7 Reasons Why Google+ Will Succeed (and 1 reason why it will very likely fail)

Walled-Garden vs Open Range

Open Range

The mentality at Facebook has been very clear for years. They want to turn Facebook into the only place you need to go. They want businesses to create pages and apps that will allow people to handle all of their transactions and maintenance items on the platform. They want users to be able to explore, share, and integrate their daily lives into Facebook. They want to make sure that you have no reason to leave the site.

Google+ is taking the exact opposite approach. They are taking their vast wealth of data and understanding surrounding the billions of web pages out there and use presenting it in ways that they’ve never done before. They want people to leave the platform to find what they need, then have an easy way to come right back.

As Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb noted:

When asked about a Google Plus API, Google’s Joseph Smarr said the following tonight on the site itself. “Of course, and we’re eager to make the social graph a ‘two-way street’ where you can use your circles to quickly get up-and-running on a new site, but also make new friends on that site and add them to your circles. Lots of details to work through, but the best way to do it is with good agile partners building cool social experiences. ;)”

On the surface, this seems an awful lot like Facebook Connect. In reality, the two services will share basic functionality but the intentions will be completely different. Facebook wants to pull you in. They are a gravitational force that wants to be everywhere and offer everything to everyone. They’ve done a tremendous job so far, but they have a flaw in that there is rarely a reason for people to go to Facebook for reasons other than friends and family.

Businesses, organizations, and publications are able to “pull” a tremendous amount of likes and interest through Facebook, but that interest dies very quickly. People may like a page, but if they don’t interact with that page, chances are slim that they will ever get to actually see anything happening there or on their feed. We almost never go back to a Facebook page once we’ve liked it and we stop seeing it in our feed once we go a period of time without liking or commenting on their posts.

Google+ doesn’t want to pull anyone into a walled-garden the way Facebook wants. Instead, they want to go with us wherever we go. It’s subtle, but it’s clear. Facebook is saying, “come do what you need to do here,” while Google+ is saying, ‘take us with you and let us help you with what you need to do wherever you need to do it.”

An entire post can be written on this aspect and I know I’m not doing it justice. I’ll answer questions about this aspect in comments.

The Road To Failure

Success and Failure

If you want to break down why Google has failed at so many ventures, particularly in social, it comes down to one statement.

“You can’t do so much and tell so few.”

Wave may have been a debacle, but it didn’t have to be. The lack of communication and marketing surrounding it was abysmal. Anyone who tried it likely had a hard time understanding what it could do, what it was for, and why they needed it. When they tried to learn more, they were often pushed to blogs and non-Google properties where the writers were often just as confused as the rest of us.

The original Nexus phone suffered the same fate. Google thought, “If we build it, they will come.” They didn’t. It never got more than initial buzz and faded into obscurity quickly.

If Google does not take a page from the Apple marketing machine and blast Google+ out there with the same conviction and clever promotion that Apple does with most of their launches, the “Facebook Killer” of 2011 will die a quick death. It’s their last shot. If Google cannot make this work, they are done with social media for the foreseeable future.

I’m a skeptic when it comes to Google. I do not believe that they know how to be aggressive when it comes to marketing. I do not believe they are willing to wield the tremendous weapons they’ve had at their disposal for years because they have failed to do so. Now is not the time to be humble. Now is not the time to be fair. They have the ability through search and YouTube to take control of social media, but even that wouldn’t be aggressive enough.

They will have to spend money. Lots of it.

  • Hit television in ways that would make Microsoft cringe
  • Use email with the mastery that Apple has done over the years
  • Promote through the user base with valid reasons for them to get their friends and family engaged
  • Attack Facebook. Yes, attack Facebook. Because Facebook will definitely be attacking them
  • Leverage relationships with corporations, governments, and media outlets to integrate Google+ into their affairs
  • Generate more positive buzz on blogs and websites of all sizes than they’ve ever (never, actually) done before

This is it. All hands on deck. They need to get the people to join and use at a rate never seen before. Why? Because they’re so far behind. We, the people, are already using Facebook. We will follow the crowd if the crowd shifts to Google+, but the crowd has to be massive. If not, it will simply be another Google failure.

They’re heading in the right direction. Earlier, we noted that they aren’t talking about business applications of their Google+ services. They have plans, but right now all of the practical business uses for the service are worthless without hundreds of millions of users. It’s that simple, and that’s why we haven’t heard anything about (and won’t for a while).

There are many reasons while Google+ will succeed, but this one reason for failure is a big one. They have not demonstrated over the years the willingness to roll up their sleeves, take their gloves off, and fight like there’s no tomorrow. Until they do so, I’ll remain a (hopeful) skeptic.

