Last Update: January 31, 2012
Google Plus may not rock yet, but it will. The combination of revenue potential, resources, brand involvement, influence on search, mobile, and Facebook's disregard for privacy and customer satisfaction will all combine to make Google Plus a powerful and popular social network.
Soon after it launched however, the G+ party was declared a bust. It looked to be just a bunch of geeks standing around a keg of warm stale beer. The calls went out from myself and others that Google + was dead.
Google Plus turns out to be far from dead, and I'm happy to now eat my words. According to Hitwise, in December 2011 G+ topped 65M users and saw traffic rise 55% over November, and Paul Allen of Google predicts hitting the 400M mark by the end of 2012. What changed? Why am I and many others predicting success for G+?
Follow the Ad Dollars
You can always find the truth when you follow the money. PC Magazine recently reported, that while Google and Facebook are very close in the race for Unique Visits, Facebook crushes all when it comes to Time On Site. Time On Site reflects where people really Live online. Advertisers will pay more to be where people Live than where people Visit. Google gets that essential point, and even though they may be late to the party, they have the minds, means, and motivation to rock it once they show up.
Brands Are Invited Now
In November 2011, Google + invited Brands to join the party. Brands are quickly giving the network new juice by promoting the social network through placement of the G+ icon along side the Like button everywhere. December’s 55% bump over November may reflect this. Looking ahead, Brands will essentially bring the beer by delivering games and new forms of interaction through custom apps.
Why do brands care? Advertisers are trending away from mass broadcasting and toward more targeted advertising and engagement. Here they will also find a less crowded party with less competition to connect with customers. Another big reason is Search.
SEO & Social Search
The SEO play is obvious: Google + pages turn up in search engine results and the combination of Google Places (map) with Google Plus will enhance those results.
Social Search is a shift toward incorporating the influence of people in our networks into the search results algorithm. As an example your friend hits the +1 for your local bakery. When you search for sticky buns, that bakery will be given more weight.
>Update 1/10/12 > Today Google begins rolling out Social Search - such that it will incorporate stories and conversations that people in your circles share that relate to your search. As published today on Mashable: "Type in a topic of interest, like “Rome,” and along with maps, travel info, historical references, you’ll find a post your friend wrote in Google+ about a recent trip to Rome. That post, though, will only appear if it’s been shared with you or if the post is public."
A key differentiator between G+ and Facebook is privacy. This could mark when Facebook’s brazen disregard for the privacy comes back to haunt them. In contrast, Google gets privacy and G+ is more oriented towards managing the flow of inbound and outbound communication (Circles) to control who sees what.
Google’s new mobile operating system, Android 4, is designed to integrate with G+. New device owners are encouraged to connect/signup for G+ when they setup the device. The first device coming out on the new platform is Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, and if you pay attention to their ads, you’ll see that they’re featuring its G+ integration as a key feature. Droid is dominating the smartphone/tablet market with about 50% market share.
Apps & APIs
Google will be opening the doors this year for other developers get in and create new functionality for Brands and their customers. APIs are side doors that allow developers to plug in their own apps and extend the functionality of the system. Think games, contests, and other custom applications that engage (this is the cold beer).
The concept has to do with value of a service/product, and that in cases such as the fax machine, the value of the product grows as more people use it. A social network only has value once adoption reaches critical mass. There seems to be no question now that G+ is approaching that tipping point.
Facebook’s Customer Dissatisfaction
Facebook may be popular, but it isn’t loved. In fact, this summer’s American Customer Satisfaction Index report revealed Facebook to be one of the least loved – it ranks at the very bottom along with airlines and credit card companies. Why? I’d speculate that the serious disregard for privacy has hurt Facebook along with the constant changes and feature bloating that irritate users.
In contrast, Google scored very well. I’d suggest that while Google may not be as un-evil as it claims, they do understand the value of customer trust. Their search engine and associated ad platform that delivers billions is based on that trust.
Segmented Broadcasting and Aggregation
Circles *easily* allows you to segment who you broadcast to and who you listen to. Yes, you can create groups in Twitter and Facebook, but they don't let you choose which group you want to broadcasts to ... easily, and certainly not on a per post level. On G+ I can share an article about ski resorts just to my ski resort segment AND I can listen and only hear what those ski resorts are broadcasting. This type of segmentation makes this a great tool for those that currently jump between LinkedIn and Facebook, or those that are uncomfortable with their Facebook mashup of professional and personal friends.
Biggest Challenge: Social Network Fatigue
If the party isn’t awesome, it’s going to be difficult to pull people away from Facebook’s. They may not love it, but it’s where their friends are. It’s a hassle to create a new profile, learn its idiosyncrasies, and build your network. People are sheep and until more friends adopt G+, they’ll follow the heard.
Google may not be putting on a killer party yet, but they’re figuring it out and lots of cold beer is on the way. Remember, Google Plus doesn’t need to beat Facebook to be a major social network player, and worth the time of consumers and brands. They can and will present a compelling offering that will be worth the time first for consumers and second for brands. They really must if they want to provide advertisers with placement where people Live versus Visit online.
- Want to learn more about Google Plus? Checkout Mashable's Guide to Google +
- Wired Article 1/12/12 Is Too Much Plus a Minus for Google?
- Slopefillers 1/16/12 Gregg reviews "shared circles" tactic to grow followers
- G+ Demographic Statistics - dynamically updated - I've filtered it for US only, but you can adjust that to see all stats.
- SocialStats - pulling data from 91K G+ users - see trends on what's hot.
- Wordtracker: How to setup a Busines Page