1. Selective Sharing
The fatal flaw of other social networks is their lack of a filter, and this is something that Google+ has capitalised. Looking at it now, it seems glaringly obvious that I should want to share different information with different groups of people, and Google+'s Circles enables this.
The problem lies in me not wanting to spam my friends and family on Facebook with stuff they simply don't care about. By introducing selective sharing, users can limit what goes where, and, with a little thought, keep everyone happy whilst taking the cap off sharing. As Joseph Stashko neatly put it, "I can share as much as possible without alienating any of the groups with potentially divisive content."
It's important to note that this concept also works the other way. Personally, I am always hesitant to follow-back old school friends on Twitter, for fear of them ruining my journalism based feed with tweets about their latest night out. It's not that I don't care, but I've developed a "time and a place" mentality to my social networking, which Google+ could eliminate, as I choose what I want to read and when by selecting different Circles.
2. Google Integration
Google is taking advantage of its array of sites by integrating Google+ functionality. For example, while you're logged into Google Mail, or checking your Google Finance account, you'll still get your notifications popping up through the bar at the top. It successfully keeps you checking back, even when you leave the Google+ page; something other networks can't hope to achieve.
The functionality from the bar is impressive too, allowing users to post comments, updates, and more, without needing to return to the Google+ page. The potential for this inbuilt bar is huge, and I expect we'll see it being rolled out across more Google run sites, with greater functionality, in the future. Imagine what could be achieved with Youtube or Picasa integration, for example.
However, as much as Google does well in other areas, it will always primarily be known for its search engine. Results now all show up with the option to publicly +1 them; this could be used by Google to sort results by social popularity, and creates more options down the line. As Nick O'Neill, Founder of allfacebook.com, noted: "users won't have the option of not using Google Plus."
While my initial reaction to Google's group video calling was to cringe at the awkwardness of inviting people to a digital Hangout, I've since changed my mind. Facebook chat has moved from strength to strength over its lifetime, and from Facebook's latest announcement, they clearly believe video calling to be the next logical step too.
Commenting on Google+'s early successes, Myspace co-founder Tom Anderson said "everything gets better when its social," and Hangouts embraces this. The formality of a phone call is a thing of the past, as users can drop in and out at will without dictating an end to the conversation. This creates a much more social feel, which is then built upon with features such as group Youtube viewing. Social viewing is always more fun, and if you've got 10 minutes to burn that would have been spent reading your Facebook stream, Hangouts are an appealing alternative. Again, if Google take advantage of more of their sites here in future, Hangouts could become a main selling point of Google+.
4. Going Mobile
The Google+ Android app shows a lot of promise, despite its current bugs. I'm really pleased to see it so early on, as other social networks have often left it to third parties to develop what they need and then step in with their own official version. This attitude can be damaging when the leap to mobile platforms is finally made, but Google has avoided this with a simultaneous launch for browser and Android mobile versions, with an iOS version just around the corner.
Its slick interface design means that using Google+ when away from a computer is still easy and intuitive, but where it shines is its addition of other features that really exploit being mobile. The Nearby stream allows you to join discussion with those around you, creating a new dynamic to the network, and giving people more reason to broadcast their location. I expect we'll see more of a focus on mobile as the app and network develop.
5. Filling The Void
Currently, Facebook and Twitter sit at two ends of a spectrum; Google+ has the potential to fill the space between them. It plays on the benefits of each network, and in ways surpasses them. I like the way that I can have both friends and followers, and also follow people I don't know because of the value of information they share.
I've seen it described as a "Facebook for my tweeps," and it all feels very cosy and nice at the minute, striking the balance between the two other giants, but, ultimately a social network will always be what the users make of it. We didn't expect Facebook to become a torrent of Farmville updates, or Justin Bieber fans to swamp Twitter, but it happened. Perhaps my current infatuation with Google+ is simply down to it being clean and a little bit empty: my ideal social network is clearly one with no socialising or networking.
If you would like to join Google+ and make your own judgements, please comment with a Google account activated email and I will send you an invite.