The changes to Google+ are great. But they don’t matter

changes to google+By Mark Schaefer

What an exciting week of announcements from Google!

Of course many of us in the social media space were focused on the interface improvements on Google+, but the company also announced:

  • It is re-charging the crucial Maps effort, including graphics, animations, and local landmarks
  • Partnership with NASA on a new quantum computer laboratory to study artificial intelligence
  • A host of specialized apps for Google Glass called Glassware, including alliances with Evernote, CNN, and Elle
  • A new free photo storage system that gives you an option to let Google select, tag, and improve your photos for you
  • A Spotify-like streaming music feature called All Access.
  • Significant enhancements to Google Now, a competitor to Siri.

I wanted to stand up and cheer. In fact, I did stand up and cheer. What amazing stuff!

So you might be surprised when a reporter asked me how this will help Google+ win customers away from Facebook and I answered “It won’t.”

Arguably Google+ already had a better interface than Facebook. So why would an even spiffier interface make a difference? It’s not about the interface. It’s about psychology.

In life, we enjoy having choice most of the time. We like picking out a car or a breakfast cereal from a long aisle of choices. But on the web, we don’t want choice. We only have the psychological bandwidth for one Twitter, one LinkedIn, one YouTube. And yes, One Facebook.

Moving from Facebook is not like switching to another website or even another wireless carrier. It’s switching a lifestyle — and that is very, very difficult to get people to do.

According to research from the Social Habit, 80 percent of Americans between 12 and 24 have a Facebook account and are active at least every other day. That is incredible market penetration. Facebook is the largest media entity in history. And their user interface is terrible. Their record on privacy is terrible. Their ads are annoying. None of that seems to matter, right?

What Google does not seem to realize is that they do not have an interface problem. They have a marketing problem. They need to be spending tons of money to connect to “the cool kids” creating influence and lifestyle choices in junior high and high schools. They need to make Google+ teen-fashionable, not more like Pinterest.

I absolutely love what this company is accomplishing. To a large extent, they are creating our future. I’m just not sure if or when Google+ is going to be part of it on a mass scale.

Now I know there are a lot of passionate Plussers out there ready to skewer me in the comment section. That’s OK. All I ask is that instead of focusing on how much you love G+, let’s focus on the concept of platform adoption. Are these changes enough to get Google+ to “tip?

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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  • I think you’re spot on. In moving from one ecosystem to another one has to give up certain things that are much harder than just going website to website. At the moment the teen population isn’t favoring any of the “big three” social properties. Those are the people that will define the future and one really has to keep an eye on courting them.

  • You’re right Google+ didn’t have an interface problem, they have a marketing issue. My best suggestion to Google+ is to stop hiring engineers and hire some marketing experts. Engineers and Marketers think differently. Engineers think tactical. Google+ has the technical aspects down, now they need a marketing strategy.

  • Kim Deppe

    Agreed, but maybe rather than trying to get marketing folks to make it shinier, Google should come up with something that is disruptive and pushes the social media evolution farther down the lane. Recreating Facebook, no matter how shiny, will never grab market share in significant amounts.

  • Excellent point. I’m super impressed with the Related Hashtags and Auto Awesome photo features, but as for making me (or other users) switch, these aren’t enough. You’re right, Google+ does need better marketing. Marketing 101: sell the benefits, not the features.

  • carmenhill

    Interesting. Wish they had a better name than All Access…

  • Mark, while there are many on Google+ who have left Facebook, there are many more who keep a presence there because it is that place on the web to touch base with friends and family.

    Does Google want to draw more active users? Certainly. But I don’t think they those users will necessarily came at the expense of Facebook.

    I have the pleasure of interacting via hangouts and comments daily on Google+ and the people I meet come from all backgrounds. What they seem to have in common is a willingness to learn and to connect with people who share interests.

    Ironically, one of the earliest criticisms of Google+ was that it was elitest. It was the Apple to Facebook’s PC. And like PC, people got one because of their friends had one.
    Apple’s marketing was all about being cool and efficient.

