Is Google+ the Jan to Facebook’s Marcia?

Last week, Google+ announced changes 91-107 for the platform many of which are strong indicators of a site that is listening to its users and thinking thoughtfully about use cases. Unfortunately for a fledgling social media site, the very next day at f8, Facebook shared its latest and greatest rollouts with developers and the public.

Amid Andy Sandberg appearances, Spotify integration, and a sweeping UI change called Timeline (all of which are well recapped by my colleague, John Stauffer, in his post), it was tough for Google+’s more functional changes to stand out in conversation.

In fact, if you look at online conversation about the two, Facebook conversation eclipses Google+ conversation ten to one the last two weeks.

Volume of Social Media Conversation about Facebook and Google+ from 9/14/11-9/28/11

Volume of Social Media Conversation about Facebook and Google+ from 9/14/11-9/28/11

So if fewer people are talking about Google+ does that mean you don’t need to pay attention to some of the modifications? Absolutely not.

Here are the top reasons why Google+ is staying relevant and valuable:

  • Search is here! Google+ integrating search is what gives Google+ the greatest potential beyond a built in user base of those with Google accounts. Facebook search is insular and unhelpful, but Google+ search lets me search private content visible to me, public content of other users, and the entire web. I can think of no greater value add or differentiator. It’s also in stark contrast to changes occurring on Facebook where more and more content (like the integration of Spotify) is being added to your feed and it becoming increasingly challenging to find the content you’re interested in.
  • Google Hangouts are better and more useful for individuals and brands (once brand pages are out of the testing phase) than ever before. I’ve already told you why Hangouts are transforming video chat, but here’s why they’re better:
    • Screensharing lets you share your desktop with a group online making Hangouts a great tool for business and a competitor to services like Citrix and GoToMeeting.
    • Hangouts on Air let you stream your Hangout to a wider audience allowing you to broadcast your content beyond 10 people.
    • Named Hangouts let you search for Hangouts by topic extending the potential of the “spark” into the video space and helping individuals and organizations build their brands or connect with highly targeted or themed audiences.
  • Mobile features are enhanced and more intuitive. SMS support has been improved and you can + someone from your mobile device (a feature still sorely lacking on Facebook mobile). “Huddles” have been renamed “Messenger” which makes sense for what they’re meant to be.
  • It’s now open to the public. While inevitable, the fact that this led to a 1200% growth in traffic in one week and positions the 3-month old platform to take over LinkedIn and MySpace in short order is promising showing that early adopters aren’t the only ones curious about what’s happening in that space.
  • Finally, it’s walking the social walk. Google+ is collecting your feedback, addressing your issues, directly responding to them, and using social channels to promote those changes. What’s more social than that?

To call Google+ “the Facebook killer” is still an overstatement, but three months after launch, the team is working hard at making the site more helpful, more useful, and more responsive to the base there today. I see continued opportunities for brands and individuals for two reasons: the public already has a relationship/account with Google and the Google+ team is eager to make the site work for its users (a mentality that doesn’t always exist with new ventures).

So three months out – what do you think? Is Google+ stuck in the shadows of its more popular sister? Do brands that react, respond, and optimize based on customer requests develop larger user bases to reward them for that?