The result of Google’s carefully planned campaign is an estimated user base of 10 million in just two weeks. More importantly, engagement on Google+ is extremely high, with many reporting they get more responses on Google+ than they do on Twitter or Facebook. It’s clear that Google+ has momentum.
That’s nice, but the momentum is starting to blind Google+ users and the press to reality. Here’s the truth: Google+ is dominated almost entirely by early adopters. And early adopters, while important, are not great predictors of the success of a social network.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit some social media services that have been embraced by early adopters. What has happened to them and what it might mean for the future of Google+?
If Google+ wants to be the next Facebook, it has to capture the key demographic that drove Facebook's early growth: college students, who blast out status updates and multimedia messages about as often as they blink.
Looks like Google+ isn't only for nerds like me, unless Ashton Kutcher is also a nerd, oh maybe he is.
Ashton Kutcher admits he needs more practice inside. The famous Hollywood star is the latest member of still-exclusive and hard-to-join Google+ social networking site launched by Google last Thursday. No official word yet about the exact date of Kutcher’s inclusion inside G Plus, but his first post was recorded July 1st. He said, “sweet. another thing for me to post on.”
I don't imagine a scenario where #RIPCelebrity hash tags move from Twitter to Google+. Or Lady Gaga transferring her 11 million followers to Google+. Or Ron Paul internet supporters switching the Ron Paul 2012 Facebook page to Google+. Or college students making friends with fellow Star Wars fans by joining their university's Star Wars Facebook fan page.
The point is that Google+ is Google+, not Facebook or Twitter.
Despite a positive early reception to the service, the big challenge for Google+ isn’t pleasing users in its first few days, it’s finding a solid place for it in their lives in the long term. What will that place be? At present, it’s difficult to say. Looking at the currently big social networks, they fit into a few core categories:
- Sharing and communicating with friends: Facebook, Hyves, Orkut etc. - Sharing quick thoughts, news and opinions: Twitter - Business-focused networking: LinkedIn, Xing, Viadeo etc.
So where does Google+ fit into this? It manages to sit across all these verticals. The big question is, can Google convince a groundswell of people to make the switch from their existing social networks?
"They're very unlikely to dump Facebook for GooglePlus," says Johs Bernoff at Forrester. "GooglePlus will be successful for people who want to have a simple connection with a social circle that they have, whether it's their book club or their Boy Scout troop."
OK, I’ve been putting many hours into Google+. Your mom won’t use Google+.
So, what is Google+ for then? It’s for us! Come on now, we geeks and early adopters and social media gurus need a place to talk free of folks who think Justin Bieber is the second coming of Christ. That’s what we have in Google+ right now. Do we really want to mess that up?
That all is a long way of saying that I really love Google+ and I don’t care what the average user thinks of it. I’m getting a ton of utility out of it and I am having a blast with it. Hope to see you there soon, but please leave yo momma over on Facebook, OK?
I have heard absolutely zero from my friends, student colleagues and my Generation Y counterparts about Google+.
Google seemed to forget the intrinsic problem with social networks. You need people using it for it to be “social”. At the moment, I only have a few colleagues, no way of inviting my friends, and a social network without friends is pretty anti-social.
It’s FarmVille all over again. Google+ is like FarmVille.
Google's new social network offers a nice collection of features and a great design, but none of these things is enough to create a social network that people want to keep using -- that requires a critical mass of users, and Facebook is leading...
Google Buzz came, was heralded, and died quietly in a corner. Will Google+ be the same?
Take things you read with a grain of salt. Think about that — how can you possibly consider a social service before people are using it? And moreover, how can you assume that how it’s intended to be used will actually be the reality?
Today, a lot of folks are talking about Google Plus (alternately, Google+), which is in limited preview. It’s been dabbled with by a bunch of tech writers (not me, I hasten to add), and today, you’re reading their thoughts on it.
It’s a bit like reviewing a car by driving it across a dealer’s parking lot.
The thing that makes Facebook great is that it incubated in the market with real users. It was made by real users. It was formed by actual use. One day at a time, one feature at a time, in public, every home run visible, and every mis-step.
Products like the one Google just announced are hatched at off-sites at resorts near Monterey or in the Sierra, and were designed to meet the needs of the corporation that created it. A huge scared angry corporation.
Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Google+ stats trackers: Three quarters (or more) of Google+ users are male.
SocialStatistics, a third-party site that gathers data from select profiles, pegs the percentage of male users at 86.8%, while FindPeopleOnPlus, which curates information from about a million users, says men constitute 73.7% of Google+.
FindPeopleOnPlus also discovered that 95% of the Google+ users who say they are “looking for love” on the site are male. Some 25,000 users in their sample identify themselves as single, versus 19,000 married and 12,000 in a relationship. The vast majority of the million users sampled don’t say what they are.
With around 60% of users identifying themselves as web developers or software engineers, that paints a fairly stereotypical picture of Google+’s userbase: nerdy guys who have deep understandings of technology and who don’t mind killing some time setting up Circles of friends.
Take the groups, lengthy posts and privacy controls of Facebook, blend it with the information overload and new-user discovery benefit of Twitter, and voilà: Google+ is born.
For now, Google+ is for social media geeks. If you’re curious and have the chance to try it out, go for it. The privacy settings are quite clear, but with any new service it’s best to keep posts squeaky clean until you are comfortable with how to use it — and until the bugs are worked out.