    Google+ isn’t a Facebook wannabe and frankly it’s time we put the whole G+ vs Facebook hype to rest.

    Maybe Google does need to have its “1984” ad moment, or an “iPod” innovation (although Hangouts is almost a stand alone product.)

    Until then, it will continue to innovate and give us products that we don’t even know we want yet.

    That won’t make it popular but will make it last.

    I would say that Google+ has already reached that critical mass. It’s second only to Facebook in active users and ahead of Twitter.
    It doesn’t doesn’t have to be first or the “only”. It only has to do continue to satisfy anticipate the needs of it’s users.

    Google will continue to ingratiate Google+ into everyone’s life. If you’re on the internet, you’re in the GoogleNet.

  • I actually think that might be coming. Combine with Glass … Google Now … Maps. It could get really interesting. What will be even more interesting is facebook’s response to all of this : )

  • Somewhat agree. But I take exception with “Google+ isn’t a Facebook wannabe and frankly it’s time we put the whole G+ vs Facebook hype to rest.”

    First, I don’t think it’s hype. I think its business. There is nobody at Google who does not want to crush Facebook. So let’s start there. It’s a business dynamic, not hype. Second, remember, I was responding to a question from a reporter. So that’s not hype either. i think people expect there to be a battle and there should be. We will all benefit.

    Third, there is the simple math here. The economics of the social web are driven by the acquisition of personal data which is turned into targeted ads. Google is trying to gain persoanl information “marketshare” over FB through G+. That’s the only reason it exists. So that’s not hype either. That’s huge business stakes.

    I actually think G+ is a huge success on a number of fronts, not the least of which is that it slaps Facebook in the face every day and says “Compete!”

    Thanks for the super comment Ray. Look forward to meeting you in July and we can debate this face to face!

  • That should be fun. Even more reason to look forward to July. 🙂

  • Hmmm.. People won’t move from Facebook because it would require their friends and their friends to move as well. It’s the psychology.

    What if Google is looking to come in from another angle? I always thought Google+ with Google doc and Google search was a great contender for a social enterprise platform.

    As our lives as employees are slowly changing from the traditional 9-5 to a much more fluid work style where mobile always keeps us in touch with work (and vice vera always keep us in touch with our personal lives), our relationships to our co-workers are changing and becoming more personal. In effect our co-workers and business relationships are becoming our friends and friendship circles.

    Facebook doesn’t seem to have managed to bridge over to people’s professional lives. Google, with its extended tool set could do this.

    I think you are right; Changing the interface won’t do much, changing the landing path to people’s lives might.

    Be relevant to people’s professional lives and as their professional lives becomes more relevant to their personal lives you become part of their personal lives.

    If I have to sense check what I just wrote, I have to admit I look at this from a UK point-of-view where the lines are already very blurred. However, my Danish and Japanese friends still keep personal and professional lives strictly separate. Don’t know what the landscape looks like in US

  • I think you are touching on something important there in terms of teen population. A friend of my who works as a Planning Director for DDB in China once told me that people in China and especially young people in China have no affiliation to any social network. As soon as a new one come they all leave en masse. They are simply too shifty as an audience and get bored really quickly.

    I wonder if that trend will spread across the globe. Apparently teens are leaving Facebook. Will Google+ be the place they go? I doubt it unless they come up with something really awesome. Google glasses could be it, but it depends on what they do with it.

  • That is fascinating Robert.

  • +1 (see how I did that?) : )

  • Solid piece. Agree on all key points. Just gave it a g +1.

  • Amen Ray!

  • I think Google has a strategy for this. The base is largely compose of SEOs and those people are firmly anchored in marketing shops by now. It took a while for SEO to go mainstream, but today, everyone mentions it.

    What I see is Google betting it’s community of SEOs will help them branch out into the larger marketing department — and that’s their ticket to the mainstream. To that end, Google has put a whole lot of effort into wooing brands — I find the pages are simply more brand friendly than Facebook’s.

