Google+: Over-hyped…Maybe. But Not Dead

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Remember Google Plus? That was a cool time right?

Back in July, in Plus’ glory days, it was all the rage with tech nerds and marketer types. It seemed that after many failed attempts at entering the social world, Google had finally found something. There were Circles, Hangouts, and Huddles for the mobile application. It was cleaner, less junky, and overall less noise. Google Plus gave everyone with crowded streams and way too many connections a second chance for a cleaner, less overwhelming online social life.

July was a good time to be a “Plusser.” The bad news is that growth and time on the site peaked in mid-July according to this Mashable report.  Looks like Google+ is on a downward spiral right? Not necessarily.

The Good of Google+

If you were to get on Plus now, you would see tumbleweeds in comparison to the flurry of activity there was in July. The postings are sparse at this point. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The posts are few but the comment sections are richer. I have great conversations on Twitter but the threaded discussions on G+ have been more in-depth. I feel like now that if I have a genuine curiosity about something (mainly tech related), I can get more from my G+ circles.

There are also numerous opportunities for G+ to be a heavy hitter digitally. I guest posted on Vitrue’s blog yesterday about how Google+ could be a powerhouse in the B2B marketing sphere…something Facebook hasn’t lended itself as well to IMHO. Hangouts are a gateway for more meaningful customer service interactions, more efficient quick and dirty focus groups, and other ‘thought leadership’ style discussions. If G+ throws in more seamless Docs integration like they do with YouTube (or what Salesforce does with documents in Chatter), it could have a much heavier hand.

The Bad of Google+

One thing hurting Google+ is that it looks and acts a lot like Facebook. There isn’t a heck of a lot in the way of product differentiators between the two services outside the black bar on the top of my Gmail and Docs screens that give me G+ notifications. But that could be a good thing since G+ is set up in a way that people are used to connecting with each other on a social network.

For now, the biggest thing hurting Google+ is the lack of updates.  There hasn’t been a lot in the way of impactful changes outside of the +1 button since it rolled out. They still haven’t given out brand pages, haven’t opened up their API and still have it in invite-only. Activity peaked on the site in July because nothing new was happening in August (and now September). Most people got tired of G+ and migrated back to what they were most comfortable: Facebook. After all, that’s where all their friends were.

For me, I still personally get a lot of value out of Google+. I like the smaller niche conversations happening on it right now. Where it will be six months from now is anybody’s guess. For anyone outside of the Googleplex, all we have at this point is educated speculation.

What do you think the future holds for Google Plus?

On a side note, if you want to connect with me on Google Plus, click here for my profile link.

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  • Mitchkylell

    I agree with you, in July when it was new and I was learning about G+ it was kind of fun and I was on it a lot.  But then not a lot of my friends have joined.  And it also seemed that back in July all the buzz was about how awesome G+ was and how it was going to take over Facebook.  And it seemed that the only thing all the people on G+ had in common was G+ itself. Now all that talk has died down, there is nothing new or interesting that have captivated people, or make new people want join, so now there is hardly any talk at all.I still believe that there is potential for G+ but it needs something, a SPARK or a life, but I’m not sure what it is that it needs.  And not to mention it needs to be opened up to everyone.Which by the way I tried to post this in G+ and I kept getting an error message, so that doesn’t help their case too much with me!

    • http://www.brainwads.net/drewhawkins Drew Hawkins

      Yeah there are a lot of features of Plus that you would think should’ve come out with its initial launch. The main “shiny object” of G+ were the Hangouts and became a huge draw for a lot of people. A few guys in my office said that they probably launched too quickly just to get Hangouts out ahead of Facebook’s video chat announcement. That makes sense to me anyway. 

      Even though simplicity/minimalism is a huge draw for G+, there are some key features they need to add (or at least add something) before everyone completely forgets about “plussing.”

  • http://www.vladgorenshteyn.com Vlad Gorenshteyn

    I enjoyed your guest post on Vitrue’s blog. It was was a fresh way to look at B2B social networking—digital space typically reserved for consumer-facing brands.Thanks for spurring this discussion. Here are my thoughts on the future of Google Plus…I think the future success of Google Plus will largely depend on:More aggressive integration of G+ into the Google ecosystem, particularly the tablet and mobile space (considering the rapid adoption of Android devices). IMHO, G+ and not Gmail should be the gateway to the Google experience.

    Brands’ use of G+ that will: 1) drive Google’s revenue (via ads…oh yes they’re coming, assuming G+ brand pages ever launch—what happened to “they’re coming in 2 weeks?”); 2) drive Google’s innovation and development of a better and more innovative feature-set. 3) Allow G+ to coat-tail market its platform (e.g. Brand says, “Here’s our product…find us on plus.google.com/ourbrandname”) which will ultimately attract non-techies and late-adopters adding to the user/content growth and diversity of the network.

