On July 12th, 2011 wrote on the subject of Industry News,Social Media.

Why Google Plus will fail.

Google+ launched a couple of weeks ago, and now the dust has started to settle on what is Google’s most important project to date outside of search.

So how will + be received and what are the chances of long-term success? Launching a social network is always going to be tough, even tougher when your aim is to replace Facebook, however Google have done themselves no favours with their launch strategy.

The invites scheme sucks

While an invite scheme works really well at generating launch buzz around non-social products such as GMail for instance, for social networks restrictions on sign ups can be a major contribution to their failure. Exclusivity obviously restricts the number of people that are able to sign up in the early stages. When Google+ was first announced they benefited from a tremendous amount of mainstream media coverage, since then while industry chatter has grown, the mainstream coverage has tailed-off. This may be have been an unmissable opportunity to get mainstream sign ups on the site.

Google are terrible at social

Google actually have a terrible record of ‘doing’ social media, a long list of failures lie in their wake – Google Wave, Buzz, Voice, Orkut, etc. Getting people to talk about Google products has never been an issue, getting them to use them has.

Critical mass

For a social network to succeed in the long-term they have to reach a critical mass of users. It’s not easy to persuade people to join a social network, and it’s even less easy to persuade them to move networks. People aren’t likely to move over to Google+ while their friends are still on Facebook.

Wrong choice of early adopters

When MySpace launched it did so with a sprinkling of cool bands and music promos. Facebook grew exclusively off of the back of college students in the US. Who did Google choose to be their path-finding early adopters? Geekerati and Internet marketers. Hmmm

Too easy for Facebook to counter?

While the Google+ circles are a great idea and is touted as being Googles game-changer, I love the concept of being able to share certain content with certain groups of users, but plus is not exactly groundbreaking elsewhere in terms of features and functionality, I was actually pretty disappointed at the lack of new ideas and features when I first signed-up. Facebook lists already exist, and I’m fairly sure that Facebook are already looking at extending the sharing functionality around these.

18 comments on Why Google Plus will fail

  1. Dug says:

    All fair points, but a little simplistic.

    The invites scheme sucks:
    It’s early days. If you get your marketing right, restricting demand works very well. Apple are the masters of this. It has worked well in the games console market too. If they can win some hearts, get people champing at the bit to join and follow through with some killer early-use stats, messaging and innovation, they could pull it off.

    Google are terrible at social:
    Past-form is only so much use. It fails to take into account the ebb and flow of public sentiment and the fact that sometimes you strike gold. Again, time will tell.

    Critical mass:
    Entirely true, but it will only take a small core of influencers to abandon FB and move to G+ and all their mates will stampede after them.

    Wrong choice of early adopters:
    The Geeks made Google what it is and they still have a lot of influence online. While the internet has gone mainstream since the rise of Google, people still look to their geek mates for opinion on technology. Geeks are also passionate about things that they like and will become evangelists if Google can win their hearts.

    Too easy for Facebook to counter?
    This is probably the killer. Facebook have the user-base and can deliver everything that Google can. Google have them back-footed at the moment and Big G need to keep up a stream of innovation to keep them there. Do Google have the stamina or the creativity to maintain it? I am not convinced (although, this is based almost entirely on past form – see above).

    To my mind, it is not about why it *will fail*, but the (admittedly steep) challenges they have to overcome for it to succeed.

  2. David says:

    The first 3 reasons you mention hold no substance. First, the invitation scheme will have no bearing once the flood gates open. The current scheme is just to build up curiosity.

    Point 2, I don’t see how past products have any bearing on it, Many online services go through iterations that fail, Google just has their failed products out in the open for all to see.

    Point 3, That’s what they said about Facebook when Myspace was king.

    Point 4, Online Marketers etc always make up most of the early adopters, Google might not quite have it’s niche with their audience but it’s a brilliant cross between Facebook and Twitter.