JD Rucker

+JD Rucker is Editor at Soshable, a Social Media Marketing Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and founder of Dealer Authority. He drinks a lot of coffee, usually in the form of a 5-shot espresso over ice. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

49 thoughts on “7 Reasons Why Google+ Will Succeed (and 1 reason why it will very likely fail)

  1. JD Rucker, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve read such a good post in general. All of this information is completely neutral, understandable, readable (meaning easy to read, I almost never click the “Next page >>”), enjoyable and in terms of journalism you are a professional. I loved the article, but I loved even more how you wrote this article. It’s been a while since I’ve come across a writer as talented with words and professional journalism as you are. Bravo.

  2. As someone who is attempting to get a website off the ground, I am hopeful that Google+ will allow the closed gate mentality of Facebook will become a thing of the past. Thanks for the insight!

  3. “We will follow the crowd if the crowd shifts to Google+, but the crowd has to be massive. If not, it will simply be another Google failure.” — i like that

  4. @Andre – I greatly appreciate the compliments. Sometimes the longer articles are hard to write simply because it’s hard to take criticism on posts that take hours. If I’m going to rant and take abuse, I might as well keep it short. It’s a pleasure to know you enjoyed it.

    @Jared – Starting a website is tough and relying on Facebook to get going is nearly impossible. You need to be big to get bigger through Facebook – a terrible catch-22. I’m hopeful that Google+ will help the “little guys” like us get going and draw an audience because of its lean towards like-minded sharing.

    @Hugh – I appreciate your words. Thank you for the support.

    @Jamyl – It’s possibly the most true thing about this opinion piece. If Google can’t get it going huge from the start, it won’t get going at all.

  5. JD-
    Great article. You articulate the functional value that google+ plus brings and their path to success. I see Sparks as being something that people will greatly appreciate. Who knows how his will all turn out but it is clear that people have an appetite for something new!

  6. Oh wow, it’s a “great” “interface” – no – wait – two months later – IT’S ALL @#$% CHANGED AROUND AGAIN FOR NO REASON – rinse – repeat – bored arrogant google managers with nothing to do except “change” everything again and again and again, frequently, and annoy everyone.

  7. It may well fail in the same way as Betamax vs VHS. It’s simply not always the best product that wins. Facebook is well established and with some tweaks would do most of what I need it to do. Twitter has a different focus for me. It’s simpler and more open.

    There are some things that Google+ appears to offer. The best for me being Circles. If that works the way I think it will then that’ll be a major feature. But as you say, it wouldn’t be all that difficult to implement that in Facebook as well. I’m pretty sure they will. It’s something people definitely want.

    However, something that I’m finding extremely irritating, and I wouldn’t underestimate the strength of this in others, is its terminology. Hangouts, for instance. In the UK, hangouts are places populated by 1930s gangster, goons and molls. They are not places for respectable modern people to “hang out”. In fact, we don’t even “hang” in the UK. It simply doesn’t exist. And Sparks is too generic. It doesn’t really describe intuitively what it is or does. For Google+ to beat Facebook, I fear it would need to be a perfect solution with enough drive behind it for a HUGE MASS of people to perform an exodus. I have to admit, I’m sceptical at the moment and I don’t think it’s going to beat the already well established competition.

  8. @ManoDestra I prefer the Google names over the overly simple Facebook names, For example Messages could take a new user to any number of places and mean any number of things, A new notification could be described as a message, it could be chat messages, it could be used to configure text messages and so on. At least by giving a unique name it can’t be confused with other parts of Google+ or even entirely different Google services. I see nothing wrong with hangout either, we may not live there but we’ve all watched american TV show where they ‘hang out’ at the coffee shop. And even then plus isn’t really out yet, so I assume hasn’t been localised to the UK yet something Google seem to take overly seriously, just note the ‘Under the Bonnet’ option on Chrome’s preferences which is ‘Under the Hood’ with the language set to American, similar quirks can be seen throughout all Google services. By the time the general public get their hands on it it could be called… The local, or something.

  9. Awesome article.

    One thing I’d counter is that … attacking and pushing is Google’s modus operandi. The slow leaked beta that was Gmail, was as viral of a tool as anything. It is the success that should be focused on. Google’s approach has been … if it is a good enough tool, people will come. Not only, “if you build it, people will come”.

    Also, Facebook displeasure is at an all time high according to online polls. And the ease of use that Google+ provides… is startling. Plus, it’s always at the top of my Gmail web page that I _always_ have up and running. I think they need to up their capacity considerably, though. Because now that the pool is filling with people, they’re going to need a bigger pool in order for this to work. I’m already using this “exclusively” (read: I don’t post statuses, photos or videos on Facebook anymore) with a group of friends who managed to get in, and I’m already being hounded by 20 more people to get invites.