    International presence: we must not forget that non-Americans use social networking and the larger brands cater to an international audience. G+ must build an international presence in BRIC, and other developing + democratically/capitalistically inclined nations to become a truly global social network. While Facebook will most likely take the acquisition route, Google has a significant first-mover advantage to market G+ internationally. Did you know that Google controls 80%+ of the planet’s search? In theory, G+ could outflank Facebook and other dominant social networks in the US and internationally—becoming a global social network. However, leadership at Googleplex will need to become less HP and more Apple (the Jobs years).I use G+ because it’s free, easy, and (so far) uncluttered. G+ is well integrated into my digital and social experience with unique features that I find useful (e.g. circles, hangouts, huddles, etc.).  I also use Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. While I like these platforms—with their set of inherently valuable features—I’d like to see the major players compete. When individuals and the companies they work for compete, the marketplace wins.Do you think Google plus has a different future than what I envision? Would you add any success factors to my list? I’m very interested to hear other people’s thoughts…

    • http://www.brainwads.net/drewhawkins Drew Hawkins

      I think the aggressive integration into the whole ecosystem point that you made is key. Tom from MySpace wrote an article for TNW saying how we’ll use G+ whether we want to or not. I think if they weave the social elements of G+ into all of their products (docs, YouTube, Calendar etc) it’ll give more people a reason to adopt. 

  • Guest

    I enjoyed your guest post on Vitrue’s blog. It was was a fresh way to look at B2B social networking—digital space typically reserved for consumer-facing brands.Thanks for spurring this discussion. Here are my thoughts on the future of Google Plus…I think the future success of Google Plus will largely depend on:More aggressive integration of G+ into the Google ecosystem, particularly the tablet and mobile space (considering the rapid adoption of Android devices). IMHO, G+ and not Gmail should be the gateway to the Google experience.

    Brands’ use of G+ that will: 1) drive Google’s revenue (via ads…oh yes they’re coming, assuming G+ brand pages ever launch—what happened to “they’re coming in 2 weeks?”); 2) drive Google’s innovation and development of a better and more innovative feature-set. 3) Allow G+ to coat-tail market its platform (e.g. Brand says, “Here’s our product…find us on plus.google.com/ourbrandname”) which will ultimately attract non-techies and late-adopters adding to the user/content growth and diversity of the network.

    International presence: we must not forget that non-Americans use social networking and the larger brands cater to an international audience. G+ must build an international presence in BRIC, and other developing + democratically/capitalistically inclined nations to become a truly global social network. While Facebook will most likely take the acquisition route, Google has a significant first-mover advantage to market G+ internationally. Did you know that Google controls 80%+ of the planet’s search? In theory, G+ could outflank Facebook and other dominant social networks in the US and internationally—becoming a global social network. However, leadership at Googleplex will need to become less HP and more Apple (the Jobs years).I use G+ because it’s free, easy, and (so far) uncluttered. G+ is well integrated into my digital and social experience with unique features that I find useful (e.g. circles, hangouts, huddles, etc.).  I also use Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. While I like these platforms—with their set of inherently valuable features—I’d like to see the major players compete. When individuals and the companies they work for compete, the marketplace wins.Do you think Google plus has a different future than what I envision? Would you add any success factors to my list? I’m very interested to hear other people’s thoughts…

  • http://caffeinefusion.blogspot.com Owen Smith

    Indeed, I agree (posted a few blog posts on this if you’re interested, eg. http://caffeinefusion.tumblr.com/post/9075613248/google-sparks)

    That said – there has been movement – they added games and Google Sparks… but then it petered out.
    But – I think there may be a very good reason for that. There are some very bright guys in Google, and I don’t think it would be a good strategy to be adding new innovations on an as come basis.
    Why? Because, Facebook is watching Google+ like a hawk. Google has Facebook on the back foot.
    Instead, I postulate, it is better to hold off, come up with some brilliant innovations, and then flood them onto the Social Network. In the meantime, working on the cross-app integration (which they have been doing) and adding small things that Facebook has already done (ie. Games) or that for the moment seem of little value (eg. Sparks).
    Meanwhile, the resilient few stay on Google+ as a user population who will act as the advertising agents for the changes that Google makes in the future.

    What they really need to do is pull out some fresh direction on Social Media – not just Facebook+ but a better and more effective social and collaborative tool.
    And the way to do that is to integrate enough new functionality at the one time such that Facebook can’t easily attempt to replicate it.

    For me, the main thing that is lacking is friends. Very few people I know use Google+, they’re all on Facebook. Facebook already has a vibrant community – why would these people bother making the effort to migrate? – That is the question Google needs to answer.

    • http://www.brainwads.net/drewhawkins Drew Hawkins

      With the market that has attracted G+ (tech guys, more ‘professional’ audiences etc) I don’t think gimmicky things like games are going to fly. It’ll take some more office/business friendly applications to make this thing fly. Facebook doesn’t quite cut it for professional work, LinkedIn is mainly a job-hunting site, so I think G+ can fit nicely in the middle. 

      • http://caffeinefusion.blogspot.com Owen Smith

        It depends on what they’re vying for. If they are trying to be *the* social network, then having some of the things that people love from Facebook will make it easier for them to become involved.

        The main thing about Games is not so much the Games in themselves – I can play flash games anywhere anytime – but the fact that users remain on Google+ for longer periods.
        Consider – If I check my feed every hour or two, then I might reply to a few messages/posts etc. then go away again. But, if I was on say a game, I’m on the Google+ site for longer, I feel more inclined to discuss things with people because I am ever present on that site. (Not that you can’t get a similar effect through tabs – but having the branding applied and reinforced through the games – I think, will account for much in the long run)

        Also, it means that when they do apply Ads, they have more time to sell – If I wander off to play flash games, that’s air time that their Ads lose.

        • http://www.brainwads.net/drewhawkins Drew Hawkins

          Good point about time spent on the site. That’s one area where Google could excel. Plus games do a good job of data mining on people as well. I hope that they steer in a niche that Facebook doesn’t quite reach and then branch out from there. Time will tell what actually happens. 

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