    Point 5, Not so easy for Facebook to counter, unless they make themselves a almost a clone of Google+. Sharing on Google+ to different circles is 100x more easier and intuitive and so is uploading media. The interface is more clear and have options to liberate data, providing better privacy settings etc. Don’t think Facebook will be giving up their user data any time soon!

  3. Matt says:

    Thanks for the responses guys.

    I think you may have misunderstood the point on the invite scheme – Offline you only really get one bite at the cherry in terms of media buzz, once the moment has gone Google will find it very hard to replicate as much mainstream coverage as they had a couple of weeks ago. Yes the geeks will carry on writing blog posts :) but not taking advantage and signing-up as many people as possible when intrest was at it’s highest may well be a big mistake.

  4. Dug says:

    I think the real splash is yet to come. To my mind, the initial push (including in the offline world) was just the beginning and in a few weeks or months there is going to be a deluge of press bombardment about how G+ is growing so fast, and how it is tipped to beat FB. Once business analysts start saying it (rather than Google) people will start believing it and the winds will start to change.

    FB is so established that any initial splash, no matter how big, is not going to challenge its market share (Firefox and IE spring to mind as a good analogy). It is going to take a long, protracted groundswell to threaten FB’s market share and that will never happen overnight. The only way to challenge that level of monopoly is by getting an evangelical core on board and maintaining a product that is constantly a few steps ahead of the incumbent.

    That’s how you go about it, whether Google can deliver it is a different matter.

  5. Wozz says:

    For me the reason that it will fail like Google Buzz is that people are used to their content rich networks they have created over the last few years on FB and Twitter. These sites have grown organically. Until G+ gets the user base to grow organically this content wont exist on G+ and therefore it is redundant however good a framework it maybe for a social network.

    While I work in social media, on a personal level I am an average user of Facebook, Twitter, certainly not an influencer or someone who posts up a lot of content. I use Facebook to browse interesting articles about my favourite hobbies like football and music and to communicate with friends and organise things. I use Twitter as a news source.

    I have logged on to G+ and have found very little to follow or read that interests me. So far just Mashable which I read daily for work (which is already on the other 2 networks and much more active on them). There is nothing to draw me back in, they need something fresh and new, like Facebook was when it came out.

    Anyway I look forward to being proven wrong but I cant see how any of my non geeky friends will ever take up G+ as it currently stands.

  6. Matt says:

    That’s some really good point Wozz, I probably use social networks in a similar way, Twitter = news and content sharing and Facebook = personal. Maybe if + is a threat to anything it’ll be Twitter.

  7. Wozz says:

    Yes I think FB position is also quite strong because anything they deem worthwhile created by + could then be replicated and delivered to their own vast user base. The same for Twitter to be honest.

    I think Google is scared that people are using things like FB and Twitter more and more to browse the web and that it is competition for their core product (search).

    For me the next step which would get me hooked on a new social web product is for someone to create a very customisable social browser which allows the user almost unlimited options for organising their networks and webpages on screen. A bit like a sexier version of something like Tweetdeck integrated into Google Chrome.

    I would like my FB and Twitter Feeds accessible at all times while I am browsing the web in other tabs and maybe even have something like Evernote automated in the background so I can recall content I have seen quickly.

  8. […] heels of the less-than-successful Google Wave and Google Buzz, some experts note Google’s, poor track record with social networking and suggest that Google Plus is destined to […]

  9. lolumad says:

    24 million users in first 20 days.

    took facebook 1000 days

    u mad OP? u mad u are too stupid?

  10. Matt says:

    24 million users in 20 days? Google search receives 620 million users daily. So it’s taken them 20 days to signup just 3% of their existing userbase?

    Maybe the question should be why so few?

  11. untitled says:

    Most of my friends use the internet for hotmail and facebook and casual browsing. They use google products like maps, search, youtube but I bet never sign in to there accounts to use them so they inevitabily miss out on useing them as powerful tools that they are. I think if more people used them in this way with googles new social layer they would see the the point of it. If it works or not a bettering other social sites is not what I get from useing g+ I get the impression that is more like hotmail and yahoos social thing uniting all there products together and linking there users and blending products together. What do you think?

