Social Media In Marketing – Is It Too Much To Ask For Peaceful Co-existance?


While I have no claims at all to be a social media expert – I am an avid user of social media, especially twitter, Facebook and my blogs on SCN and WordPress. All of this week, I have been on vacation in the island of Hawaii – and although I kept away from work email (ok, except checking email couple of times on day 1), I was on twitter and Facebook when time permitted with hardly any “guilty” feeling. Social media never felt like “work” to me so far – and that has now changed.

I was both pleasantly surprised, and also pretty dismayed by what I saw on social media this week.

First about the surprise – when we drove up to Hilton Waikoloa for starting the second part of vacation, I was told I could not checkin for a few more hours. I have been a VERY loyal customer with Hilton, and have had a diamond status with them for several years. So I felt this was unacceptable, and I said so on twitter from my iPhone. To cut a long story short – I got a response in almost real time from Hilton customer service via twitter and then email, and got checked in pretty quickly afterwards. And then the customer service guy checked in again one day later to make sure I am treated well. I am totally happy with this – and needless to say, I will remain loyal to Hilton going forward too. In short – social media was pretty freakin awesome.

While we were having a lot of fun enjoying our little vacation , Oracle Open World was happening in San Francisco,CA. Since I was on and off twitter, I kept on getting infrequent updates on what was happening at the event. It was all rather low key till Larry Ellison took a swing ( rather small swing too, in my opinion, considering what the man usually does) at SAP HANA. Now, obviously SAP did not need any complex predictive analytics to figure out that Ellison will say something in his keynote about HANA.

Next thing I knew – twitter was ablaze with that news. The response from SAP was quite good in the beginning. Vishal Sikka, SAP Board member and CTO, wrote a very good blog on why Oracle is wrong about what they are saying, and why HANA is fundamentally different in architecture. Steve Lucas got interviewed by Business Insider on this topic too. Personally, I thought that was not the best medium for Steve to make his first response, but it was an ok article in general. Both Vishal and Steve sent a few tweets too. All was good till this point, and I did not pay much attention on twitter stream for next several hours.

And when I returned to the hotel room that evening, for the first time since I started using twitter, I felt that following only a relatively small set of people ( 186 as I am typing this) was actually a nuisance. My whole stream had like 90% hana content. It was mostly SAP employees pulsing existing HANA articles (including some of mine) and videos using the Oracle Open world hash tags of #OOW and #OOW12 . Some of the people who pushed out hana content at crazy high frequency are people who in the past have never done such a thing.

My first impression was ” Oh boy, SAP is in panic mode” and then ” This is a centrally organized offensive play – I am curious to see how far it will go” . And this is where my dismay at social media set in.

In fairness to SAP, obviously they had to do something to counter Oracle’s false accusations. And social media being a nascent tool in marketing toolkits – I doubt there were any established “best practices” for this type of social media defense (or offense depending on how you look at this, I guess) for SAP to use.

SAP is considered by many inside and outside the company as an expert in social media. So when SAP does something, I think it probably gives the impression to others that this is “best practice”. That comes with the “halo effect” attached to leaders. And if SAP should continue to be viewed as leaders in this space, they should seriously consider if this is how the future of social media should look like , especially in the context of marketing.

My own opinion is that SAP handled this in a rather heavy handed way. Looking at it with a quantitative lens, probably SAP got the results they wanted. They took over a good part of the traffic with hash tags #OOW and #OOW12 with HANA content. They clearly did a lot more than just story correction. As much as social pundits might enjoy the idea of marketing and corporate communications using social for more things – I think the net result is just more overhead for people who use these platforms, and event organizers. The need for sophisticated filtering just got more important and troublesome, in my mind.

But from a qualitative viewpoint – it looked rather tasteless to me. Taking over someone else’s event tags – especially using sponsored tweets, while that event is in progress is borderline bullying, and that is not what I expected a company like SAP to do. SAP has a long history of being on the right side of these things, taking the high ground. When excessive reaction happens – it just gives an impression that panic has set in. There is absolutely no need for panic – HANA is clearly superior to the EXA* products in what it does.

So far I have personally not seen any customer backlash – but then I have not seen or talked to any customers this week. Next week, I will be meeting several, and then much more the following week at Teched. It remains to be seen how customers view SAP’s social media onslaught.