    Finally, in looking through my own little lenses, Facebook is great for connecting to people I know, but Google+, largely because of search, is better at finding people I don’t know, but might want to get to know. That’s a pretty important concept for any organization looking to acquire new customers, donors or petition signers.

  • Frances Archer

    Elaborating on Fransgaard’s comment about people not moving from Facebook because of friends, I looked back to why I joined facebook. My single motivation was that little by little everyone I knew was on facebook and I felt left out. I still have no similar compelling feeling about Google+.

    Another issue is I clearly knew what facebook was before I became a member. On the other hand, Google+ is not so easy to grasp conceptually — and that comes down to a marketing issue.

    And I’ll weigh in on one topic — at least, in my neck of the woods, Instagram is the single platform of choice for kids in middle school.

  • I think the whole thing is fascinating – my experience is that most of the people in my personal life still say, “google+? what’s that?”

    I would agree with you Mark that they have a marketing problem.

    I also think about the cost of transferring from one platform to another – it’s a lot of work to migrate pictures, memories, and relationships. And speaking for myself, as a newbie to social media, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the daily changes in interfaces and ways to market.

    What strikes me, is that people continuously try to figure out how to monetize the networks instead of finding ways to build relationships. Seems like building relationships will lead to business.

  • Oooh, Frank, I completely disagree that Google “has a strategy for this.” They were beaten to the punch and are now trying to play catch-up, and from a numbers perspective it sure looks pretty impossible…unless there’s some sort of major game-changer. Maybe long-term the quality of their offerings will indeed give them the upper hand, which would be an incredible marketing upset. I forced myself to spend the night in G+ just this week (because I’m a social media marketing gal) and, maybe I’m missing something, but it felt like a party with an empty room.

  • The game changer already exists — it’s search. That is G+ pages and posts that wind up in the index. It’s open to the entire web. Facebook is a box, just one corner of the total web.

    This is the piece that so many overlook. G+ isn’t just about social media — it’s about the web. That “social layer” jargon they used a year or two ago, it’s not just fancy talk, it’s a strategy intended to cross the web. Every other mainstream network builds a box and tries to get people to come in and close the door.

    And this isn’t Google’s first rodeo, they learned a lot in their previous two failures. This is a very deliberate and dogged effort. Couple that with the fact the company has more cash in the bank today, than the entire TV advertising industry spends in a year, and I’m feeling pretty comfortable with my bet.

    My Google+ stream? I can’t keep up. But intelligent minds can disagree. Hope to see you on G+!

  • A marketing problem it is. I (along with my group) did my capstone marketing research project on the marketing problems Google+ and one of the biggest things we focused on was the difficulty, both technically and psychologically, of switching from Facebook to Google+.

    The costs of starting over, learning a new interface, reconnecting with people you know, re-uploading photos and other content, building out your “identity,” etc. is simply too high right now to convince most people they should switch. The cons outweigh the pros for the time being.

    If Google could make this process of transferring easier — say by developing a transition tool that quickly and easily transfers your photos, profile information, etc. — and provide incentives for users to invite their friends, they would be in the game. Unfortunately, Facebook would never in a million years allow any transition tool application into their API. But something along those lines has to be done if Google+ desires to “be Facebook” (I’m still not sold on this — I think they can carve out their own niche and be Google+, not “the next Facebook).

  • I am not sure about the interface/set up not being a problem. In FB you can make lists, but hardly anybody does. In G+ you have to – and you have to make a decision every time someone gets added. That makes it a cumbersome thing to add people. But if you don’t pay close attention to where you put your contacts you end up with a whole lot of nonsense on your screen. And it takes a whole lot of editing your contacts to end up with useful content.

    I am one of those I-know-I-need-to-be-there-more people. Most of my friends are, and they are in online marketing and they know how important it is.

  • Great stuff! I believe I said something like this a while back on this forum. At the moment, teens are leaving Facebook for Tumblr by the way. Google+ is not even on their radar.

