Should you add “Google+”?

This is just getting confusing.

Google has released “Google+” (let’s call it “Google Plus”), which is supposed to be the Facebook killer that isn’t really a Facebook killer. It’s supposed to be a better way to share, connect and hangout with others online—even people who don’t sign up for Google+.

The reality is, it’s difficult to know what it really is. Google+ seems like one of those “some assembly required” toys that kids open on Christmas morning. Circles, Sparks, Photos, Hangouts, Profiles, lions, tigers, bears…

A constant refrain I hear is “I don’t have time for any more social networking.” People are busy enough living their real lives without spending even more time maintaining their virtual ones.

Clearly, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a few other social networking sites are truly worthwhile and have been proven effective in some circles. But I think we’re reaching a limit beyond which legitimate business people can’t devote any more time to social networking because they have to make sales, move products and sign deals. In other words, do their jobs. Social media is a tool, like a hammer, cell phone or copy machine. When the tool becomes the thing—when the means become more important than the end result—we have a problem.

Never forget that people do business with people and companies that they trust and value. Your company’s social media efforts should be aimed at making your company more important in people’s lives. When customers say “I buy computers from that company because of their great customer service,” then you’ve made your company more than a provider of electronics—it’s become a partner. Your social media should reinforce that goal.

When you find yourself adding yet another social media obligation to your desktop without that purpose in mind, but rather because it’s the next new thing, you’ve lost your way.

So let’s regard this Google+ thing with caution. If it’s worthwhile, let’s go for it. Rumors are, it may be the Facebook we always wanted but couldn’t have. Otherwise, it may be time to draw the line.

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