Unlike SAP, Oracle does have a reputation of taking hard and aggressive stances on these issues. However, apart from a handful of tweets etc, I did not see Oracle trying to return the favor to SAP in real time. Of course it could be argued in two ways.

1. Oracle chose to focus on their own event, and chose not be bothered with SAP reactions.

2. Oracle had nothing to say, because SAP so comprehensively beat them on the topic.

I have no idea what was the real reason, but my instinct is to believe that Oracle, and other SAP competitors might now feel that it is totally fair game to target SAPPHIRE and SAP Teched events and try to take over the social media conversation around those events. SAP has multiple events coming up in the next few weeks – so we will know soon enough which way Oracle will go. I seriously hope Oracle will let it pass this time, and not try to respond in kind. It is not just Oracle – SFDC, Workday et al are all possible competitors who might choose aggressive social media strategies against SAP. For their part, I also hope SAP will resist the temptation of spending significant time at their events responding to Oracle and others, and just focus on their own stories.

Failing which, my back up plan is to take a break from twitter for a while. I used to think till last week that not checking email frequently will kill me. A week of vacation proved me wrong,so I am betting I will survive for a bit with out twitter too :) .

Added http://aragonresearch.com/vendor-wars-customer-events-and-twitter/ This is what Jim Lundy of Aragon Research had to say about this matter. A good read.

The Price and Prize of Social


When I read my friend Howlett’s blog on social enterprise – I had plans to write something on my blog too, but that feeling passed. I am not going to make any generalizations on social – just talking about my own case here. I will come back to the social enterprise topic some time in future.

Compared to many of my friends, I have been a late entrant to the whole social thing. And compared to many of them, I am still a lot less active on social media. Yet, I am way more advanced and active on social media than 99% of people I know. Has it helped me? yes, it has to some degree – both in my career and in my personal life ( and the distinction is lesser between the two today than even 3 years ago). But it has taken a toll too for sure in my personal life.

I started a personal blog around Christmas of 2010 – but became relatively active only about a year ago. I try to blog once a month at least – but have written about 8 posts in some months. Most of my posts have been in and around SAP and BI , but I have also written on politics, economics, food, sports and dogs. Pretty much any topic is fair game for me if there is a strong opinion I have on it.  And when it comes to opinions, I usually only have strong ones – for better or worse :)  .

I enjoy blogging as a medium to express my thoughts. And I have an explicit disclaimer that what I say is just personal opinion and not my employer’s opinion. But this does pose some challenges on occasion.

For example – at least partly due to blogging, SAP recognizes me as an influencer. And due to that I get some information earlier than others, and SAP picks up my T&E to attend some of their events, and I appreciate that. I try really hard to keep confidential info as confidential. But on the other hand it does not stop me from criticizing SAP on occasion.  The people who run the SAP influencer program, and senior SAP executives who talk to me have never told me what I should or should not write. But few others – including many friends – at SAP have often told me directly or indirectly that I am spreading too much negativity. I value their friendship – and I feel terrible when I hear this, since that is not my intention.

While I have no great  interest in happy talk  – I do say good things whenever I see it. And at least for HANA – me, John Appleby, Vitaliy, Harald Reiter and a few others do a lot for promoting and clarifying questions on Hana via our presence on twitter and SCN. And while I learn a lot from SAP during my interactions with them – I also pass on feedback from what I see on the field back to them. So hopefully things balance out some how from SAP’s perspective.

On career front, social in general has helped me. A large number of IBMers know me better via twitter and my blog , and it has helped me a lot in maintaining a very valuable network. I get to advise my clients better too since I have access to more people and information now due to social. I have won business in my day job thanks to name recognition from social media. And in general my managers have been quite supportive of me being active on social media. In return, I try hard to make sure there is no impact to my performance at work.

The biggest prize for me is the content I get from people like Jon Reed and Dennis Moore who curate the zillion tweets and blogs and send out high quality information. If it ever becomes a paid service, I would gladly pay for that. I would have never had a chance to get all this information without their feeds.

But for all the Prizes, I have a price to pay.  A day still has only 24 hours – and it means I am in front of a computer (or my phone) longer than I used to. And that takes time away from my family and my hobbies. That is NOT good – and is not sustainable.  So I have cut back on my social presence quite a bit. And I am sure I will overcompensate and will need a lot of time to find a good equilibrium.

