If what I am about to discuss is news to you, it's OK, you have a good excuse. Whether it's the debt-limit debate, continued economic conditions further eroding balance sheets, or that pesky roll out of Dodd-Frank, bankers have a lot on their plates and haven't had this much fun since the S&L crisis. Or at least since the Fall of 2008 with Tarp. And it's earning season on top of that.
Being in banking is more challenging every day, but let me add one more thing to keep you on your toes. Unless you are glued to daily tech news, or your bank is already fully involved in client based social media activity, you might have missed this little gem from the past week.
Google just launched a social sharing platform called Google+.
And it doesn't suck
And over 10 million people are already using it.
You may have heard of Google's previous attempts at de-throning Facebook. Or perhaps Buzz, Wave, and Orkut mean nothing to you. But what Google is doing here with Google+ appears to be more viable than previous efforts and it is something that your bank should pay attention to If your marketing and technology teams aren't at least aware of the Google+ beta, then maybe it's time to shake things up a bit. More on that in a minute.
The velocity of Google+ user growth is fascinating to watch. While ten, or even twenty million users on Google+ doesn't approach the 750 million Facebook users, or the 200 million on Twitter, this is the first time Google has launched a new service designed to disrupt the social paradigm that has had this much fanaticism. People are already posting pictures on their Facebook profile saying they made the move to Google+. While you can chalk some of this hype up to Facebook fatigue, there is some validity to the initial feedback because Google has really learned from their prior social efforts and integrated some interesting new features into Google+. I won't go into these here but there are plenty of sites that do. Google itself has a Google Doc that provides a pretty good overview.
Google+ offers several potentially interesting ways to leverage and organize a banker's (or brands, for that matter) contacts into Circles, which ingeniously addresses the security around sending private messages (a little too late for certain members in Congress). You can hold meetings, provide customer service, or even deliver group presentations through Hangouts (something that really caught Facebook flat-footed as they hastily rolled out their video chat feature) Using Huddle could replace your newsletter, or even your marketing email platform one day. Sparks might tempt you away from Twitter (though that might be a stretch).
And this is just the beginning. Gmail was in beta for years, and unlike Facebook, many of us can't live without it. The developer community seems to already be very active in making Google+ even better. And while I was skeptical at first, even tweeting that the initial buzz would be short-lived, being on Google+ for a week has me seeing the potential.
You'll notice that I am not calling Google+ a social network, which is very telling. Neither does Google, which calls Google+ a sharing platform. I see it as an interesting cross between Twitter and LinkedIn, where it can provide a personalized feed of user-chosen content from your Circles. This isn't like Facebook where people are less prone to connect professionally and where brands are less welcome. But like Facebook, the interface will immediately feel familiar. As Google develops a strategy to monetize Google+ and allow business profiles to be set up, they have really initiated an interesting experiment which demands to be watched
Why should you care, you might be asking yourself. For the majority of financial institutions that have been slow to leverage social channels, the launch of Google+ continues the trend of social technologies omnipresence in our daily activity, and an integral part of our shared experience. This train has not only left the station, it's about to leave your brand behind. Time to get in the game, demand your internal teams open up these social networks to a larger internal audience to start speaking with your customers and prospects.
When you get your invite to join the Google+ beta, just remember, this might just be the only social "network" your bank isn't blocking access to. After all, which IT group is going to block access to Google?