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Google premiered its new, circular social network this past summer – Google Plus.

People flocked to sign up and began circling others, though it soon appeared that signing up and some initial circling was just about the only thing they did.

You know the saying, “Big hat and no cattle“? In my eyes, that phrase perfectly describes Google Plus and the “success” Google is trying to claim with this attempt at social networking.

Fall 2011 brought the addition of Google Plus brand page capabilities and again we saw a surge of new accounts, though it remains to be seen if those brands who flocked to Google Plus did so for a reason more than reputation management.

My biggest issue with Google Plus – and what I see as its biggest challenge – is that it doesn’t fulfill a need that isn’t currently being served by some other platform. Even before Facebook updated its features to better compete with Google Plus’ Circles and make building and posting to specific friend lists much, much easier, I personally never saw the benefit of visiting a separate website in order to share news with a limited group of people. If I want to do that, I can send a group email. Plus, everyone I talk with already has (and regularly uses) email, so I don’t need to cross my fingers and hope all my friends jump aboard and regularly check a new platform.

Google may win in the end, though, by strong-arming all of us into using G+. So many of us already use at least one Google service on a regular basis. Google is the #1 search engine. Google owns YouTube, which is currently the #2 search engine. And to prove authorship of the content you publish online, you need to include your URLs in your Google Plus profile along with adding a link to your Google Plus profile on your website.

Though Google may not quite *get* social networking, I have to give credit for its smart business plan.