    Question: who is Google targeting with Google+? I don’t know, because I can’t tell. Google+ is as bland to me as a cubicle. Sure it’s got interesting functionality. But so did MySpace and Orkut and yes, even Facebook. It’s not about functionality. It’s about who’s using it and how. And that is about why they would want to use it in the first place, which is much more of a feeling, a sensation, a vibe, then about technique.

  • The more I work with international markets, not only social but also UX and mobile, the more the World seems to be growing larger again 😀

  • Great post, Mark!

    We don’t have to think that Google+ has lost the battle with Facebook.

    Today, Facebook is the clear winner of the social networks battle, but what about tomorrow?

    It seems difficult, but people can abandon a social network from one day to another.

    For example, here in Spain, we have a local social network aimed to teenagers named “Tuenti” that 2 years ago clearly dominated the teen social world.

    But from a year ago, nobody knows why, all the Spanish teenager began to abandon “Tuenti” and moved into Twitter!

    So they moved from a teen social network to Twitter, the “most complex social network”, can you imagine that?

    Everyone thought that teens would move from Tuenti to Facebook, but they moved to Twitter and stayed there using Twitter as a teen tool!

    Yeah, I know, “Spain is different”…

    All the best from Spain!

  • A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog post and it was shared on Google + by Mark Traphagen who is quite influential on Google + (so is Ray Hiltz who commented below). When Mark shared my post on Google + this update was indexed on Google and appeared higher in search results than my original post.

    We’ll all have accounts on Google+ over time whether we like it or not. You should already have to have an account if you have a physical location because Google Places is now merged into Google +. Over time we’ll all be posting updates to Google + without having to go to Google +.

    Google + is the foundation for all of Google products going forward. It’s more than just a social network.

    I like Roberts comment about it having an opportunity as a social enterprise play. There’s certainly a big opportunity there.

    I think Google + has a bright future but I am and will continue to use Google+ and Facebook for different reasons.

  • There’s a (seemingly) minor point on which I disagree with you: the idea that for some reason, people like to choose – except on social media.

    Changing social platform is a lot like moving house, especially if it means leaving all your friends behind. People tend not to enjoy choosing a new home for themselves every month or so.
    Even after you’ve decided what kind of house you’d like and where, you need to consider things like how far it is to get to the shops, to school (the same school or a new one?), to work, to your friends… and get to know your new surroundings.
    Plus you’ll need to move all your stuff from one house to the next.
    Most people who have been on Facebook for a long time are probably thinking they’re fine where they are now, so why move?
    (This could mean marketers arrive on Google+ long before ‘most people’ do.)

  • Very interesting Mark! Personally I get a little annoyed when people like the journalist focus on this idea that Google’s goal is to replace Facebook. I don’t think it should be the goal at all- instead of this constant “competition” outlook I think the very clear differences in the two should be highlighted – the key for success for Google will be differentiation. Yes Facebook has 80% penetration – they’ve been around longer – not to mention their angle in my opinion, and their strongest point is the photo and “status” sharing. This connects people, it’s brings relationships to a deeper (or if not deeper – more consistent) level. Parents get hooked in to connect with their kids/grand kids) kids are on (or youth) to connect with each other – people are learning more about old college friends etc. the function and appeal there is all about feelings and deepening relationships, self creativty (photos/statements) and in a way entertainment. Google has a whole other strength and angle they are already making themselves known for, are very good at (due to their sophisticated search domination – yes ill call it that) and innovation in technology. Google has its place in sharing knowledge – expanding concepts and ideas and building communities on a larger scale. They are in fact sitting on a brilliant gem which responds to the average person’s paranoid notions of privacy – focusing on the ability to connect without revealing every little personal detail of their life to be successful on the platform. I did an interview recently where I was asked where I see Google going for business (community building) did I think it would catch on…? I explained in my opinion Google has all the tools to infiltrate- with the successful groundwork laid for email, people end up on google plus without even knowing it- people in some cases who don’t even know how to use Facebook! (Yes there are some of those people left – I know a few- lol) Google should keep focusing on this innovation and promote the idea that google is the place to get smart info and reach multiple communities in a safe environment. To share individuality on a public level and learn through collaboration. Sell this to the students, the academics, your clients, your friends. Go to Facebook to see me at dinner and havin a good time enjoying life – meet me at google plus to collaborate, see what I’m thinking, what I’m developing and become part of the innovation. The value is different than that offered by Facebook, but it is just as strong if not stronger and that’s why Google plus is important and why and how it will succeed in taking its monster share – (Dear Google, I accept google payments for my marketing advice – and yes I’m on G+)


    Excellent article Mark! Thanks for the great discussion!

