I’ve been super bullish on Google+. It’s a beautiful product. Google clearly finally understands a lot about social and so much of Google+ is so right. There are areas for improvement but overall they really knocked it out of the park with Google+. I’ve had several discussions over the last month where I defended why I believed that Google+ has a chance at taking out either Facebook or Twitter. My opinion has been based on a bunch of different factors but the root of it has been primarily Google’s built in user base and the wonderful execution of Google+. Google Buzz had the built in user base but was not well executed or planned.
Last night my opinion changed and I’m no longer bullish on Google+. Let me tell you why. I was helping my wife set up a Google+ account because she wanted to be on the cutting edge of technology. As I was watching her add all of her friends to circles, I realized that none of them are actively using Google+. While they signed up and filled out their profiles, literally NONE of them are using it or posting anything to it. I thought to myself, “Why would this be? Why are none of them even trying to use it or enjoy it?” After thinking about it for a few minutes, I think the answer is very clear and a lot of people have been saying it since day one of G+.
I believe the reason that G+ will not be able to take down Facebook or Twitter is because G+ adds nothing unique or must have to the social networking paradigm. Duh! right? It’s a well know fact that in order to steal customers from an entrenched competitor, in any industry, you can’t be just as good as the competition or even twice as good. In order to overcome a long standing competitor’s hold on a particular market you have to either be several orders of magnitude better OR offer something completely unique that the competitor is not currently offering and that the customer “must have.” Google+ accomplishes neither of these things. Both Facebook and Twitter offered something completely unique and compelling when they gained the momentum that has taken them to where they are today. They offered things that caused people to not only use their service but to LOVE their service. To be addicted to and evangelize their service.
Now there are a lot of people in the Tech world who are using G+ heavily because it is a such a well designed product and many of us are sick of Facebook and Twitter for one reason or another. However, after talking to my wife and some of my non-tech friends and watching my wife look through the profiles of her non-tech friends, I have come to the conclusion that G+ doesn’t offer anything that the average Joe wants or needs enough to invest in using it over Facebook and or Twitter.
Many people, notably my boss, Jason Calacanis, are touting the awesomeness of G+ because of the high level of engagement and the amount of referral traffic it generates. While you can’t deny the numbers, I personally believe this can be easily explained by the early adopter effect that is almost always seen near the beginning of a product loved by the tech community. There is much higher signal to noise on G+ right now because it hasn’t hit the masses and that automatically creates a much higher level of engagement. I don’t think this will last for long.
I realize that my evidence for making this conclusion is completely anecdotal but I believe that the theory behind my conclusion is sound and the products speak for themselves in terms of what they offer to consumers.
This observation has also lead me to conclude that whatever eventually takes down Facebook, is going to look nothing like Facebook. Facebook’s power is currently in the fact that it is your photo album, your address book and your Rolodex. What is it going to take to get everyone in your address book to spend their days living in another service? It’s definitely not going to be a knock off or slightly improved version of Facebook but rather a service that is so compelling, appealing and new that literally everyone in your address book will WANT to use it and will WANT to tell all the people in their address books about it. I honestly think Twitter might still have a chance at being the king of social for a variety of reasons I won’t detail here.
I would love to here arguments for why I’m wrong and why Google+ will last. I also would love to here more information on who is really using Google+ and loving it more than they love Facebook or Twitter.