Turns out Google+ knows how to add.
The search giant's recently launched social network rolled out new features Tuesday while removing its velvet rope of exclusivity and opening itself up to all comers. That should keep the heat on more dominant social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Still, it remains far behind and will have to keep innovating to catch up.
Launched as an invitation-only network in June, Google+ saw usage skyrocket early on. It had 10 million users within two weeks. And comScore estimates unique visitors jumped to nearly 25 million world-wide by the end of July. Yet Facebook claims over 750 million active users world-wide and Twitter 100 million.
Part of the problem has been that the initial wave of users who showed up found most of their friends weren't on Google+. Social networks are like parties: They're most fun when you know a lot of people there. Now that Google+ has opened the doors to all, will more join in?
One way Google hopes to encourage them to do so is to integrate Google+ with its other services like Google Search, which it announced Tuesday, as well. Facebook's search is not yet as good as Google's. While it's easy to search for people on Facebook, it's not easy to search for content. Twitter, on the other hand, does have good content-search capabilities.
Google's aggregation of services could be very intriguing for users. So, for instance, users with Google+ accounts may be able to see business reviews posted by friends or family who they have connected with on Google+, rather than relying on postings from unknown people on, say, Yelp.
Google+ is also expanding the group video-conferencing tool it calls Hangouts to include mobile devices. So a group will be able to hold video conferences across multiple devices, including PCs and smartphones. Google+ is also adding something called Hangouts On Air, allowing users to broadcast their Hangouts to others.
This last feature could prove a good way to attract users to Google+. Remember, celebrities are the key driving force behind social media. Lady Gaga has nearly 14 million Twitter followers and 44 million fans on Facebook. Say, for instance, she wants to video chat with a few friends. Her legions of fans will want to be on Google+ to watch live.
Of course, Google is miles behind Facebook, which is innovating quickly itself. This week the company is expected to announce new tools that will let users share content in real time. Songs they are listening to, for instance. Meanwhile, Facebook quickly imitated Circles, the handy tool first introduced by Google+ that lets users organize their social contacts.
Facebook is no MySpace. It won't stand still while Google+ innovates. Yet, considering all that Google brings to the table, Google+ has a shot at closing the gap with its larger rivals.