If any one has a 12 step plan or something to find that equilibrium, please let me know.

Online Social Media – how much does it actually influence buying decisions ?


As a consumer, I am influenced by online social media. But the bigger the purchase, the less I am influenced by “online” social media, and more by “offline” social media.

I won’t try a new restaurant without checking yelp reviews.I won’t buy a book without reading what others say in Amazon. I won’t buy a widescreen TV without checking 15 sites and then talking to store clerks, friends etc. When I bought a house (the biggest purchase for me), I did comparisons online – but eventually I had to walk in and out of 50 or so houses before my wife and I agreed on a place. The bigger the purchase – the less I trusted social media, and the more I trusted “real” people and my own “physical experience.

When I say social media – I am typically thinking only of “online” media – twitter, facebook and sites like that. I am excluding other “offline” social things like hanging out with my buddies at the water cooler, chatting with other parents at my daughter’s swimming lessons, talking to others on phone and stuff like that which we don’t associate with “online”, despite being totally “social”.

It never fails to impress (ok, and scare) me when I log on to a site, and find context specific advertisements. I have seen a lot of SAP ads,Pet product ads, Cricket (the game, not the mobile phone thing, and not the creature ) and Tennis ads and so on when I use my yahoo email, google searches and facebook. Fantastic – yet in all these years, I have not clicked on even one link that these sites showed me. If anything, I get some pleasure in not clicking on them – since in my mind, I think of them intruding my private space.

And although not prolific by any stretch – I am fairly active in online social media, and spend some time every day on it. At best, it must be having an indirect effect on my buying decisions, since my gut feelings over time are surely influenced by what I read, and I read a lot of stuff online.

I started to think that maybe direct advertising is what is not working in social media – and that vendors can influence indirectly using social media by sharing information via blogs etc. But Forbes advoice single handedly ended that theory for me. I honestly cannot stand most of what gets published there by vendors and now it has gone to an extent that I don’t take any time to even glance at it when someone says “Forbes says” and point to an advoice link. No thank you.

TV advertisements influence me more than social media ads. I am not sure exactly why this happens. My hypothesis is that people have more experience making them and tuning them over years that it makes more impact. But even then – when it comes to big purchases, I still prefer the offline social media . It could also be that I grew up watching TV and not online social media, and hence am more influenced by TV. Others who are younger might not look at it the way I do. Yet another theory I have is that while video is more impressionable for me, since I consume most of the online content on my mobile device, low bandwidth decreases the user experience of video ads online, there by making me tune out quickly.

Enough about me as a consumer, what about me as a professional consultant and a seller of consulting services ?

All my clients know that I blog and tweet, and that I share some (hopefully useful) content with them – and some of their CXOs tease me on what I write. So, on the bright side – they do read what I write. I also have on occasion benefited from name recognition from my blogs, where I walk into a room and someone googles me and checks out the content that I have authored in past, and (so far) giving me some credit. But I cannot imagine (yet) any one who has given me business primarily because of what I have done in online social media. Not by a long shot.

Buying decisions for consulting services are still mostly influenced by past performance on delivery, trust,price, word of mouth publicity (even fierce competitors talk to each other when it comes to quality of consulting services or product maturity).
I am yet to see a multi-million dollar deal signed with a CXO saying – “it is your online ads that finally persuaded me”.

Even the big cloud players who sell the idea of “online sales” will readily go in person to meet the clients and sell them on their cloud wares. Sales people can be very superstitious. I have a friend who insists she needs to wear her “closing heels” to get ink on the contract, and another friend who insists on wearing his “deal making tie” for the same purpose. I keep wondering what will be the equivalents when it becomes virtual.

“Digital eminence” as my employer refers to it, is a big deal these days. Clients do google about consultants – and check out linkedin profiles and all that. And I have been rewarded to some extent in my career for my online social media activities. But when I think about it – I think what gave me some credibility in online social media is the experience I gained (and continue to gain) in the offline world. That outweighs the reverse situation of online credibility helping me in the offline world. It will be interesting to watch if this balance will ever shift in future. I am not holding my breath on it.

