Why Google+ Doesn’t Matter

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Why Google+ Doesn't Matter"
Originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider
Find me on Google+ here, and read the Google+ FAQ

Google+ is the future of social media! It's better than Facebook and Twitter and CatPaint combined! It can haz cheezburger!

Or maybe not.

The past two weeks have painted an overly sanguine portrait of Google+'s new social service. Look through the recent list of Social Media Insider columns from Cathy Taylor and myself, and it reads like a stream of stories you'll see friends sharing in Google+: a ton of stories about Google+ and a couple others about social media, though no cat pictures (sorry).

Google+ will hardly win over the masses overnight. The person who best anticipated the biggest threat to Google+ was none other than Julius Henry Marx, better known as Groucho. He wrote about sending a telegram to the Friar's Club of Beverly Hills that read, "Please accept my resignation. I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member." Woody Allen cited this in "Annie Hall" to explain his relationships with women, and it's just as relevant to explain why early adopters can expect a tumultuous relationship with Google+.

Right now, Google+ is fun. Major tech stars are hanging out there. Some are even ditching their blogs and publishing exclusively on Google+, apparently to reach the 1% of Internet users who know what Google+ is. A few may think it's prescient, but to me, it's lunacy. Even if a billion people flock to Google+, you don't ditch your own branded real estate to rent somewhere else — especially if the terms of the lease can change without notice. One minute, your rental has views of the ocean; the next minute, you've got a fratboy bar on one side, a mega-high-rise on the other blocking the view, a waterfront filling up with landfill, and a chain-smoking landlord telling you to pay him every time you want a visitor.

I keep going back to Groucho, though. Think about it from the casual user's perspective. Today you get to rub elbows with Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gross and Sergey Brin, and of course the indefatigable Robert Scoble. When some Ford exec posts a hangout (aka video chat, for the non-Plussies among us), you can get in easily enough. People are so gaga over Google+ that when I went to get ice cream in Manhattan's Chinatown over the weekend and ran into a friend from Microsoft, his first words to me were, "Thanks for the Google+ invite!"

Google+ is quickly getting too big for all of that. When Gmail launched, its invite-only phase lasted for more than a year, while weeks after Google+'s launch I can invite anyone I want. The initial enthusiasm of seeing Sergey Brin's travel photos has turned into the frustration of having oversharers in the stream of updates. The rush of adding your friends gives way to figuring out how to avoid those acquaintances you don't want stalking you on another network.

The people who love Google+ most are the people who act like publishers. Bill Gross, one of the most accomplished Internet pioneers of all time, was one so enamored with the comments on his Google+ posts that he announced the death of his blog. For me, I like being able to comment on luminaries' posts, but I know most comments are already ignored now that the novelty is gone. Pretty soon, you're just another name on the list, a trophy on the publisher's mantle that barely anyone will see. Sure, Bill Gross could create a "Circle" (or "list") of a dozen Internet luminaries and only address messages to them, but then hoi polloi will never get to take part. That's precisely Google+'s challenge with emulating both Facebook and Twitter at once: it will always feel too big and too small.

What about video chat, though? Isn't the "hangout" the best thing that Google has done maybe ever? The technology's great, when it works, and it will get better. It may prove to be a threat to Skype, which is now part of Microsoft and a Facebook partner. It's just as likely that people who use video chat through Google+ will want that feature and nothing else. As for the power users, you can have a focus group on Google+ with 10 people, or you can go on Ustream, broadcast to thousands (if not millions) of people at once, and have everyone take part via the comments and social network logins. There will only be so many occasions where you want to chat with 10 people (or even 20 if it scales further) but don't want a public broadcast.

Following last week's roundup of Google+ perspectives, I have two others to share with you. The first comes from an industry friend who sent me an email yesterday with the subject, "GOOGLE +++++ SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!" The body said, "What am I not getting? :)" Expect that to be a far more common sentiment as Google+ opens up to the masses.

Finally, let's return to Groucho Marx, whose dying words were, "Die, my dear? Why that's the last thing I'll do!" We're still talking about Groucho 121 years after his debut (His take: "I was born at a very early age"), so in many ways, he's still with us. Google+ isn't dead either, and dying's the last thing it'll do. Given how fast media consumption is changing, Google will be happy if we're still talking about it a year after its launch. Using it's another story, though.

8 thoughts on “Why Google+ Doesn’t Matter

  1. escort Plus is something of a product. They need to be an product with a capability that will overcome the inertia of the FB users let face it, that’s really who we’re talking about. escort I am not seeing it escort vf

  2. Inertia is one of marketers’ biggest hurdles. Is there a compelling reason to adopt Plus? For folks who have their Facebook friends and content built out, why switch or even add Plus? I am playing around with Plus, but so far I have yet to see a compelling reason for people to switch to or add it. What is the real value relative to FB? I don’t see video chat as a real incentive. Circles = groups. Content sharing experience is basically the same. Is there something big that is in Plus that others are not already doing?
    Plus is something of a “me too” product. They need to be an “Only here” product with a capability that will overcome the inertia of the FB users (let face it, that’s really who we’re talking about). I am not seeing it.

  3. I am eager to see the broad public reaction when it opens to the public (this month?) but I wonder if a Google social network is destined to be the network for the young, tech savvy, internet hip, gadget chic just as gmail.com is still number 3 or 4 when it comes to webmail, but dominant among my friends and customer base.

  4. Unique take, but I don’t know what you are trying to say. Does Google+ not matter because the elites-only playpen didn’t last long enough for you? Your other arguments are good ones against people acting irrationally, but don’t address G+ directly. What about its potential? Dangerous? Interesting? Surely there will be more features and more google apps integrated. As a big time media pundit, don’t you think that Google domination over data and their upcoming data marketplace matters? http://adage.com/article/digital/google-readies-ambitious-plan-web-data-exchange/228637/

  5. I agree that it’s lunacy to give up your blog for Google+, or anything else you don’t control. And yes, Google+ is still in its infancy and we will have to deal with the inevitable rush of spammers, oversharers and other spoilsports. I do think it has a great deal of potential, and allows a degree of control and segmentation that is much easier than on other networks. As for the “Google+ sucks, what am I missing” question, I’ve heard that at one time or another about every online activity I’ve ever engaged in, from Twitter to Facebook to blogging to just being on the Internet in general.

  6. Great post! It’s nice to see one of the tech pundits not falling in line. I will have to wait and see, my invite hasn’t come yet. I’m new to FB and already burned out on it. I joined just to see what all the fuss is about. But now that I see the website promotion and marketing opportunities, I’m eager to get up and running on Google+, even if it is destined to be the next big thing or another Orkut. We will all have to wait and see, won’t we?

  7. Insightful post, as always, David, but do you really think it won’t matter? I agree that it’s getting flooded far faster than any social network before, but isn’t that largely because people now understand what a social network is and why they want one better than they have before? That does not mean that they’ll decide they want ANOTHER one, or this one, by any means, but I do think that Google+ has launched with the most intuitive privacy and content filtering system I’ve seen to date. When I think about the concerns and gripes that the masses have with platforms like Facebook, this feature, which is essentially the first way that new users interface with Plus, just might make it that much more attractive to them.
    You and I both know that another social network isn’t going to be the future, but there’s a huge value in the contextualization of social data…and making sense of massive amounts of data is something that Google seems to be good at. So, while I’m not about to talk about anything being a something-killer, cause that’s just silly, I’m also not ready to say it doesn’t matter yet.
    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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