  • Further to my comment above, you’ve made a strong point here Mark, and an important one, and one that I believe google needs to address from a Marketing PR standpoint, educate the media so they can understand market penetration and winning the “battle” is important but they are playing different sports – they are not even in the same league. Once journalists start to understand his, people will stop fighting “I love my Facebook” or. ” why would I leave” or “it’s too much trouble” and they will stay saying, ” google plus has nothing to do with Facebook , I want to be smarter, I want to be savvy, I want to partake in intelligent communities- that’s why I need Google plus”

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  • Sounds like we DO agree. Switching is very difficult. A good analogy. i actually wrote a post saying that it is easier to switch a house than to switch your social network : )

  • A keen point Ian. There are lots of good business reasons to be on Google+ But ask some teens about that point. You’ll get a shrug. They don’t care. While Google+ may offer advantages to those of us in business, can it reach its corporate goals without mass adoption? I’m guessing the people at Google HQ would prefer mass adoption. You make a valid argument, but I’m not sure it means anything to the average person using a social network and that’s who they need to reach ultimately, right?

  • That would be an extremely interesting case study to understand Jorge. Quite interesting dynamic.

  • Absolutely. The analogy I used a while back was that G+ is the Tom Hanks of social networks. But there is not much sizzle there and people move toward the sizzle, especially young people. I like that idea — what is the “feeling” of Google+? I would say “geek.”

  • That is an exceptional observation Kitty. Thanks for contributing that view.

  • Very interesting ideas. I think you have nailed the point Jonathan.

  • Google is an engineering company. They need to become a marketing company. When that happens, we will see the relationships happen, I think!

  • Yes, Instagram is hot. Last year I predicted that it would be the fastest-growing social network of 2013.

  • You both make some exceedingly interesting points but I would contend that if you are actually counting on SEO professionals to lead a charge toward mass adoption, that is an extremely flawed outlook! : )

    I think that might be a de facto trend, but not necessarily something Google planned.

    And by the way, I’m not saying Google + is a failure. I think they have made some great achievements. I’m just pointing out the problems they have with adoption. Thanks for the very interesting dialogue!

  • Gettysburg Gerry

    I have to disagree with a few points. I do a lot of interaction with young people and I am finding that they are choosing G+ over FB. I am seeing the attitude that “facebook is where my parents are, we don’t want to be there”. I hear a lot about how they have a FB account, but that for keeping in touch with mom and dad, they keep in touch with their on G+ and Twitter because mom and dad aren’t there.

    Also (and of course this is merely my humble opinion) I think the reason G+ is going to come out on top, they have been able to intertwine a great social platform with an effective and useful business tool.

    At the end of the day I love that we the user are being offered better and better platforms and tools with all this competition. Woo hoo we win…

  • It will certainly be interesting to watch it unfold! 🙂

  • I don’t think the Google suite of products will ever be a true enterprise solution because large companies won’t want to put their secure intellectual property in somebody else’s cloud, right?

    In the back of my mind, I always wonder, what platform is Google going to cancel next? Too much risk for a big company.

  • Gettysburg Gerry

    I’d like to be a fly on the wall for that debate.

  • “Geek” seems about right to me. Except that I don’t think Geeks would choose Google as their means of social communication any time soon – to them, Google has become The Empire. Google, like Microsoft, is suffering from impopularity by greatness. They both don’t seem to understand why anybody wouldn’t love them, while all around them people are scattering before their crushing might.

