Counterpoint: Google+ Is a Plus Size Flop Compared to Facebook

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 ( versus 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.

19 thoughts on “Counterpoint: Google+ Is a Plus Size Flop Compared to Facebook

  1. An awesome counterpoint, Nick. In the end, I feel time will tell with this new platform, so we will see. The irony of it all is your own G+ button at the top of your blog. 🙂

  2. Haha, yeah the +1 button is kind of ironic here – it’s more just an experiment than anything else – none of my other blogs have it as I think it’s a waste of space 🙂

  3. No fair – picking on Google’s social efforts is like picking on Canada or the French – it’s just too easy.

    I’m not ready to write off Google+ just yet. It’s by far the most comprehensive and thoughtful approach to social they’ve employed so far. It incorporates all of the core elements of the most popular platforms, and does a few things better – IE organizing and segmenting wall feed is huge for me.

    Hangouts is another major differentiator – at least for a month or so before everyone else modifies to catch up.

    It’s a bit early to be calling DOA, but I’ll give you some credit for boldly going out on the limb there Nostradamus. Personally I hope you’re wrong – I’d love to see Google+ get traction.

  4. Hangouts isn’t “another major differentiator” – it’s their only major differentiator 😉

    I agree Google+ is Google’s best effort to-date, but that’s not really saying anything.

  5. I think it has a chance. Don’t forget Facebook didn’t offer much that was different from MySpace or Friendster, but still overtook them. Part of that actually was the exclusivity. Not everyone could use Facebook, so there was demand when it opened up to the public.
    Google isn’t offering anything completely unique at all here.

    However, they are taking what exists and doing it slightly better. The same could be said for Gmail. Really was no different than any other web mail, but was less restricted and had a bit of “geek cred” to make it cool.

    One advantage I think Google has is its large existing user base. All those users will be exposed to Google+ on a regular basis. If they don’t manage to screw this up like they did with Buzz, they can likely convert many of those searchers to Google+ users.

    1. I disagree that Gmail was no different than other web mail clients out there – Gmail offered 2GB of storage when everyone else just offered a few MB. The ability to keep all of your emails and never need to delete an email again is a huge advantage, and was a game-changer for Google. I actually bought my Gmail invite off of eBay when it first came out as I found the email storage well worth the ~$3 I paid for the invite.

      Facebook WAS significantly different than MySpace when it launched, too. It was a social network only for college students. This was a significant differentiator over MySpace that made it very popular among the college crowd. Facebook was smart and opened it up to everyone eventually, much to the dismay of the college population at the time. But when it launched, it was very different, and that difference is what helped it become so large (in addition to MySpace making a number of bad decisions, and Facebook making a number of really good ones).

      I really don’t think Google+ is doing anything different or better than Facebook, other than Hangouts & Circles. And while Google does have a significant user base, I don’t think either Hangouts or Circles are important enough to make a difference. Google+ will be a Facebook knock-off with a few marginally better features, but not enough to woo people away…

  6. Clarification – Hangouts is *another* major differentiator from my perspective – the first being that Facebook has TERRIBLE audience segmenting & conversation grouping, that was the first and to me the most meaningful differentiator.

    1. Understandable, I just don’t think Circles matter to the average user. While winning over geeks is important, in the end winning over the masses is what they’ll have to do.

      I also think Facebook Groups are a great product, just under-utilized since people have to retroactively add hundreds of their friends to Groups, whereas with Google+ they only have a few friends so it’s easy to keep everything organized. Facebook could probably make a few UI/UX improvements to Groups and be on the same level in Circles within a few days…

  7. Good read Nick. I feel the same, Google might be able to attract a crowd, but after the novelty wears out and dust clears who will be left hanging out?

  8. But what everyone here has seemingly failed to address:

    Facebook has Friends Lists.

    Friends Lists are substantially similar to Circles.

    You can differentiate your feed, privacy settings, and who you post to, via Friends Lists.

    You can friends in more than once lists. You can have lists with limited privacy settings. What difference is there?

    Just that Google has put Circles at the centre of the UI and made it seem simpler.
    Though, UI differences can clearly mean quite a lot, as is obvious by the lack of mention of Friends Lists in comparisons of Google+ and Facebook lol

  9. People logon to facebook everyday to see something new (does not matter who posts). With google + people are updating only their circles. So for most people there is nothing much happening on a day to day basis to log on.

    Gooogle+ is another flop from google.

  10. Its simple. Theres no killer feature that will make the vast majority migrate. And no way people are going to upkeep both… So in the end … Facebook will prevail without much of a dent.

  11. My YouTube account is now automatically linked to “+”. The G+ is still there wondering what
    its going to do with itself. You would think after all the intrusions Google has made into
    people’s lives ( house pictures being photographed without consent) et cetera that would be enough.
    Greed is alive but not well.

    1. Yep, Google isn’t going to give up on Google+ easily, that’s for sure! When they changed their terms & conditions to link all Google products to Google+, I knew it was here to stay whether we like it or not.

Comments are closed.