Google+ Homecoming Tour with NBA stars is a strong move for the social network

Social technology is defined, more than anything, by the people who use it. Harking back to days long ago, I vividly remember there were two specific groups of people when I was in middle school: AOL Instant Messenger people and MSN Messenger people. It wasn't based on their technological preference, but sometimes really came down to what type of person they were. Even now, it never surprises me when ask someone which they used after raising this observation.

You can even see it now. Facebook is the everyman's social network; there's a lot of noise but you can use it effectively to stay in touch with friends and family, while also creepily monitoring the activity of acquaintances. Twitter, on the other hand, is the network for content producers, for celebrities and members of the media.

In order for Google+ to be successful, and not go the route of Wave, Buzz and whatever, it has to be the social network of someone, even if it isn't the one they use exclusively. With the announcement of the Google+ Homecoming Tour, they seem to making creative efforts to get move in that direction.

For those who haven't heard about this, here are the basics, from Canadian Business:

It was announced yesterday that four of the NBA’s most recognizable stars—LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul—will be hitting the road next month for a four-game exhibition tour dubbed the “Google+ Homecoming Tour.” In addition to being the tour’s main sponsor, the search engine giant will also be live streaming the games through the tour’s Google+ page. Further, Google+ users can win opportunities to chat with the players via “hangouts”—a feature that facilitates multi-person video chat sessions.

Another important nugget, one that's left out here: Google+ managed to get the four stars going with profiles on the network. LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade.

Let's finally get to why this is a good idea.

If Google+ ultimately succeeds, it's going to be because it combines the best parts of Facebook (the media-rich platform and ability to put forth much more than text & links) with the best parts of Twitter (the ability to openly follow and group major influencers). Honestly, Google+ already has the first part. From a technology standpoint, Google+ can do everything that Facebook does. Now it needs to start obtaining what Twitter has, getting the influencers—namely celebrities and content producers—actively using the service, and then hoping those who follow the information they put forth come shortly thereafter.

With this tour, they haven't accomplished the first part of that. While they do have the celebrities signed up and on the service, they'll have to prove to them throughout the promotion process that this is a excellent platform for them to connect with their fans. The hangouts are a good start but ultimately Google+ has to prove this is worthwhile if they're going to keep the hoopsters on there after this tour ends. Again, it's a good first step, but there's a long way to go.

Moving on, if Google+ was going to run a marketing campaign like this in the world of sports, they couldn't have picked a better sport or better timing. Between all the major sports, professional basketball easily has the most rich online community. Not only are its mainstream media members extremely savvy in their social media practices, but the sport also has an absolutely thriving online community of citizen content producers. Streaming the games on Google+ for free ensures that all the journalists not at the games, and all the bloggers interested in getting their hoops fix, will be able to watch at the same place where Google would like them to talk about it.

Again, like with the players, just getting these journalists and bloggers on there to watch isn't enough. It opens the opportunity for conversation, but Google is going to have to do something to keep them there, or at least do whatever they can to foster conversation there on Google+ as opposed to having individuals watch it there while providing commentary on Twitter and Facebook.

Lucky enough for Google+, they're going to get an extended tryout. Not too extended, as the games are only spread out over a little more than a week—December 1st, 3rd, 7th and 10th—but it's something. They'll have NBA stars, journalists, bloggers and fans on there consistently for an entire week.

Google+ has a long way to go before it's even remotely relevant, but creative and opportunistic marketing ventures like this are a good start.