always there and now all the more so if  you’re a Google Apps user. This is about social being where you need and want it to be — it’s social being like air.

Do you think Google+ for Enterprise will make a difference against competitors? Do you agree that it makes Google+ more relevant — or will it have little impact? We’d love to you know your thoughts so please share with us!

  • http://twitter.com/br_eezy Bri B

    I think this is a great example of Google solidifying its place in the space of social media for business. Many people have criticized Google for their molasses-in-January speed with G+, but I believe they are responding to a tectonic shift that is happening in SM today. Facebook started for college kids…it will always struggle to be greater than the sum of its vacation and baby picture parts. The platform has grown with its community in mind and has not always seen great wins while launching “new features” (read: advertising opportunities). Google has taken a very measured approach in deciding where G+ fits into the landscape of today’s SM and this is a step in the right direction. B2B marketers sometimes struggle with where FB fits in their portfolio of channels. Of late, the answer for me most frequently is that it doesn’t, which means there is a void. As G+ becomes more pervasive, the user numbers will grow and lowering the barrier to entry for hundreds of thousands of businesspeople is a great start to adding numbers to their user base. Google is moving in the right direction with these features and I think we will see many more innovations for Enterprise to come from our favorite little search engine that’s taking over the world.

  • Tommy Boby

    I think if Facebook were to roll out a private enterprise network like the ones mentioned here… it would be all over.
    As much as we would like to tout Google+ as being such a relevant natured product and company, it sees to primarily cater to men, whereas Facebook is more about women, respectively.

  • Stefan Lubinski

    Well written post. I think one of the questions is: What is the size of the enterprise social market compared to other revenue streams for Google? Google+ has yet to find it’s footing (yet) in my opinion, despite the quotes of 100M users (more like Gmail users). I would keep my focus on attracting the consumers to Google+ to make it the viable alternative to facebook that it deserves to be. Then worry about the smaller enterprise segment. Then again, what do I know?

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  • Joe Rettenmyer

    This has very little to do with ‘social’. It has to do with collaboration and when you look at this from a monetization perspective – business pay for productivity, no one pays to chit chat and Google understands that. Google is after a piece of the MSFT pie not FB.

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  • http://twitter.com/jordanfoutz Jordan Foutz

    Suspiciously absent from this post and blog are the ability to share on Google+. The long and short of it is that businesses want eyeballs, and to be heard, but Google+ doesn’t give them a shot at either of those things. Engagement is paltry on G+ and that’s why businesses are slow to adopt. This impacts enterprise and mom and pop shops the same. I flinch while I say it, but I’m anxious for G+ to go the way of Google Buzz.

  • Nobilangelo Ceramalus

    Having said all that (and well said), where’s your G+1 button!!??

  • Eunice Coughlin

    What’s ironic about this post is that there’s no button to share on Google+. :-/

  • http://twitter.com/DouglasEBlake Douglas Blake

    The key with Google+ is integration with zero learning curve. Time is money and a rollout in one fell swoop and users hitting the ground running is essential. One thing required though is security and encryption with docs and calendar.

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  • Randy Hilarski

    I spend about 8 hours a day signed into Google Plus. The community is amazing. Being able to join hangouts and share knowledge is amazing. The future looks bright for the network.

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  • http://twitter.com/JohnAkwei John Akwei ECMp ERMp

    Here is my advice on using Google+ for an Enterprise Social Network: http://johnakwei1.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/configuring-a-google-private-community-as-a-esn/

  • TeamImm Converted

    the competition between facebook and google +…will always be tough…even though experienced still google + will have to compete with
    whale …”facebook”