Google Plus and The Enterprise – What’s The Deal?

(I was hoping to be able to share this blog post while I was on vacation with my family in León, mainland Spain, but apparently lack of reliable (NOT!!) Internet connectivity, provided by Movistar, le sigh, prevented me not posting it sooner… More on that in an upcoming blog entry though, but for now regular blogging will resume, once again from today onwards… Welcome back!)

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the WinterAs most of you folks know already, over the next few days, I will be on holidays visiting my family in mainland Spain and while it’s supposed to be a time where I will be doing plenty of disconnecting and unwinding from the Social Web, as I get to do some serious catch up with real life, and with the little things that matter, I just can’t help dropping by on this blog every now and then, and over the next few days, and share with folks some further thoughts and insights that have been in my mind for a little while now. And lately, my mind has been buzzing with how my overall experience with the external Social Web has changed rather dramatically thanks to Google Plus. Over two months on it and I am still having a blast. This time around though for business, too!

Yes, that’s right! A few days back a couple of folks asked me to comment on where I would see Google Plus in the near future with regards to other Enterprise Social Networking tools and my initial thoughts have been, almost from the beginning, that the potential to become rather significant is already there. It will be a matter of whether Google manages to let it grow in the right direction with some further innovations taking place, but at the same time while respecting the overall user experience we are treasuring quite a bit, and which distinguishes itself from other social networking tools right from the start.

My good friend Andy McAfee put together a rather insightful blog post a couple of weeks back under the heading “Google Plus and The Social Media Moonshot“, where he reflected somewhat on that potential Plus has got already embedded into it as a “great boon for enterprises and small groups of collaborators“. And I couldn’t have agreed more with him on that statement. In a way, it reminded me, quite a bit, on the huge potential of Google Wave for that same audience, although it’s probably just too bad it didn’t deliver that time around. He also comes to share his experiences with it and how he finds out he spends more time sharing Public posts rather than through Circles, which is quite an interesting observation, even more when everyone is talking about how transformative the whole concept of Circles has been so far.

I am not going to spoil it much more for you folks on Andy’s additional thoughts on how it is working out for him, but I would encourage you all to go and have a look through it. It would be worth while the read, for sure! What I found interesting though is how we are both sharing a very similar behaviour on how we are working around Circles themselves. I, too, publish most of my posts to Public and just restrict some of them to specific Circles in a very defined context. That one of business related updates. Indeed, one of my favourite circles that I put together a little while ago is one for Customers, as more and more of them are starting to come along and join G+ and so far I have been enjoying the interactions quite a bit.

In the past you would remember the series of blog posts I have been putting together so far, where I have been hinting how Google Plus is surely shaping up the way I interact with the Social Web out there. Some of those insights were highlighting how G+ could be used in a business environment with both public, private updates, hangouts, huddles, instant messaging, etc. etc. and one of the things I am finding out in the last few days is how those interactions are starting to be rather focused on business interactions. It’s been a bit over two months since it was launched and I am already seeing on my Stream how a large chunk of the updates do no longer have anything to do with how this new kid in the block works here and there. The conversation has moved on and once we have past the initial learning curve the really good stuff is starting to happen.

For me, that’s interacting with customers, business partners, and fellow IBM colleagues, but at the same time keeping up with industry thought leaders in an open, trustworthy environment where more in-depth dialogue is not only encouraged, but facilitated nicely altogether. A good number of those conversations are happening out there in the open, indeed, but at the same time a whole bunch of other interactions are happening privately, in circles, or through direct messaging, which is when it really gets interesting. With other social networking tools it was rather cumbersome to be able to successfully engage with people in meaningful dialogue for whatever the restriction. Some times it was the 140 characters limitations, or the private nature of the SNS (For family and friends, like Facebook), or the aggressive terms of service from a variety of social tools where you no longer retain the copyright of what you share. Well, Google Plus fixes all of that and so much more!

I have been having business related conversations with a few customers, where we have been capable of exchanging long-ish conversations in a natural way, without being forced to be concise, just letting it develop and see how far it could take us or worry about who owns the content shared. And those exchanges have been absolutely wonderful! What social tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Posterous, and a few others, haven’t figured out for years Google Plus delivers from day one! And all of that without taking into account Hangouts, Huddles, Instant Messaging and the like that add further up another key aspect missing from the Social Web: real-time interactions! Not sure what you would think about it, but I am enjoying it so far big time!

It’s that specific scenario as well that’s helping me shape up how I interact with Circles. Like I have mentioned above, most of my posts are Public, i.e. published to the world, but the way I consume content in G+ is rather specific on its own. I spend most of the time in Circles. To me, they are all starting to become channels of insightful information and relevant content that I can reuse / reshare again, or that I can learn some more from, or that I can help others with. But with a different twist. While most folks are interested in the content itself, my Circles are all based on a people centric approach, where what matters to me are the people themselves and not so much the updates. That’s why I am enjoying both business and personal updates, even those of a rather trivial nature.

Plenty of people keep saying that social networking is all about personalising your experience, to make it your own, to find a purpose for it (Whether business or personally related), to connect with those social tools in a meaningful way and keep the dialogue going and somehow I feel how Google Plus is helping me achieve that. It’s helping me, and those I interact with, become a whole lot more personal with some of our updates. And that’s what I am enjoying the most at the moment, that I am interacting with people, people who bring forward their personalities, their affinities, their passions, their selves, without pretending to be someone else they aren’t. It’s that going personal that’s helping me become more personal myself in trying to keep cultivating and nurturing those personal business relationships, because, at the end of the day, I guess that’s what really matters, right?

That’s why, to me, Google Plus, has got that huge potential from an enterprise perspective. That’s why, as soon as Plus starts integrating the massive Google ecosystem behind it, we will be having quite an interesting effect on how we conduct business, specially, externally. Can you imagine when G+ is tightly integrated with Google Search? Mind-blowing is one of the many words that comes to mind!

Now, I am sure at this point in time you may be wondering whether that means I will be leaving behind business related social networking environments like our external instances IBM Connections, which are still my preferred method for doing business, right? Well, not really. I still see both of them walking together, hand in hand, getting the job done. What I am seeing though is how most of my business interactions have now moved on from social tools like Twitter or LinkedIn into Google Plus and somehow that’s something that I’m starting to like quite a bit, since, once again, I no longer have to worry about having to figure out technology. I just have got to focus on the conversations and get the job done, which is, in my opinion, what the Social Web should be about.

Forget the social technologies at play and focus on living social. Do Business.

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