This is the first post in a series about the new social network Google+ and what the site means for marketers and businesses. In this series we will explore Google’s past social networks, what Google+ has to offer users, and the future of Google+ for marketers and business.

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You may have heard the internet is buzzing with news of Google+ and how it will change the face of social networking forever. Google+ is only a few weeks old and has picked up a tremendous amount of user activity. People are scrambling to get invites, Facebook and Twitter feeds are cluttered with the question “Anyone have an extra Google+ invite?”, and even Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg has racked up over 134,000 followers, making him the most popular person on Google+.

Changes are coming, that is clear. Google seems to have finally got their social network down right this time and hopefully it won’t run out of gas. So before we explore what Google+ is and how it is different from the many social networks that have come before it, it is important to first examine Google’s past attempts at social networking that were not so successful. In the past Google has rolled out several social networking platforms, none of which have seemed to catch on with the internet masses.

  • Orkut: Orkut has been around for about seven years and is Google’s one true contender of a social networking site before Google+ based on its millions of users across the globe. The site is similar to Facebook in terms of its layout and features. Orkut also allows you to use Google Talk with your Gmail contacts, like Facebook Chat. The site is the product of a Google engineer named Orkut Buyukkokten who developed the site with his 20% personal time which is given to all Google employees to work on a project of their interest. At first the site was invite only and mainly consisted of Google employees. Google+ and Orkut are to remain separate products and as of right now Google has no intention of discontinuing Orkut.
  • Google Buzz: Google Buzz is accessible through Gmail. It is a combination of everything you and your contacts do on all your Google held accounts (Google Talk, YouTube, ect.) and complies this information into a newsfeed displayed on Google Buzz. The site functions more like Twitter, prompting you to “Share what you’re thinking”, but without the 140 character limit. Google Buzz goes beyond Twitter by actually displaying media within the newsfeed. This way the media from the link is fetched and embedded in a similar way to Facebook, meaning users to do not have to click a link and leave the site.
  • Google Wave: Google Wave was a communication platform that functioned in real time where users begin “waves”, or conversations, and could share text, photos, and videos with one another. Almost a year ago in August of 2010 Google announced that they were stopping any further development of the site. Many critics agree that the concept of Google Wave was too far above people’s heads and that is why the product did not garner the expected amount of users.

This completes our brief synopsis of three social networking sites from Google that seemed to be missing that extra spark. You can see from the descriptions that the intention was to recreate the best aspects of competing social networks and improve upon them. At face value the changes made by Google seem like natural and welcome improvements yet they still didn’t catch on. In our next post we will be discussing what Google+ has offer users and why its privacy element will make the social network so successful. Stay tuned!