Google Plus is a Social Backplane Service

Consider Google+ as not a social network, but rather, a social backplane. YouTube with Google+

The term “backplane” is an IT term that means something like “the hardware connecting communications between all the other hardware. Not a motherboard, but more like if you had more than one server in a rack, the backplane is what makes all the computers talk to each other. Make sense?

People are viewing Google+ the website as the true nature of Google+. It’s not. Google+ the site is a “serving suggestion,” a way to understand social interactions and a way to roll out really great products like Hangouts and Communities in a general “common area.” But the real story is better.

Google+ is a Social Backplane Service

The real trick will come later. You can see Google+ at work on sites like YouTube right now. You can see it on Google the search engine. It’s just up there in the upper-right corner, telling you that someone is interacting with you in some way. And that’s fine, but remember what Google’s larger goal is: to know about all the world’s data, which now includes knowing about sharing and paths and the value of various “roads” and “hubs.”

Facebook Connect is an identity management tool that has done a lot of what all the 3rd party identity services in the early 2000s wanted to do, only they get to keep the data (smart, FB).

Google+ wants to be the sharing management equivalent of that.

The site isn’t the game. The sharing, the knowing about the pathways, the understanding of how you move information around, who cares about what you share, and what that nets them in understanding how to serve up relevant ads for revenue, that’s the secret game within the game.

Learn More About Google+

I don’t talk about the social backplane concept in Google+ for Business, but I do give you what you need to start figuring out the business applications of this platform as it stands right now. That’d be a great leg up on where this all goes next.

Don’t reply with “no one’s there.” You don’t buy a fridge and find it full of food. Millions and millions of people are there. You’re just not doing the work. If 500 million have an account and reports estimate about 250 million people are fairly darned active, that’s more people than Twitter. You’re just not following them yet.

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  • Ryan Biddulph

    This is good Chris because more people will follow your G Plus lead….especially your advice in the last paragraph. I am somewhat active on G Plus and draw in more friends – acting on the passive side – than I ever have on twitter and FB.

    It took me 4 years to get over 20,000 twitter followers after really working the network and the same amount of time to get 5000 FB friends. G Plus circle adders flow to me in droves and I am just starting to work it like I work other networks.

    Talk to people. A lot. Share content. Stay on topic. Then you will find more of the 250 M active users.


    • Chris Brogan

      True that. People are much more appreciative of good sharing on Google+

  • Steve Mouzon

    Chris, I’m listening to Google+ for Business right now, and I appreciate how you’ve made it such a clear how-to manual. It also opens up lots of things I’d never thought of. Until now, for example, I’ve used it almost exclusively as a place to post links to my own blog posts. It’s clear now that it’s a lot more than that.

    One question: When I go to Find People, it rarely finds anyone I know anything about. I’ve read somewhere that they’re trying to get people to explore beyond their real-world circles, but it’s a high threshold to me to spend a ton of time trying to figure out why Google thinks I should circle these random people. Your thoughts?

    • Chris Brogan

      Depends how you’re using the service. If I use FindPeopleOnPlus (not google’s service), I’m looking by demographic data. So, I might ask by occupation or by region. I don’t want to find people I know. I want to find people I need for my business.

  • Dave Lucas

    Hi Chris – I “joined” G+ the same way I did twitter, pinterest and facebook: I had accounts long before actually using (and understanding) them. Just want to thank-you for your always informative articles: you help me better use the tools you write about!

    • Chris Brogan

      Stick around and it’ll get more fun. : )

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  • Liliana Osorio

    I have been telling myself that I need to understand it better before following the crowd in dismissing it. Just made up my mind after you post.

    • Chris Brogan


  • Mike Bal

    With the roll out of communities and then giving brand pages a little more freedom there’s definitely a new breath of life in it. Engagement is also higher than any other network. My theory on that is because people are proud to be pioneering the superior social network.

    • Chris Brogan

      That’s good to know. I haven’t been measuring any differences in engagement for brands, so nice to hear that.

  • Brian Johns

    Hi Chris, I’ve been using G+ for awhile and really like it. The rollout of the communities should give it more oomph. Just one quick question: what kind of things have you noticed Google doing to YouTube? Have I missed something? I’m active on there in terms of promoting my martial arts business and am hoping that Google more tightly integrates YouTube into G+.

    • Chris Brogan

      G+ is all over YouTube. When you log into YouTube, if you haven’t yet integrated your accounts, YouTube pushes hard to make you link it to your G+. There are now much easier G+ share mechanisms. G+ has YouTube sharing built in. Hangouts on Air go right to YouTube. Etc, etc, etc.

  • Jeff Tippett

    Excellent post, Chris. I especially like the fridge reference. I’ve been increasing my participation on G+ lately. Glad to see it is a good use of time.

    • Chris Brogan

      It was a great use even before people started circling you. : )

  • Steve Woodruff

    Now you’re making me see this from a different angle and shaking up my comfort zone. Can’t you just leave well enough alone?? ;>}

    • Chris Brogan


  • Eric Walker

    “Really, really” is the key. You gotta get in there and make a mess and watch the form that follows. Thanks as always Chris for your perspective

    • Chris Brogan

      Thank you for always being a part of this. : )

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  • Steve Cole

    Chris, you gave me my first burst of enthusiasm for the platform when I read (heard – audiobook) your book. I think the recent addition of Communities has helped my engagement with the platform and I agree “Google+ wants to be the sharing management equivalent of that (FB Connect)” Are you suggesting that it is going to help with ad re targeting as I see this as a natural step to evolve search and PPC

    • Chris Brogan

      Communities is really neato, I say. And search? G+ is married to that future.


