Google Plus For Real

A couple of days ago we asked the community to give their thoughts about Google+ and whether or not it is a valid social network or if the buzz is in the process of dying. Nobody can deny the meteoric rise as it gained in 3 weeks what Facebook took 3 years to get in terms of users, but is the hype going away? Will Google+ succeed?

Here are some of the highlights around the discussion:

Came, Saw, Left

As Aaron Lee said, “G+ is still young and I must say the buzz is slowly dying for some of my friends who registered it, used it for a while and left it.”

Much of the sentiment surround Google+ lately looks the same. People are there. They just aren’t actually going to it as much anymore. With anything new and shiny, people will give it a shot, but the staying-power of a site is determined by users who make it beyond their first signup, their first month, and they first few months of still using a service.

Google+ has an obvious advantage in being part of the Google machine, but it’s a machine that has never done very well in social. The momentum has to pick up because having users is not a guaranty for success; ask MySpace how that turned out for them.

Get The Celebrities, Not the Geeks, to get the Mainstream

Twitter was a perfect example of a site that grew because of celebrity adoption. Prior to 2008, one would be hard-pressed to find 5 people out of a hundred who had even heard of the site. Then Ashton Kutcher, CNN (after they purchased cnnbrk), and a flurry of other celebrities and known entities made Twitter “cool” for the masses. That is starting to happen for Google+, but it’s not happening at the same pace as it did with Twitter.

“It’s a case of the chicken and the egg – what comes first? Users or brands?” asks Stephen Graham. “It will be celebrities and pop culture that make G+ because they will attract the users, but without a really distinguishable value offering this is unlikely.”

Kevin Rose played a big part in the growth of Twitter. It wasn’t his own account that did it but rather the fact that he encouraged Kutcher and others to try it out. Will Google+ get the same ambassadors plugging Lady Gaga and President Obama into the site? They hope. Rose has pointed his site to his Google+ account. Will others follow?

Embrace Business (and stop following Facebook)

The first thing most people say when they first check out Google+ is, “This looks a lot like Facebook.” That was by design (pun intended); they wanted to put a familiar-but-improved interface in front of users so they wouldn’t take one look at it and give up trying to figure it out. Facebook has done an excellent job of carving the culture’s expectations with an interface that is relatively-easy to learn.

There are benefits to this strategy, but there are distinct drawbacks. If it’s Google’s version of Facebook and not a social network that offers something different, what’s the point? Dave Cole thinks they need to be more of a hybrid.

“I really think Google+ can carve out a better niche by being a player between Facebook (like a party atmosphere) and Linkedin (button-up professionals).”

That may be exactly where Google+ is headed, but right now we just can’t be sure.

Open the Garden

It is well known that Facebook wants to keep us in their “closed garden” and become the one-stop destination for all of our online needs.

One area, as reader Lance points out, that Google will have a chance is through a more powerful, open API that ties in other services better than Facebook can. “Once they bring G+ to gmail in a meaningful way, things will really start to cook.”

Rather than keep people stuck in the Google+ ecosystem, they need to allow open collaboration and interaction with other sites and the API seems to be heading in that direction. Facebook’s system has picked up tremendous exposure over the last couple of years but is still designed to get people to go to and hopefully (from their perspective) stay there. If Google can keep people on other sites and even send them there better than Facebook, they can be a more powerful resource for business and websites and potentially work as a better network for the users.

The Believers

Here are some quotes from responders to the post and on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ itself who think that Google+ has a future:

Devon Jordan: “Personally I love the interface, just gotta figure out how to move all my friends from Facebook to G+.”

Paul Profitt: “I prefer Google+. It has the potential to be as big as Facebook and hopfully over time they will be.”

Robbie George:”Today is my tend to Google+ day!!”

The Naysayers

It seems as if there may be a few more naysayers than believers:

Harris Decker: “Google+ is done. People compare the numbers to Facebook and sure Google+ grew quicker to start. The difference is, Facebook hasn’t had a month in which they lost significant traffic in almost five years. They just keep getting bigger. Google+ has peaked and unfortunately, this project will go the way of Google Buzz.”

Graham Jones: “I explained the psychological reasons why Google Plus is a failure on my blog yesterday.”

Amy Fowler: “Facebook does pretty much everything we need it to, and it does it well. Why would the majority want to move their entire social network onto a different platform when all their photos, friends and the like are already perfectly fine on Facebook?”

Scott Sheaffer: “I also use G+ for the same reason I use Verizon, it’s not Facebook and Verizon is not AT&T. Will this “not Facebook” feeling be enough for G+ to leverage itself into a big player by getting the “not Facebook” crowd? – probably not.”

Matthew R: “Most social networks over the years, Hi5, Orkut, MySpace, FB and maybe G+ just seem so shallow. Most content is just a snippet, a seeming attention deficit plagued means to convey a thought being shouted in acronyms and abbreviations.”

Matthew Vaughn: “I suppose that’s all simple conjecture and heresay, and we’ll just have to wait until thoughtful communication becomes the “next big thing” and realizes itself as, yet, another internet phenomenon.”

Why Google+ Will Succeed

My turn.

As bandwagons go, Google+ has seen a flurry of them. It was hot, then it was dead, then it rebounded, then it faded. We’re back to a slight uptick. It will fade again later this month.

None of that matters.

Google+ is for real because Google simply won’t let it die. They are “all in” on this one; it’s the first time the company has truly embraced social media in a manner beyond dipping their toes in and seeing what happens. The entire company has their 2011 bonuses tied to social media. Larry Page is on a mission and he’s bringing the full and awesome power of his company along with him.

This early stage of the site has been nothing short of phenomenal. Other sites take years to get to where Google+ got in weeks. It seems that the biggest complaint is that Google+ is so small compared to Facebook, that those of us who use it now are having a hard time finding our friends and family on it or convincing them to give it a shot. It’s a ghost town compared to Facebook.

Have we all forgotten that the site is 4 months old?

By sheer mass exposure and incentives through services (I’ll explain that below) Google+ has a very limited chance of failure. There is no way to predict the future of the internet, social media, or anything else in this world because things happen that change the game, so it’s definitely possible that Google could mess this up or something else could mess it up for them. It’s possible, but unlikely.

“Incentives through services” will be the key. Google is shifting as a company to consolidate around a combined search/social/local/mobile strategy. Within a year, every other website you visit will have +1 buttons on it. They didn’t perform a branding faux pas by making the search element of Google +1 (the button) so closely conformed and easily-confused with Google+ (the network). EVERYTHING they are going to be doing is centered around the concepts of +, +1, personalization, and localization.

If you want to review a restaurant and tell the world about your bad experience, you’ll need to do so on Google Places through your Google account that will be tied to your Google+ profile.

If you want your Android device to find a comparable product to the one you’re about to purchase at WalMart, you’ll do it through a Google service that is tied to your Google+ profile.

If you want to tell your friends and family that you’re having a great time in Honolulu, you’ll do it on Facebook and Twitter for now. Next year’s vacation in Spain will be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ because it will be easy to do it on all 3.

Google+ is an infant. It’s an infant that can already stand, walk, run a little, and talk in complete sentences. It’s a freak relative to every other social network that has ever been created when you consider that it’s 4 months old.

Google+ has its skeptics today. Ask them in year and the answers will be different.

Written by JD Rucker
JD Rucker is Editor of this site as well as The New Americana, a Conservative News Aggregator. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and co-founder of the Federalist Party. Find him on Twitter or Facebook.