    In reality, Google+ is simply not that great, and tainted by the fact that it can never become ‘popular’ in a teenage sense because it’s simply already mainstream by it’s very parenting. A Google-product can never be niche anymore – it can’t be ‘alternative’ or ‘indie’ either. In order to become popular it would have to offer a lot more than the rest – a lot more members for instance, like Facebook, or a lot more features, but those’d have to be relevant and unique, and I’m not sure if we’re missing any features like that at the moment, but I am sure Google+ is not offering them. All of that in itself wouldn’t be so bad, if Google didn’t have to live up to expectations. Google+ can’t be a social network for a small niche – it just can’t. Google doesn’t roll like that.

    Now take Tumblr. It’s not like Facebook or Google+, is it? It’s something new. It’s different. It’s growing. It’s what the hipsters use. It’s already way more succesful than they could have imagined. It’s the American Dream. We’re all rooting for them. Yay David Karp, Best Young Tech Entrepreneur 2009. All signs are green. It may not replace Facebook or Google+ directly. But it may cause them to loose a lot of members – or at least a lot of traffic. And that in itself may have consequences, since the shareholders are not going to like that….

  • Young people will be on Google + but won’t necessarily go to a Google + page. On Youtube they’ll have a Google + account and when they watch/like a video this will be recorded as part of their profile. When they share a link of an article in gmail google will ask them if they want to share this to their friends also. Google doesn’t need to get them to go to a Google + home page. All they want is to build up details of who is using google products. What they like, don’t like, what they are interested in, what they do on the web etc. This is fantastic for advertising.
    Young people like cool free stuff. Google has lots of free products and just needs some more targeted at younger people and then they’ll be on google+.
    On Google plus means you use a Google product – that includes search. The more products you use the more info Google has for you and this information is stored for you and available wherever you go on Google.
    Facebook wanted to be a social operating system of the web but that’s not going to happen. Google wants to be the underlying layer underneath everything on the web and it has a good chance of that happening.

    That’s my current thinking, I’m sure you could change my mind!

  • You are so right. They haven’t been able to make that “tip” yet and I don’t see it happening, despite Glass and working with NASA and all the other amazing things they’re doing. But Google+ will never be Facebook. Maybe they should have kept the much beloved Reader and Alerts and dropped G+! (Yes, I’m still upset about that, but now happily using Feedly and TalkWalker.)

  • Spot on, Mark, as always. I agree with a lot of commenters here that teens are leaving networks like Facebook because their parents (and even grandparents — gasp!!) are there and they don’t want them spying on their personal lives. Cyber-bullying has also become a widespread problem on social networking, especially on Facebook and Twitter.

    I read a fascinating article recently on how teens are using social media and it cited a study that shows teens are leaving Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube and Pinterest. Instagram (no surprise) and Google+ are actually doing better. But the biggest gains were seen from texting sites like Kik and Snapchat — allowing teens to directly communicate with each other off the grid.

    The article is here:

    Absolutely agree with the fact that Google+ has to attract the cool kids. I think lifestyle brands that are already using social well like GoPro or TOMS could be a big part of that move.

  • Angel Leon

    The teenager in my house uses Google hangouts eeeeevery afternoon.
    Think of it as the equivalent of us in the 90s being on the phone with friends.

    They hangout all afternoon, they do homework and they’re always connected in group, they tossed skype because the group hangout is free.

    Not sure what else you want them to do to go after the teen market.

  • Kevin Frank

    Maybe those on G+ don’t want the scales to tip. I enjoy G+ because of its UI and content and partly because all the sheeples on FB are not there to clog up the stream with their passive aggressive posts and memes. Let FB have those users and I’ll be happy with G+ as an ‘elitist’ vehicle for the ‘cool kids’ who are there.

  • I tend to think of it as Facebook attempting to mov into the Google Space, or rather they are moving from opposite ends towards the same goal.

    Facebook is trying to use their netowkr to drive a move into the search space owned by Google, while Google is trying to include personal networks into seach results. They are both trying to control what we see and how we see it and through that drive revenue through advertising.