  12. gyan says:

    its enough what the google plus has now to beat facebook once it will be open for everyone.

  13. Dan says:

    Matt. I agree with your blog…Google are terrible at social and G+ will probably go the way of Wave at some point but what do you think of the New Facebook changes? Has Facebook gone too far? Out of the new features, what are you liking and what are you hating?

  14. Dharmik says:

    I wont comment on the invite scheme as its all over and as said the flood gates are now opened. Google+ boasts of having millions of users in a short period of time..but the real point is whether all these users are active! I myself have signed up and already have around 50 odd in my circles but my home page is updated once in a few days…
    One point i agree upon is that it is very easy for Facebook to introduce all the new features dat G+ has.. thus nullifying the effect.
    Facebook has been smart enough to introduce a new interface and is giving less reasons for people to shift!
    I feel G+ can only survive if it stays alongside FB, grows and sustains as a second fiddle. And then may be introduce sumthing totally out of the world in future…dat attracts people to it like a magnet!! We cant expect it to steal all the users from FB overnite or even a year!

  15. Marwen says:

    if google want to succeed it should add instant discussions and to separate Gmail from google plus it is the reason of the fail….GMAIL is not G+…

  16. Frank says:

    Interesting to read this now that the matter is settled. This writer definitely had the game figured out last summer: wasted free advertising, no cool people joining, no engaging new features. I think this will serve as a lesson for future social media sites at least, don’t leave things entirely in the hands of the computer geeks. Imagine the difference if they had one local club promoter come in every Wednesday as they were designing it and going, “I don’t get how exclusivity will build enthusiasm when all you’re selling is social interaction, and you’re forgetting to think about the people who get in, and then are bored.” Or having one guy from the marketing department come by and ask, “You’re getting all this free press, but when I go to the site, it won’t let me join.” Or even just a cynical 19 year old who could say, “Yeah you let me put my friends in one posting group and my mother in another, but who cares?”

  17. ‘The Future of Email’ … Looks a Lot Like Twitter | | DOCUMENTSDOCUMENTS says:

    […] during a moment: Why would we write an email when we can send a tweet, or a Facebook message, or (to be fair) a Google+ note? Though we’re nowhere nearby the finish of email, what we are coming is a […]

  18. Datrix SilverWolf says:

    “Google’s most important project” Give me a freakin break.
    “How will + be received and what are the chances of long-term success?” Well the changes are already here and they are a major disaster for a user who wants to retain his anonymity and who also isn’t a troll. So far the changes have recieved major shock across youtube, petitons are going up.

    “It’s a brilliant cross between Facebook and Twitter” Brilliant is relative some may agree and others won’t. I will never agree on that. I think it is a failure.

    “Google are terrible at social” I whole-heartedly agree with you on that which is why they shouldn’t have even pushed G+ on any of its users.

    “May be introduce something totally out of the world in future.” Your saying that as if you don’t really know. That might be cool and all but people hate google already so whats this something new that people will love and get on the band wagon with google. I already hate them and any chang would make me hate them even more.

    “Critical mass.” It’s past that for me from critical mass to Radiation Leakage.

    ” It is not about why it *will fail*, but the (admittedly steep) challenges they have to overcome for it to succeed.” It is not about why it will fail but how far into the depths of hades they are willing to drag there users before they come back out and finally level out at the neutral (Zero) Zone. There is no succeeding in my mind. I still like facebook a lot more then I do google but I never did quite catch on to Twitter or Myspace.

    Anyway these are my thoughts and my opinions. As a former avid youtube user i can say that I loved what youtube was about in 2006-9. From 2010-13 I began to hate the changes and today I couldn’t take it anymore and am now unhappy and frustrated by what Google has become. Searching is great but everything else I could care less about.

    Google should’ve stuck to what they already knew and kept with that without having to tear across the internet and rip its users to shreds.

    Thanks and Goodnight.

Leave a comment