Let’s just get this out of the way first, I like Google+. There’s a lot to like about it, as is the case with pretty much everything else Google makes. I just find myself constantly asking “Why aren’t more people using Google+?” There are frequent articles posted stating that there are hundreds of millions of users worldwide… how come none of them seem to be my friends or family?
Ok, my brother (who is quite tech savvy) uses it, as does one of my friends. That doesn’t however, come close to my 250+ Facebook contacts, many of whom are active on a daily basis. Was it something that Google did, or hasn’t done, that’s turning people away?
Most of us at the Glacier Digital office live within inches of some type of electronic device at any given moment during the day, and for some of us, connecting through social networking is even part of our daily tasks.
Given the amount of time we spent online as a digital agency, we may not be classified as typical internet users, but when it comes to our family and friends, we tend to gravitate towards what everyone else does. This is part of the online ‘hive mind’.
One of the issues with having constant access to everything online is the overwhelming number of options of communication. Here’s a great example :
Not only are there multiple methods of communicating, but within Google alone there are dozens of tools that people use on a daily basis. Google Calendar, Blogspot, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Drive, and a handful of others. Google+ doesn’t seem to have an identity of its own as it’s seemingly mashed into the others and seems to have been cast off as a ‘me too’ service, offering nothing new over what Facebook already provides.
Facebook on the other hand is… well, a social network, pure and simple. Sure, the site has attempted to become an email client, a search engine, among other things, but when you think of Facebook, your first thought is ‘sharing content with your family and friends’ and not much else. It lets its users perform this task incredibly well, which is one of the main reasons it’s become such an enormous success. User focus on networking with others, instead of services may also be why the performance of Facebook ads pales in comparison to Google’s.
As sad as it is to say, a lot of people still don’t even know what Google+ is. If you have parents over the age of 60 (a shockingly large demographic) chances are quite good they have no idea what Google+ is, however they will know what Facebook is and more often than not, will even have a Facebook account.
Another very troubling fact is that many people already have Google+ accounts and don’t even know it. Sign up alerts and notifications have been forced upon users of Google’s services ever since Google+ launched. Since so many people use Google’s services, this is something that should have worked in Google’s favour.
Another question you could ask would be “Was anyone really looking for an alternative to Facebook?” Ask anyone and their answer would very likely have been ‘No’. Over time, people become accustomed to a specific platform or layout and they are unwilling, even scared, to make a change. Even die-hard Facebook users revolt if there are any notable changes to their news feed or layout.
What about Mobile?
With the amount of mobile traffic quickly accelerating and anticipated to take over desktop access very soon, the focus on smartphone and tablets is critical for these two services.
The Mobile app for Google+ on Android and iOS have always been extremely well designed and integrate directly with Android devices, while the Facebook mobile app has been the butt end of many jokes (at least on Android devices) for quite a while. However, that may be changing.
This is the one area that Google+ could grow dramatically, as each Android phone comes with access to the social network pre-installed. Sharing photos, files and events is a snap, and with any luck, could become a part of the everyday routine for mobile users.
The Like Button
In the world of social content sharing, instead of working with Facebook, Google+ seems to be fighting them head on. This is a dangerous proposition especially since Facebook’s Like button has penetrated nearly every website imaginable. While Google’s +1 button has done a surprisingly effective job it still has a very long way to go.
Google+ certainly has the power behind it to make a real dent in Facebook’s crown however, it needs to do more than that if it plans on converting users, which is the only way it will grow. Facebook has almost hit the limit (15% of the entire world) for market share so there isn’t a lot of room for more than one of its kind.
How will Google+ cope with the never-ending juggernaut that is Facebook? Only time will tell.