  • Nicole

    I think the bottom line with Google+ is they were too late to the game. You make a great point – we’ve already invested a lot of time building up our LinkedIn profiles, connecting with friends and family on Facebook, and building our perfect feed on Twitter… who has time to build another social media site from the ground up?

  • Kaustav Chatterjee

    IMHO, what google needs for google+ is a stronger and innovative ‘push’ through it’s existing products and user base, rather than hoping that it will achieve the required ‘pull’ from the market automatically. I know for a fact that many of the regular users of various google products don’t even have the slightest idea what google+ is!

    I believe the solution to the puzzle is for them to create more visible and ‘live’ interface of google+ with their more popular products – gmail, maps, youtube, may be even adwords… and most importantly, it’s search. For an example – you are uploading a you tube video – clearly visible options checked by default to share it in your G+ and invite your connections (note, not necessarily G+ connections, but may be an auto suggested connection list from your gmail contacts, no matter what product they use!) to view them, you go ahead and like a video, or put a comment – push it to your G+ page and stream further updates. You found a nice photo in Picasa, share it in G+, or better even auto migrate picasa album to G+ and ask users to update details in G+ when you next log-in to picasa! This way, slowly migrate google’s user platform to Google+, and may be a few years down the line, you don’t open the gmail, youtube or picasa from the top ribbon in the google page anymore, rather access it from your centralized G+ page – much like an SSO!

    The most important feature that made Facebook what it is today is it’s ‘on your finger tips’ status update – “What’s on your mind”. Whether google likes it or not, G+ needs something similar and more easily accessible to it’s users without having to go to the G+ page to “Share what’s new”. You just put that on the face of every google product. Still more people land to the Google search page than the facebook page any day, all that is required is to tap that pool!

    And this might sound insane (and I hope no one kills me for this) but I would put a ‘share on facebook’ button right in every G+ updates!

  • By nearly all measures G+ is one of the top three used social platforms (with Facebook being first and Twitter and G+ about the same). So, hasn’t it really already tipped in some ways?

    People seem to believe that usage on G+ should mimic that on Facebook. Why? It’s a different platform with different features and goals.

    Right now G+ is the leading video collaboration platform via Google+ Hangouts. Where’s Facebook on that? They have that bohunk Skype integration I guess but c’mon.

    That’s not to say that Facebook isn’t doing well, but the comparisons become very difficult in my opinion. It’s selective comparison.

    “Well, maybe they have an account on G+ but they don’t actively use it.” That’s a typical refrain. Yet, this is the same type of model seen on Twitter and no one seems to pick a fight with them on the issue.

    The real aim of G+ isn’t truly social but to identify active preferences that help Google deliver more relevant search results and along the way if it breaks the monopoly Facebook has on attention … all the better.

  • Thanks for the insightful comment but I’d like to challenge you on the “top platform” refrain. Data from late 2012 Edison research shows that 27% of Americans over 12 have a Google + account and only 17% are active on it once a week. This would put it behind Pinterest, for example.

    Further, when asked if you intend to use it more, G+ was at the bottom of the responses, falling below nearly every social platform, even Tumblr. It’s not an opinion, it is a statistically-valid research conclusion that a bunch of people are on G+ but they don’t use it very much and don’t intend to change that, at least in 2013.

    I think it is natural (and smart) to compare G+ with FB because it is a social network and they are direct competitors. I believe that anybody that contends that G+ is not competing with FB must be viewing its low marketshare and engagement as part of a “niche” strategy when that is certainly not the case. G+ desires and needs massive adoption. To do that, they need marketing, which was my main point. I do like what they’re doing and think they have made great progress. Thanks AJ!

  • I think that is a valid strategy, actually.

  • It’s tempting to think if it is happening in your house it is happening everywhere. : ) The data from September Social Habit research is that 93% of Americans 12-17 have a FB profile and 21% have a G+ profile. Twitter and Instagram seem to be the hottest platforms right now in that age group. Thanks Angel.

  • Well you can pick out your piece of data but I can too. Here’s one that shows Google+ usage released in January.

    And then again in April showing Q1, 2013 trends.

