Google+ (say: goo goal pluss) is the social media “answer to Facebook” from one of the largest online companies in the world. Even though Google is a huge entity and they own the lion share of the search market, they still have an uphill battle to be a success in social media.
Some of the interesting things that Google is offering such as “circles” and “group video chat” might make Google+ an interesting product, but Facebook is where people are already comfortable and already connected. In Social Media success, it’s not about who’s better, it’s about who gets the attention of the users better. For example, someone I know would say that Gowalla is better than Foursquare, and I would agree if user interface and design is our primary focus. Foursquare has 5 times the users according to this article in Fast Company. Is it because of their product? I don’t think so. Foursquare has had greater success because of their method of connecting with new users as well as their process of marketing, not because their product is superior.
Believe me, Google+ is coming up with some cool stuff, pictured here. I think these features will attract some users -especially if executed well, and that’s what I would like to talk about.
Where I think Google+ needs to excel to make a successful social network is based on their process of marketing . To create a product that stands a chance to compete against Facebook -the fact that they have an HTML5 product may make them superior in some ways, but it is not what will bring more users. The way that they bring them in is what matters. Here are two things I think are critical factors at hand for Google+ to compete with Facebook.
(1) SOCIALLY COMPELLING REASON TO JOIN: Facebook brilliantly started with the exclusivity of being for specific college communities only. That exclusivity allowed people to have a common reason of why it mattered to be on Facebook (it was a similar common ground that attracted me to Foursquare). After this, it eventually grew to an “everybody but you is on Facebook” mentality which brought people into the network so as to not be left out. The fact is, if it was “everybody but you” in your Euchre group, that same “don’t miss out” attraction draws new users just as much as “everyone in the world”.
(2) NATURAL DRAW TO SOCIAL CONTENT: Google is a part of our everyday life. Gmail is a widely used email tool for example. This is not to mention any of their other popular products. For Google+ to succeed, they are going to have to make the social features a natural part of the experience of their other products. For example, if a Gmail user sends another Gmail user an email, they should be prompted with a one click option to connect with them on Google+. They are off to a good start with the coming Google+1 button in search results, but how will the search results display my friends search interests? What level of control will I have, without making it tediously manual? What if I don’t want people to know I am interested in midget racing, but I do want you to see what restaurants and products I purchase or recommend? Will the social feed elements show up in search results – such as picture sharing? It sure better!
We’ll see what Google+ comes up with, the “invite only” beta worked for several of Google’s products, we’ll see if it works with Google+. I’m looking for more right now.