Google+ has launched to much fan-fare and hype. I think it’s just that – hype – and is destined to be another one of Google’s failed attempts at social media. While I’m intentionally being provocative here, and obviously can’t predict the future, I’m fairly confident in making such a bold claim. Here’s why:
Google+ has some neat features, which have been examined thoroughly by many people much smarter than I. Many marketers, such as my good friend Richard Melick, have great excitement for Google+ to change the face of social media marketing. Surely, features such as Circles & Hangouts are pretty slick. But other than a few bells & whistles, it’s fundamentally no different than the core purpose & functionality of Facebook – to share updates, pictures, videos & more with your friends. The major differences are just the location (facebook.com versus google.com) and the nomenclature (groups versus circles).
With so little differentiating the two, I don’t think Google+ has a chance at ever being a “Facebook Killer”
Here’s why I think Google+ is a flop:
- User Adoption: The “normals” won’t ever use Google+. I can’t picture my parents or even most of my peers ever giving this service the time of day, other than to sign up and see what its all about. Sure Google can automatically give everyone an account that uses Gmail, but that doesn’t mean they’ll actually ever use it.
- Ease of Use: It’s not nearly as easy to use as Facebook. While it has some intuitive functionality, it’s not simple enough. Much like Wave, you can tell it was built by very smart people, and to other very smart people it would seem “easy to use” but to the masses, its over-whelming, complicated, and difficult.
- No Reason to Switch: There’s no compelling reason to leave Facebook for Google+. They’re fundamentally very simliar products, and most users will have no desire to upkeep two nearly identical networks. Short of a major PR disaster by Facebook, I don’t see many users wanting to leave Facebook or desperate for a Facebook alternative – they’ll stick to what they know.
- Privacy: One common gripe about Facebook is over the topic of privacy. While Google claims to have built a more open social network with Google+, and you can export data which is nice, Google has a poor reputation when it comes to privacy. From the Google Buzz Privacy lawsuit to Google Street View cars stealing personal data from millions of homes, Google+ is not going to win the social media war over privacy – their reputation is just as tarnished as Facebook’s.
- Reputation: Google has an awful reputation when it comes to social media products (Wave, Buzz, etc), so very few are going to give Google+ much of a chance in the first place.
- Poor Launch of Google+: The Google+ launch has been a total, complete failure in my opinion. First impressions count, and most of the people getting on to Google+ are finding a nearly empty network where nothing interesting is happening other than a bunch of early adopters discussing if they like Google+ or not.
- Google+ is a half built product: Companies can’t create profiles. It’s not really integrated into other Google products. I’m getting spammed constantly. Strangers are following (circling?) me. Facebook could afford to launch as a “work in progress” since it was a pretty novel concept (sure it had some overlap with MySpace, but still…). Google doesn’t have that same luxury.
Google has never been good at “chasing tail lights” but it’s clear that Google+ is exactly that – chasing Facebook’s tail lights. The differences are too nuanced between Facebook & Google+ for anyone to really notice or care.
What’s the best case scenario for Google+? Much like Marshall Kirkpatrick writes, I agree that Google+ will just help improve Facebook to be all that much better. In that sense, yes, maybe Google+ will change the face of Social Media – but not directly.