Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The obligatory post about Google+

On June 28, Google launched its latest foray into social networking, Google+. Since its lauch, Google+ has created quite the buzz around the Internet. For example, one report suggests that Google+ accounted for an astounding 35% of all tweeted news links during its launch week. There has already been a ton written about Google+. If you want to read up on its ins and outs, I suggest the excellent the guides posted on Social Media Today or the Social Media Examiner.

For lack of a better description, Google+ is like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all rolled into one shiny, clean, new interface. Its standout feature is called Circles, which allows you to segregate your contacts into defined groups, which in turn allows you to determine which content you push to which groups. Thus, you could send an update about your kids to your family and friends, and comment on a news story to your business contacts. It has the immediacy of Twitter, combined with the functionality of Facebook, with the added benefit of being about to customize who sees what.

What does all this mean to employers? It’s too early to say. According to Dan Schwartz, on his Connecticut Employment Law Blog: “Google+ isn’t something to worry about. Yet. Only early adopters such as myself are on it now.  It’s still a long way away from mass adoption.” Yet, he cautions, “Despite an employer’s efforts to control information, Google+ may lead to yet another wave of lesser privacy and more collaboration. And more opportunities for less-than-noble employees to pass along your company secrets.”

I agree. While it’s way too early to know the impact Google+ will have on the workplace, here’s one potential problem. Employers who are Facebook friends with employees, or who follow employees on Twitter, have the ability to learn what their employees are saying and doing online. Because Google+’s Circles allows one to decide who sees what, it has the potential to allow employees to shut people out from seeing certain information, including their employers. Thus, could an employee trash an employer without the employer ever finding out? While that risk exists regardless of the medium, Circles’ unique privacy features heightens this risk.

Philip Miles, on his Lawffice Space blog, makes another excellent point: regardless of the tools, it is important for employers to understand social media generally. As to that goal, I have two options for you: 1) you can buy the soon to be published (this week?) HR and Social Media: Practical and Legal Guidance, and read all about the intersection of social media’s legal risks and your business’s HR practices; and 2) you can listen to an upcoming Proactive Employer Podcast, when my contributing authors to HR & Social Media and I will engage in a one-hour talk, moderated by host Stephanie Thomas, discussing all things social media. I have a feeling Google+ will come up more than once.

Lastly, if you are on Google+, feel free to connect with me at +Jon Hyman. If you are not yet on Google+, but want in on the action, email or DM your gmail for an invite to check it out.

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.