What about big companies who tried innovative online social media advertising? Couple of years back – Pepsi had such an initiative that I read about. I believe it was called “Refresh”. I am typing this on my flight to Portland, so I cannot google it to confirm. They took their foot off the gas pedal for TV and print ads, and focused heavily on online social media – primarily facebook I think. I do not follow superbowl, but I did hear they even pulled out of advertising there for that year. How did it work out for them ? They got tremendous coverage from analysts and marketing experts for being innovative and all that. But it did not exactly help them increase the sales of the pepsi softdrink. Not only did classic coca-cola remain the number one drink, pepsi lost the second spot it long held, and that spot was taken by diet coke. Pepsi went right back to heavy advertisements on TV etc quickly after that. The irony is not lost on me – since I followed this story using online social media :)

I am not saying that this experience will stay the same for other companies. It probably will improve over time. If I am a representative consumer – then companies will do well to pair TV and online social media to work together. I say this because I forgot the last time I watched TV without multi-tasking on an online device at the same time. In fact, I usually check out things I see on TV at real time on internet, and make buying decisions depending on size of purchase.

Now there is one last thing – I have no idea if my view is shared by any one else on the planet :)

The Social Media Giveth, And The Social Media Taketh Away


If you ask me what has had the biggest impact in my life for the last few years, I will say without exception that it is social media. And I am only a minor league bench quality player in social media , compared to the stalwarts. But even then – it has changed how I live and work.  On the personal front – I won’t go to a restaurant or buy a book at an airport without checking out reviews, or asking on twitter for a quick opinion . Without facebook, I would never have kept up with what is happening in the world of competitive dog shows, which is my hobby.  On the work front – twitter is a life saver. I have lost count of how many times others have helped me find information quickly, or offered help when I tweet out a question.  It is also rather  funny that I usually never get a timely response from most of these sources if I tried on email or phone.  I blog when I get an idea that I think more than one person would like to hear – and nothing has taught me more in these past years than clarifying thoughts in my own head when I settle down in a plane ride, and open my computer to post something on my blog.

But for all that it gives, social media also has a terrific/terrible way of taking away.  When President Obama was candidate Obama in the last elections, I had seen many of my friends on Facebook supporting the campaign there, and helping with fund raising.  I was pretty impressed that his campaign was smart enough to use social media to raise so much money and awareness. And this year – I see many other friends effectively use Facebook to attack Obama’s policies, and help his rivals to raise money.

I have lived in US for about a dozen years now – and have watched with amusement how polarized people are when it comes to political ideology. Some of the smartest people I know – people who provide very balanced and well thought out opinions on work related matters, and who are polite at kid’s soccer games – they tend to make extremely biased statements with no restraint when it comes to politics. This is true for people in both left and right wings of the political spectrum. And in these 12 years, I have only seen the partisan nature increase – not decrease, both by career politicians, and by common man . Watching Facebook and twitter, I have a feeling this partisan nature has accelerated since the last election. Social media gives information so quickly, and without any editorial intervention – that it permeates faster than any other information delivery mechanism of our times.

While I was growing up in India, most people there had no idea of US election politics. We knew who the American President was, and that there were 2 parties, and that was pretty much it. Now my cousins,  nieces and nephews in India know as much about US politics as people who live here. It was quite amusing for me to hear how they view American politics strictly based on what they see on social media.

This is not just an isolated thing that affects politicians alone. I see this all the time with enterprise software world too – affecting vendors, influencers, customers etc. Some software vendors have totally embraced social media. I have seen many email signatures that read “social media leader for blah blah” as the designation of the sender. People actually get paid to manage social media, and I don’t even find it funny any more. Admittedly, I was shocked and found it funny when I first saw it – but not any more. I have accepted it for a fact that vendors want to control social media some how.

Question is – is social media giving them sufficient bang for the buck? Every one I have asked so far from vendor side assures me it is hugely beneficial to them. It is not a secret that vendors like to “buy” influence some how. Some do it with finesse – and give influencers enough information, and then get out-of-the-way on how it gets interpreted and analyzed. Some are more blunt, and will use social media as a pure marketing platform and blast out tweets, and blogs that praise themselves and say nasty things about competitors.  Some times different parts of the same company take diverse approaches when it comes to use of social media, which probably just results in erosion of  brand credibility .