I have a question, and I once again really don’t have an answer, just some sneaking suspicions coupled with some mild and growing concerns. I’m looking for your insight.
See, the other day, as I was gathering posts on Google+ for the Blog Library, I came across a post by the well-known Robert Scoble. The post is called “Why yo momma won’t use Google Plus (and why that thrills me to no end). I read the post and it kind of rubbed me the wrong way, but I was tired and so I figured I was just feeling cranky.
However, I found that as time went on, the post kept kind of bugging me, like one of those darned fruit flies that pops up in July. There are a few things that are bothering me, and coming together with other posts I’ve read, I’m kind of feeling like Google+ is being constructed as a velvet rope, smoke-filled, dancing lady-filled men’s lounge.
Issue 1: Distinguishing between “Social Media Stars” and “your mom” Issue 2: Women and Technology Issue 3: It’s mostly men I see talking about Google+
Whether or not Google+ succeeds or fails remains uncertain, particularly given the service is still invite-only. But it's not how many people are using the service but who they are and who listens to them. Among the geek elite Google+ chatter reminds me of the launches of Facebook (to the public) and Twitter, both in 2006.
Here's a tip: If you're on Google+ and want to find out what the tech elite is saying, and who among them to follow, just add ubergreek Robert Scoble to a Circle. He can't shut up about Google+. Seeing who's commenting to his posts is an easier way to find out who's on Google+ than using its built-in search feature. Scoble is just one of the many geek influencers talking about Google+.
Searching Google News brings about 6,000 results for "Google +", but only 85 for "Mac OS X Lion Gold Master", which Apple released over the holiday weekend. Anything Apple is typically big news, if nowhere else than techdom. Not this weekend.
For now, at least, Google+ is marketing sensation, as measured by the volume of influencers talking about it.
When it comes to representing relationships online, there are two big questions: 1. Our offline relationships are very complex. Should we try and replicate the attributes and structure of those relationships online, or will online communication need to be different? 2. If we do try and replicate the attributes of our relationships, will people take the time and effort to build and curate relationships online, or will they fall back to offline interactions to deal with the nuances?
We’re only at the beginning of trying to answer these questions. Google+ is a well designed product, but it is not “the solution” to the problem of representing complex relationships online. In fact, there probably isn’t “one solution”.
My initial experience with Google+ is impressively positive, but how will I feel tomorrow? To be successful and potentially up-end Facebook, Google+ must be adopted by the masses; those who check in on Facebook five times a day and who carry on important, personal, and farcical conversations. Activities that Facebook members thrive on should be replicated and improved upon. Farmville had a transformative impact on Facebook's fortunes. Google+ will need a game to draw members back to the service on a daily basis; Google's hesitancy to bake search into every aspect (it is in some areas) of the service undermines Google+'s most critical advantage.
There's a lot of heat around Google+ right now (you can thank me later, Google, for not saying "Buzz"), but it's when that heat and flurry of initial activity from first movers and early adopters fades that we'll learn if Google+ has what it takes to become the next Facebook.
“Early adopters” are a myth to me. They can praise a new product or service, speculate or critique it, but the real people that matter are all narcissistic.
Real people don’t tweet about what they’re doing online, they tweet about the things they’re doing in the physical world, they post pictures with friends at clubs or sports games or concerts, they invite people to their birthday parties and BBQs, they let you know who they’re fucking (or not fucking anymore) with a status update of a little pink heart and want to do it all with as little digital friction as possible.
So the attempt to create digital metaphors for human interaction (Hangouts and Huddles on Google+) is as tired and convoluted as a rappin’ toothbrush selling Crest because the American Dental Association thinks they “get it,” it doesn’t simplify or solve any problem for the average person, it’s just more complexity and wasted time.
I've been been watching Google flail around social web apps for a few years now, so what I appreciate most about Google+ is that it's a well-thought out product informed by past experience. The more I use Google+, the more I see just how many lessons Google learned from Wave and Buzz, such as: - Don't launch a social product without email notifications. - Field-test the hell out of a social product before public release, with real users. - Don't mess with the Gmail inbox. - Build a product for users first, not developers. - Don't make a separate monolith or an invasive add-on. - Launch with a great, functional mobile app. - Launch with a stupidly awesome "Send feedback" mechanism. - Don't make tech authors want to write a book about it
By limiting the number of people who can join Google+, Google is hugely limiting what kind of experience those people will have.
I can’t entirely figure out why Google’s opted for such a limited release. Surely one of the largest tech companies in the world can’t be short of server capacity? (disclaimer: I am not a network engineer). If it’s just for testing and early feedback, and it’s not ready yet, then why the all-singing, all-dancing assault of videos explaining what it does?
I’d have thought Google would have learnt the lessons of the Wave fiasco. That doesn’t appear to have been the case. Google+ might the best social service that the world has ever seen, but until it’s widely accessible, it’ll be terrible.
Google+ isn’t a new Google Buzz or Google Wave--giant new products tossed out into the wild with much fanfare, only to quickly fizzle out or, worse, wither under backlash. Instead, Google+ is one element in a much larger strategy the company launched last year to gradually shift all of Google--Search, YouTube, Places, etc---from standalone tools to a set of services that operate much more socially.
"People are already on Google. We have billions of users," Bradley Horowitz, the product lead for Google+, tells Fast Company. "We haven't provided them with a consistent and coherent experience of how they represent themselves and their relationships. We're fixing that."