It’s a Wednesday, and I’ve just met a few friends for beers on a buzzing rooftop patio in Manhattan. I’m only in town for a day and my sunshine dreams are being smothered by the patter on the covered terrace – apparently I got into town for the rainiest week this summer. “You bring the clouds with you?” jibes a buddy’s buddy, before wondering “what are you up to out here, anyway?”

I tell him I work on a social media blog covering the new stuff – emerging social networks like Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+. He interrupts, like so many do at this point.

“Google plus? I don’t get that one – what’s it do?”

I’ve been asked this one so many times and tested various responses, and I thought I’d share a few in case you’re ever in the position to try and explain just what Google Plus is. These range from the whimsical to the technical, so gauge your audience, fire one of these off and enjoy a discussion about Google’s foray into the murky world of social networks.

“It’s Google’s response to Facebook.”

Makes sense, but still doesn’t explain what Google+ is. After a while you’ll usually end up right back where you started, like one of those brutal labyrinth adventures in a Zelda game.

“It’s Google’s 007 for social media – it masquerades like a tuxedo’d social network but conceals it’s true intentions to improve search.”

This one only makes sense to SEO guys. Be prepared for a debate!

“It’s Web 6.0.”

That’s usually the best way to dismiss the entire self-congratulating tech bubble.

“Google+ aims to make sharing on the web more like sharing in real life. They’ve got Circles, Events and Hangouts, and they’re working on updating a feature per day.”

This is mostly lifted from the Google Plus page, and the ‘sharing in real life’ bit seems to intrigue people. We all wish we could literally just reach out, touch the screen and drag the page we like into some icon to show it off to all our friends. Google+ hasn’t got there yet, but the Circles idea seems to impress people. It’s as much about the branding as it is about the functionality itself, but the drag-and-drop process which is all over Google+ gives it a different vibe than the staid, technical Facebook technology.

“Google+ is the safety net social network that’ll catch us when Facebook makes a huge mistake and we all leave in protest.”

People seem to enjoy this. More than any other recent web service, Facebook is the one that draws the most polemic responses from people I talk to. It’s a true love/hate relationship, and people feel truly bound by their own social graphs in the system. The idea that Google, a better-liked company, is preparing for something more friendly and less predatory seems to warm some people’s hearts. Whether Google actually has such good intentions, however, is less clear here. After all, the road to a monopoly is paved with good intentions.

Image: iofoto via shutterstock