But how many buyers make a decision based on social media? very few that I have seen. There are a few exceptions, but largely the purchasing process in enterprises have not followed the shift that has happened in consumer side.  But there is a silver lining too – although ultimate buyers don’t value social media all that much, there are influencers to that buying decision who make up their minds based on what they have seen in social media. I have been surprised personally when I give out my business card, and someone I have not met before would say ” Ah I recognize you from twitter and your blog”. It has occasionally also helped me win business. So may be it is just a matter of time before social media becomes a big criteria for enterprise purchases . But at least for now and for near future, more weight is still given to quality of the product, price, references etc.

I am yet to see a CXO who told me ” I am impressed that you guys refuted your competitors’ mean comments in your sponsored blog. I am now convinced I should buy from you, let me cut a check for perpetual licenses. Looking forward to more content like this”.  But what I have seen is CIOs and others calling me and asking ” hey, my team just pointed this flurry of activity to me from this company. Why do you think these guys are suddenly saying all this stuff about the other guys? What are they really afraid of ?  Should I be worried?”.  In my mind – it is a  perfect example of social media back firing , despite good intentions.

Social media is a fantastic opportunity to listen to your ecosystem, as long as you also follow-up with some action.  Then you can use social media to point out the actions that you took.  Of course, you can also use it mostly as a platform to shout from – but then you carry the risk of your ecosystem tuning you out quickly.  Even before social media existed, it was not possible to get a second chance create a great first impression. With social media, it is next to impossible. People form opinions really quickly based on what you do in social media. If you mess up – it will be hard to earn back the trust.  It is a hard balance to strike, but now that the pundits have social media maturity models and best practices, I suppose this is all well covered.

Some Reflections On Blogging


As I took  time off in December, 2011 (which probably would not have happened if I did not have an enlightening set of conversations with Dennis Howlett)  – I had an opportunity to reflect on a lot of stuff.  And one of it was on my blogging.

 

I am a sucker for numbers ( Pls don’t hold it against me – I do BI work for a living) and I started by analyzing the stats in wordpress. I started this blog in 2009 December (I think I started an SDN blog a year or two before) , and a whole 104 people read it that month.  In December 2010, I had 3423  hits and in December 2011 I had 2740  hits.  I chose December to compare because it is the slowest month with a lot of people spending a few hours each day away from their computers and mobile devices when they are awake.  I wrote about 50 posts in 2011 – which correlates nicely to the number of weeks I had to fly (I write most posts during the plane rides). The numbers satisfied me ( apparently, I am not very hard to please) on quantitative front, so I thought I should check the quality too. And I did not come away happy this time ( ok so maybe I am a wee little hard to please).

 

As I read through what I wrote over the last year, it became pretty clear that at least 20% of the blogs were lousy. That is time I will never see again, and neither will the folks who read those rants.  Another 20% does not look balanced to me any more. And in the remaining 60%, I felt comfortable that I offered something useful.

 

At this point, all kinds of “consultant like” thoughts started forming in my mind. I narrowed down from a fairly large list to the following causes

 

1. English is not my first language.  Although I had to learn English at school in India, and have been living outside India for a dozen years – I constantly feel it is very difficult for people to understand what I am trying to say.

2. I don’t have enough experience blogging. I started late compared to most people, and probably have not developed a style that works yet.

3. I don’t think through all aspects of an issue before expressing my opinion on my blog.  I do this because I am not very patient, and also because I fear my blog will look like a white paper if I over think it. Forget readers, I will just have to kick myself if I read such a blog.

4.  I don’t have enough breadth of knowledge. My primary topic has been Enterprise Software, with a specific focus on SAP. I have done a little bit of other things too but not as much as I have done SAP. So there is a good chance that I am not making valid points in several cases where I express my opinion.

5. I am making opinions based on experience with large enterprises alone. For some reason, in all my jobs so far – I have had to deal with really big companies.  While that is useful, I do not have a good grasp of the smaller companies directly. What I know about the smaller companies is second hand information I have gathered while doing project reviews, few sales proposals etc. I have not “lived” the life in the SME space.  So when I make generic statements, essentially I am not generalizing enough due to my large enterprise bias.

