Just a day in and my Twitter stream resembles the comments section of a Google Plus blog post, but it’s too be expected, this is after all a potential game changer for social. The great thing is that we won’t have to wait long, a few weeks, possibly even less to know where Google Plus stands in the market. Here are three very immediate issues I see that could break, or make, this launch when the masses come flooding in [and yes, they’re starting to creep on over].
#1 – Are the features enough to compel people to make a switch?
No one is leaving a trusted tool for less and while circles are a slap in the face of the “optout” site model [heya Facebook], they are just one component. Clearly the site wasn’t built overnight [or if it was they had a heck of a lot of hands on] but it’s not perfect either. Friend circles can be circumvented with sharing, replies have no +1 or other micro interactions, events don’t exist, photo sharing is limit. When there’s an alternative that’s winning, the beta argument doesn’t hold for long.
Features also extend into privacy. Google may have the opt-in method down but with oogles of data, people are going to be wondering where those +1s are going, what a search tells their friends. Privacy is as much a feature as any site widget these days.
#2 – Can they get people in fast enough?
Google’s decision to be Google centric has cost them before and it’s clearly going to be a factor here as well. Rather than clicking an import button and Facebook [or Twitter, LinkedIn, etc] connecting in, users are stuck with a broadcast announcement that they’ve joined. As friend circles catch on auto-discovery will help people find each other but how do they go beyond the early adopters… Google has to find a way to get the technophobes, the indifferent, and even the currently happy users over… and stat.
As the invite hacking and the hype posts [like this one] wither way, there has to be the regular “life, love & work” remarks to keep people logging in. Those are what made Facebook exciting and for the non-tech crowd this is even more true… google gets just a few days with each user before they write it off and return home to see who is dating, vacationing or wants to see a movie.
#3 – Are people willing to multi-post?
This is a dicey one as Google really only gets partial control but it’s huge. When Facebook came into existence it wasn’t always overnight. Some people resisted, a few even held on for years with myspace [and the international sites] owning a few demographic groups even to this day. But what Facebook had was the niche model. One school, one group of people moved at a time and that made it extremely effective as you could literally wake up the day after joining and see all your friends had followed.
Google doesn’t get that ability, not 750 million users later. Every user who joins up has to decide, where do I post, and if 130 of their friends on Facebook we know that gets a vote. That means they have got to find a way to get people cross posting or additional posting and without any integration back or forth, that means a manual visit. It’s not an easy solve but it’s essential as every time someone heads back to see what their “bigger” network said, they risk not deciding to return.
Now since this post already has the distinct smell of doubt, I want to be clear, there’s something very compelling here and I’m hearing it not just from other social / tech / adopters but even from the more passive friends that I’ve snuck over.
It’s no secret that Facebook’s push for open is widely questioned [the “Facebook privacy chain mail” messages say enough]. With that in mind, circles represent a BIG [although by no means new] move and really do change the opportunity for social to be 360. No matter what people say there are lines in life and most of the world either steps back in what they post or who they let in… especially as you age down, and that’s where your powerhouse lies.
Where Google shines is clearly in tackling this and allowing you to combine mom, high school friends, go to vegas with friends, and coworkers into one.
Google also has the benefit of a whole host of tools which many people already use from gchat to gmail to rope in and get really feature rich. But those can hinder too… if they select something “on the shelf” rather than build what people want.
And Google doesn’t have to go “everyone” big, although it seems most logical that they will. Pushing into niches could have a solid outcome & help them avoid having to force a complete change over the short term. But there’s risk in that too… that they become a Twitter – and not in the sense of having huge power but rather having huge awareness but virtually no usage – another wasteland of early adopters who have moved on.
It goes without saying that only time will tell what happens when the “geeks” stop being the majority of users but the way things are rolling, that time will be mighty soon.
Inspirational post: First Night With Google Plus: This is Very Cool from Marshall Kirkpatrick of Read Write Web