    Viral on a good product + (Facebook’s closed walls * frustration) = Google+’s success. (In my opinion.)

  10. Great article. What I am really curious to find out about is the mobile technology and how that will be integrated.
    As a social media manager, I can easily manage multiple accounts from my phone. Which is not my preferred method, but as everyone in Social Media knows, it has to be an option.
    And while I do currently have 3 gmail accounts linked to my phone, that originally installed account is the one that my phone has latched onto. Even individuals pay to have their social media managed, so I have to wonder exactly how well Google Plus will be able t tie into that.

  11. My link is to my Google+ profile seems fitting… Having used the site for a little over a day it does so much right it is crazy… The biggest threat IMO is porn. Porn will get women to leave the network and with them many husbands will be kicked off. Google should be creating a solution to combat this before it goes public. That said the folks that are on the site now are awesome… my question can it stay awesome after July 31st. The ability to not see images by default from people not in your circles will be a huge key to that success.

  12. Brilliant article. I’ve been using Google+ since Friday and I am hooked. It’s brilliant. I think what people forget is that Facebook and really got ‘huge’ around 2009 – that is less than 2 years ago – who remembers MySpace – or Friends Reunited?

    I think Google have brought social media and the internet together in a way Facebook never will.

    I spent a whole afternoon canceling accounts and calendars and galleries and I’ve put everything into Google – it’s so refreshing to not have to keep logging in and out of things knowing I can now control who see’s what.

    Personally, I think the ‘tipping moment’ will be when someone creates an app or plugin that will allow Google+ users to access their Facebook stream and visa-versa, but would require Facebook users to come over and comment on the G+ stream so they can see first hand what they are missing out on.

    Also, just out of interest, does anyone know if you have to have Gmail to use G+ or will just a google account suffice?

  13. @Keith Yes, I agree. It is possible that there will be localis(z)ation options. I’d be surprised if they gave locally different names to major features though. I haven’t been on it yet so I can’t really speak with any real authority on its functionality, just spouting some gut instinct stuff based on what I’m seeing and hearing.

    Another thing which I neglected to mention was it’s “child’s drawing” style on the tour. That didn’t help either. That’s why Facebook took over from MySpace. It had a professional looking, concise front-end whereas MySpace was inconsistent and looked like the worst kind of web vomit you can imagine with animated GIFs and videos all over pages that took an eternity to load. Facebook sensibly disallowed user-defined CSS.

    Like I said, Facebook and Twitter are extremely well-established now and have different logical functions. It’ll take nothing less than perfection to draw the crowds away from their comfort zones.

  14. People left other social networks for facebook and they will just as easily leave facebook. facebook better go public fast, because as soon as Google+ opens up for everyone you’re going to see that valuation go down. Furthermore you’re missing the point with social. It’s not called Google+ for nothing. It will integrate all that Google has into one place. So you will have search, social and applications in one spot. Google+ almost already is what facebook wants to be. The only place you will want to go on the internet. http://thesingh.blogspot.com/2011/07/google-empire-strikes-back.html

  15. Great great article!
    Where’s the +1? ;-)

    Congratulations from a non-facebook user that, till now, didn’t feel the urge to get into any, non professional, social-networks.

    Let’s see if Google+ is the one!

    FNog

  16. Oh, didn’t realize someone else had already made that point. Thanks for the article anyhow :)

  17. Good article. I think we’ll see many users abandoning Facebook for Google+. Especially if they’re already using Google products.

    I’d be interested in hearing what you think about the latest episode of Google At A Glance. It’s completely devoted to Google+ with special guest from Search Engine Land http://netcaststudio.com/google-with-greg-sterling/

  18. Outstanding article.. well written.. nice flow… I read all 3 pages, when usually I’m just a first pager… = ) Will be sharing! Where’s the +1 button? = 0 lol

  19. “In reality, much of it is out of Facebook’s control. Their success or failure is, for the first time, almost completely out of their hands.”

    I can relate with this. For my site in particular, success is mainly out of my control and in the hands of bloggers like you.

    Million Dollar Earth is an advertising medium allowing businesses to own digital real estate and display their social profiles. http://www.milliondollarearth.com

    Ryan

  20. Good article but I still say it’s wrong for any large software company to change their interface or product(s) too frequently, i.e. every 1.25 years on average, because that impacts reliability and familiarity which impacts efficiency. Software is complex and it’s not something to be “pushed.” Google is leading this charge and it’s wrong. It strays from good engineering discipline and it’s not good for the software industry. And, at the same time they are making the user interface LESS natively-customizable, making average users conform to the product rather than the product having a flexible way to conform to the unique user. On the reliability side, it’s a good thing that microsoft, google, yahoo and other ENTERTAINMENT-based technology-pushing companies are not writing software for medical devices or the transportation industry. Otherwise there would be serious trouble. I believe many people are starting to realize that breaking the user interface familiarity so often is WRONG and undisciplined (youtube, google search, gmail, FB, ie7 /ie8, ff4, etc.) – this point also needs to be made.