 

So my plan for 2012 is to do the following

1. Try to avoid blogging on impulse whenever I can. I got some valuable input from Jon Reed on this – so I am not going to totally avoid the impulses, but will give my posts a little more thought than I have so far. ( Err..Excluding this one post I am writing – allow me to slack this one time)

2. Spend some more time reading and commenting on other blogs. I did read a lot last year, but probably did not comment as much and contribute to the conversation

3. Try other media to express my opinions other than the long form blog posts

4. Gain some exposure on parts of Enterprise Software that I am not familiar with . And I will try hard to hide my lack of interest in gamification and social blah blah till it works at some customer I know of.

5.  Gain some exposure to customer segments I have not focused on so far, and continue to “live” with customers.

6. Learn from eminent analysts and bloggers and develop my style as much as I can.

 

I know me better than you know me (I think) ! So I am fairly sure I will not succeed all of these :)  So lets see how it works out for me.

 

Happy New Year ! and Happy Blogging !

 

Google plus – tribes won’t follow till chiefs jump in with both feet


Couple of weeks ago – I posted my opinion on G+ in this blog. I have been lurking there since then for a bit to see if anything has changed, or whether anything has improved. And guess what – nothing has changed for me.

 

The people I follow on twitter, and via RSS feeds – they are all on G+. Not surprisingly, they are all conversing there primarily on the same discussions they are having on twitter and on their various blogs. And a lot of it is happy talk about G+ :) . I also know first hand that several of these folks also have extensive back channel conversations between themselves on email threads due to privacy concerns etc.

 

As long as these folks continue to share content via twitter and other media that I am already present in, I find no reason to have yet another channel to hear the same stuff. In fact it is extremely boring and frustrating to see the same content coming at you from multiple places. In case some one says something interesting on G+, I have invariably seen some one else post it on twitter almost real time. Works for me.

 

Till such time as G+ becomes the primary channel for creating and sharing content – most of the “ordinary”, “non-geek”,”non-socmed expert” people (tribes) will stay with the incumbent platforms like facebook and twitter. I don’t think Google invited people with socmed clout (chiefs) just because platform was not ready, or because these early adopters are known for jumping into anything that is new and stay for some time at least – I think they primarily did it hoping that tribes  will follow their chiefs wherever they go. What they probably did not realize was that the chiefs will play it safe and keep a foot on old and new worlds. As long as chiefs don’t jump in with both feet, I don’t see the tribes having any reason to glance at the new shiny world.

 

Last week I read – on twitter – that G+ now has 20 million users. Very cool – impressive start. But that is a very low number if you consider the over all population of potential users (about 190M for twitter, and 750M for facebook I gather).  I have seen the “ROI is the wrong metric for social media” message touted by social media experts. I don’t buy that for a minute. And now I see a very similar argument being put forward on G+ – along the lines of “I don’ t care how it is today, I am in for the pleasure of the ride, lets see where it takes me” .  Not me – I don’t have the time or inclination to jump in for an unknown thrill ride.

 

I stayed out of google wave, SAP streamwork and twitter when they started – and once twitter proved useful, I jumped in wholeheartedly. Wave died (not unexpected), and streamwork has been steadily improving, and I have started to dip my toes a bit.  Facebook was a winner for me from day 1 – it was one place where everything I wanted to know about the latest on my hobby was posted.  I will do exactly the same for Google plus – If  (not yet sure if I can say “when”) I see the chiefs commit fully, and not treat G+ as yet another channel, I will jump in and stay.  The rationale is simple – I am less of a content provider, and more of a content consumer.  If  I become primarily a content provider, my whole perspective on this topic might have been very different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google Plus after a week – at best, a “may be”


I am certainly not one of the folks who jump in with both feet at every new technology that shows up on the radar. I like to stay back and watch others play with a little, read their reviews and then slowly dip my toes to see if it works for me.  I was totally planning to take the same approach with Google Plus. And that is when Dennis Howlett told me he thinks it is pretty cool, and that I should try it. I take Dennis seriously all the time, and decided to give it a try. I also got a second invite from my id to do some sandbox work without annoying my real friends.

First problem was to get signed in. This thing wouldn’t let me in unless someone invited me. And Alex Williams was kind enough to send me one. Signing in was not a big issue at all – I clicked on a few buttons and filled in my name etc and I was ready to go.

First up – Google wanted me to share Picassa albums. If I said no – google won’t let me sign up. Not a good thing in my opinion, but personally not a big deal since I use Kodak Gallery for my photos.  Lets just say the first step left a bad taste in my mouth. Of course you can limit access to your photos by playing with security settings – but why bother if I just didnt want to share my albums to begin with?

