Google’s social media shortcomings could stunt Google Plus on campuses

Google Plus's 'circles' have drawn educators' interest.

College students won’t have to worry about their professors spotting drunken party pictures on Google Plus, the search giant’s latest attempt at social networking. Getting those students and faculty to sign up for a Google Plus account, however, might be difficult, campus technology leaders say.

The company’s failed attempts to create a social media site that can compete with Facebook—known as Google Buzz and Google Wave—could dampen excitement about Google Plus, a site that allows the sharing of photos, updates, and recommended content among friends and professionals.

Google Plus members can create “circles” that make it easy to pick and choose which online friends you can share certain items with. For example, college students might include a professor in a circle discussing recent course-related research, but keep the professor out of a circle displaying photos of Friday night’s beer pong tournament.

Still, campus technology officials said expectations for Google Plus should remain tempered.

“I think some people might be hesitant to jump in because they don’t want to get hyped about it and worry that Google will eventually kill it,” said Holly Rodriguez, online and social media officer at the University of Richmond, which recently adopted Gmail as its official eMail service. “Rather than just hanging on to this thing that never really took off, [students] might just stay away from it.”

Google Wave, introduced in October 2009, combined text, audio, and video chat with features like drag-and-drop documents and interactive polls. It was billed as what eMail would look like if it were invented today. Less than a year later, Google announced it wouldn’t “continue developing Wave as a standalone product,” but would use the site’s technology for other endeavors.

While Wave was pitched as a more business-related collaboration project, Google Buzz was hailed as a social site built into Gmail accounts. Buzz was seen as a far more entertainment-centric site.

Fredrick Hagemeister, coordinator for academic technology services at Richmond, said he doesn’t expect student and faculty use of Google Plus to catch on immediately, even on campuses that use Gmail as the school’s official eMail service.