  21. Good article but I still say it’s wrong for any large software company to change their interface or product(s) too frequently, i.e. every 1.25 years on average, because that impacts reliability and familiarity which impacts efficiency. Software is complex and it’s not something to be “pushed.” Google is leading this charge and it’s wrong. It strays from good engineering discipline and it’s not good for the software industry. And, at the same time they are making the user interface LESS natively-customizable, making average users conform to the product rather than the product having a flexible way to conform to the unique user. On the reliability side, it’s a good thing that microsoft, google, yahoo and other ENTERTAINMENT-based technology-pushing companies are not writing software for medical devices or the transportation industry. Otherwise there would be serious trouble. I believe many people are starting to realize that breaking the user interface familiarity so often is WRONG and undisciplined (youtube, google search, gmail, FB, ie7 /ie8, ff4, etc.) – I mean google is going to release a “new” MAJOR version of the Chrome browser every six weeks now? And Mozilla is going to do this now? What’s next some kind of Direct-From-Developer software cycle where the google developer puts the new release directly on your PC every friday afternoon? It’s absurd and it’s the opposite of “Do it right the first time.”

  22. Good article but I still say it’s wrong for any large software company to change their interface or product(s) too frequently, i.e. every 1.25 years on average, because that impacts reliability and familiarity which impacts user-efficiency. Software is complex and it’s not something to be “pushed.” Google is leading this charge and it’s wrong. It strays from good engineering discipline and it’s not good for the software industry. And, at the same time they are making the user interface LESS natively-customizable, making average users conform to the product rather than the product having a flexible way to conform to the unique user. On the reliability side, it’s a good thing that microsoft, google, yahoo and other ENTERTAINMENT-based technology-pushing companies are not writing software for medical devices or the transportation industry. Otherwise there would be serious trouble. I believe many people are starting to realize that breaking the user interface familiarity so often is WRONG and undisciplined (youtube, google search, gmail, FB, ie7 /ie8, ff4, etc.) – I mean google is going to release a “new” MAJOR version of the Chrome browser every six weeks now? And Mozilla is going to do this now? What’s next some kind of Direct-From-Developer software cycle where the google developer puts the new release directly on your PC every friday afternoon? It’s absurd and it’s the opposite of “Do it right the first time.”

  23. Good article but I still say it’s wrong for any large software company to change their interface or product(s) too frequently, i.e. every 1.25 years on average, because that impacts reliability and familiarity which impacts user-efficiency. Software is complex and it’s not something to be “pushed.” Google is leading this charge and it’s wrong. It strays from good engineering discipline and it’s not good for the software industry. And, at the same time they are making the user interface LESS natively-customizable, making average users conform to the product rather than the product having a flexible way to conform to the unique user. On the reliability side, it’s a good thing that microsoft, google, yahoo and other ENTERTAINMENT-based technology-pushing companies are not writing software for medical devices or the transportation industry. Otherwise there would be serious trouble. I believe many people are starting to realize that breaking the user interface familiarity so often is WRONG and undisciplined (youtube, google search, gmail, FB, ie7 /ie8, ff4, etc.) – I mean google is going to release a “new” MAJOR version of the Chrome browser every six weeks now? And Mozilla is going to do this now? What’s next some kind of Direct-From-Developer software cycle where the google developer puts the new release directly on your PC every friday afternoon? It’s absurd and it’s the opposite of “Do it right the first time.” Anyway – sorry for the “rant” post a few days ago. This post is a better explanation hopefully.

  24. Clicking “continue to page 2″ shows this message:

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  25. With so many people on Facebook i’m not to sure about how many people would be willing to drop all their “work” that they put on their Facebook page to switch over to Google+. Yes, right now Google+ is the new thing to do thats one of the reasons so many people are flocking over to it. ( I, also flocked couldn’t wait to get an invite) It’s like a new toy. When young kids get a brand new toy they play with it for couple days and drop it and go to either a newer toy or back to the classics *Facebook*.

  26. There are many things that Google+ appear to offer and also they are useful for us.No one other social media provide to us.According to me best features of Google+ is:Sharing,Live video chat,easier to find stuff to share,strong group chat feature and privacy.

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