    Yes, it makes sense. You convinced me, Chris, of the benefits of Google + long ago. But until they release an API, I just can’t work it into my daily workflow among all the other profiles I manage – otherwise my day would have lots of Social Media, and THEN replicating it all for Google +. Waiting for that API, and then I’ll be fully converted.

    • Chris Brogan

      I agree that the lack of API is holding the service back. I just need SEO benefits long before I can wait for them to catch up.

  • Mike Essex

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. For example tying Google+ to YouTube allows them to encourage people to put their real name and face next to their comments. Given that YouTube is the 2nd biggest “social network”, and that Google promote it like that to advertisers, it’s one way they could encourage more sensible debates, rather than the trolling that taints YouTube.

    I also believe Google’s staff bonuses are directly tied to the success of Google+ so you can bet every team is thinking about how they can make their projects more social.

  • Judy Martin

    Google Hangout is changing my business model. And there is no hangout without google + #nuffsaid

  • Scott Ayres

    I’ve said all along the thought that G+ was a competitor of Facebook in the social space was silly. It’s not. It’s something different. Perhaps something we’ve never really seen before. Sure the engagement has gone way down the past 6 months or so for me and others, but they are still quietly making it a part of everything you do online. Search, YouTube, Reader and etc.. It’s a smart move.. Will it ever replace Facebook? No and it shouldn’t..

  • Nick Westergaard

    Great post Chris! Again, proving that you have a better handle on G+ than most of us. I too have always said that Google+ is more than just the site or the social network itself. It’s more of a “new Google with a decidedly social layer baked in.” Coincidentally, that’s how our work team uses it. Chat (or Google Talk) lives in there so we can exchange quick notes then expand into a Hangout if needed.

    Again – great post, great points.

  • Hashim Warren

    Google+ as a backplane means nothing for me and my goals. It’s great for Google though.

    I don’t see it as plumbing. I see it as a first class social network. There’s only two of those – Facebook and Google+.

    Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest are all for specific media types. Fb and G+ are for everything.

    Here’s the best reason to use Google+ for your goals – search! You can find and engage with people and content that match what you offer. Facebook is behind on that. Until thry catch up Google+ is morr powerful

  • John Corcoran

    Hey Chris – Guy Kawasaki gave a great talk about Google+ recently at the New Media Expo in Las Vegas, and after listening to him (and you and others like Brian Clark) I decided to give it a shot again. The funny thing is, most of the most frequent communicators in my Google+ stream are all people whose opinions I really highly value, like you, Guy, Brian Clark, etc. That tells you something.

  • Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins

    I remember thinking the same thing about Twitter (the analogy I used back when was that Twitter was the social transport protocol).

    It still is in many ways, but Twitter’s inability to pick a thing to be and stick with it I think precluded it becoming a defacto protocol for social interaction on the web.

    Your analysis seems pretty likely, Chris, in my opinion, at least as a backplane for Google properties. It would be interesting if, at some point, it became a backplane for external sites as well (which is what Facebook seems intent on doing).

    • Chris Brogan

      Dang. I hate that I copped your idea from way back when. But in other news, great minds think alike? : )

  • Momekh

    No one denies that I think. Brad Feld had a great article how G+ is now “part of the workflow”. Because of Search and Email, Google sits nicely between our workflows. G+ puts it all together. But I think that’s making sense of a platform that doesn’t make sense otherwise. I mean, Google never said it like that. Did they? I’ve been using G+ more recently … but that’s because of the Hangouts etc. G+ is a social platform, fighting for eyeballs just like FB and Twitter and LinkedIn.

    And speaking of LinkedIn, I am really liking the new LinkedIn. You, sir, should definitely give it a try m’man :)

  • Demian Farnworth

    Spot on, Chris. Google+ is simply a stepping stone to something bigger, namely Author Rank. They are less concerned about dominating social as they are in improving search.

  • Raul Colon

    I love the fridge example will be using that one for a while! :)

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  • ChrisCavs

    Huh. I never really thought of g+ that way. I still don’t use the “social network” aspect of it very much, because it doesn’t play nice with many of the tools I use, but I’ve always said it’s got great potential.

  • Dan Erickson

    I’m slowly building my Google+ network, but still prefer Facebook. I get more traffic from Facebook than all other social networks combined at this point.

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  • Deborah Aldridge

    I was one of the early adopters of G+, but didn’t find much use for it. Then I got sick and tired of FB for once and for all, and moved everything over to G+ only to find that just a few days earlier, they had opened communities. That was all I needed to make me a G+er for life. I had 100 some people in my circles a few weeks ago when I got there, now I have over 600, and I didn’t seek any of them out. The place is exploding! I have 4 communities, and if I had time, I’d join and own more. And you’re right — it ties in with my blogger blogs, youtube, everything. At the rate it’s growing, I think that given another year or so, FB will be left with the crazy teenagers like MySpace was.

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