It looks to me that I can follow any one without their consent by adding them to my circle – like twitter, and unlike facebook.  Circles are not difficult to get – kind of similar to groups in facebook, or lists in twitter. Unlike twitter – no one else will know if I put you in the “dumb morons” circle.

Google plus privacy settings are going through what facebook settings went through in the past. It is straight forward to limit who can see your posts,  but kind of convoluted to prevent further sharing by people in your circle.

If you are a user of other services from google like mail or calendar, all those things are easily accessible. So that is a definite plus.

Facebook is obviously watching Google plus carefully – they have also announced skype group chats including video.  In a way – Facebook with 750 million users can probably outsmart google plus even if they just ape every cool thing google plus does. At the end, google plus is the one who has to catch up – and facebook which has a huge number of users across the globe, should be able to make use of its strong incumbent status to advantage.

For a company whose name is synonymous with search, google does not allow users to search in google plus. Isn’t that kind of backwards? It is like playbook not allowing you to use calendar and email without tethering a blackberry to it. Is that some kind of new thinking ? it could also simply be me not seeing how to use search in the limited time I test drove this.

Of course you can email people with Gmail – but why wouldn’t this allow me to send a message directly to one person in my circle? Is that kind of hard to build? Of course you can create a post and filter it to make sure only one person sees it. But that is not good design, is it?

Google had wave and buzz both of which had several geeks interested. Some companies even went so far as to build prototypes to integrate with it. Well, we know what happened – neither captured popular attention. Wave is officially dead too. So with this history, Google has a lot of baggage to shed before general public uses Google plus. This was also one of the reasons I shied away from this before Dennis nudged me to try. Google is not apple – it does not have the cool factor to pull off something just by brand name.

I saw something on twitter that google plus might soon get an IPhone and IPad app. In 2011 July, why would they go to pre-beta or whatever it is called without a mobile app?

There are no third party hello world apps there – no games, no nothing. I don’t miss it – but knowing how many people are in facebook strictly because of farmville, it is kind of hard for me to imagine there is nothing in Google plus to match. Or is it a way to tell the world “we are so cool that we don’t need to do everything facebook does?”. Why wouldn’t Google bring in google apps in here right upfront?Especially if they have enterprise ambitions.

I could see a way to get hotmail and yahoo contacts to Google plus, I couldn’t see a way to download from facebook. I am pretty sure I could get twitter feeds to integrate with Buzz. So why not with google plus? Or is it hidden somewhere? That surprised me a lot.

I did not particularly like sparks – I could not find a way of using what I have already set up on google reader via sparks. Why would I do it in two places? Not cool.

Hangouts is a pretty neat idea – but then facebook will reproduce it via skype integration, so no added edge there.

Bottom line : What is the point of a pre-beta when you can guess 9 out of 10 people will provide the feedback that all these things are expected as a minimum?

Probably because it is in trial version – there is no nuisance from advertisements. I guess that would change. As long as it doesn’t get in my face, I can live with it. However, I have an uneasy feeling about google keeping an eye on who I am friends with :)

I saw some well respected analyst friends of mine terming Google plus as “disruptive” and “enterprise class”.  Most of the reasoning seem to be along the lines of how pundits told us how Wave  will change how business processes work in future . After all I have described above, I find it hard to agree .  Well, if they mean it as a future dream – sure, that is possible. At the moment, it is not enterprise worthy in my opinion. Forget “facebook for enterprise” for now – it needs to mature a lot more. And for long term viability in enterprise – facebook equivalency is just tablestakes. If facebook for enterprise is the vision – i would give facebook the most chance of making it, and not google plus.  Duh !

There is however one potential use case where Google can make a difference – as the one place that unifies all kinds of information an enterprise user needs, on the cloud, with appropriate security settings. It is not easy to pull off – but if they do, they can probably make a killing.  Well, either that or some one else will integrate everything including Google Plus. If Google is smart – no reason to think other wise – they would not let this opportunity pass by.

Last thought – just like “old generation” enterprisey companies find it hard to understand the business model of  “new generation” consumery companies , I think the new guys have the same problem in reverse too.

As for me – at the moment, I am going to park Google plus. I will test drive again after some time to see if  something has changed. But meanwhile, I will be following its progress from what rest of the world says.