    And while activity is higher on Facebook in this report it also makes it clear that Google+ does have a material active user base.

    In addition, self-reported from Google I/O just the other week was 190M in the stream and 390M across all platforms.

    Now in my due diligence I see far more reports showing positive momentum on Google+ rather than negative, but you’re free to think otherwise or choose one report over the other.

    It’s certainly easy to compare Facebook with Google+ but doing so with a basic ‘it’s a social platform’ mentality leaves out a tremendous amount of nuance, which I touched on in my first comment.

    As for marketing, I’m not sure how much more cross-platform marketing you can do at this point. It’s pretty tough to get away from Google+ when you’re on YouTube (#2 social network and/or search engine in many ways) or on an Android phone (which has the majority of the smartphone market) and is now integrated as a social sign-in option on an increasing number of sites.

    It might not be the traditional marketing one is accustomed to but the numbers seem to indicate that it’s been effective.

  • The data may not be mutually exclusive. The Edison research was US only while your link was global. Also “active” as defined by Edison was one visit per week while your data was on per month.

    In the mind of the average person, I don’t think they view G+ as an alternative to Twitter or LinkedIn. I think they would see it as an alternative to FB. I’m not clear about your “nuance” comment. Are you suggesting that G+ is NOT trying to compete with FB?

    You are obviously an experienced person who is deep into this but again, I don’t think the average high school kid is thinking about the connections between G+ and Android or even care. If their friends are on FB, that’s where they will be too.

    I really am not arguing with any of your points. I do think G+ is a great platform, is gaining momentum, and is smartly connecting all their dots. Despite this, my answer to the reporter would still be the same — Are these G+ interface changes going to take the kids away from Facebook? No. That’s all I was saying : )

    Thank you for the very thoughtful and thorough debate.

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  • Angel Leon

    she’s also a fervent FB and Instagram user. I guess I forgot to mention that, but my point is, that it’s not like teens aren’t using it.

    i guess they understand that each network has a different use.

    almost everything she posts to instagram goes to her facebook, on facebook you see them sharing more videos, liking each other’s posts, memes, etc.

    her goto network for pictures is instagram, and then her live streaming platform stopped being Skype, it’s now G+

  • As a Facebook user, I find it hard to give up my “wall” and jump ship to Google+. I think most people would just do the juggling act of using both. My friend uses Google+ and he loves it, but he has never been a big Facebook user, so there you have it. I agree people will be hard pressed to give up one for the other.

  • I’ve heard from other teens that Hangouts are today’s equivalent of the party line (the old fashioned telephone kind). And if teens are adopting it and using it for social networking which isn’t sending pictures and silly texts, it may have some longevity and trickle up to us fuddy-duddy adults.

  • Very, very interesting observations. A great blog post in its own right. Thank you!

  • Thanks Nicole.

  • An interesting theme with the Hangouts in the comment section. Maybe we’re on to a trend here. : )

  • Rachel

    I think you’re coming from the wrong angle. Google isn’t interested in replacing Facebook at all. Facebook isn’t where the big money is.

    In order to understand what Google is doing, you have to look at the big picture: Google Places, Google Plus, Google Authorship, and now Google Glasses, are all designed to fit together to a) allow Google to determine where content that is useful and helpful to the user is and b) ultimately ensure that Google is the portal for information online.

    Google Plus: It isn’t for teenagers. It’s where thought leaders and influencers get together to share meaningful content with their audiences.

    Google Authorship: Allows Google to identify where the real content is. It will pretty much cut out spam sites, cut and paste copy, or any other content that isn’t original or incredibly helpful to a site’s audience. Google Authorship allows Google to determine where the real content is, who the thought leaders are in the industry (and thus who has the most useful content).

    Google Glasses: Pretty obvious here what their intent is.

    All of the above will of course tie into Google’s search engine, where the content that is written by authorities and thought leaders in the field will rise to the top of the page.

    This is already happening: if you’ve noticed the little pictures next to content when using Google Search, as well as the little line that says, “in xxx Google circles.”

    In short, Google Plus is doing exactly what it’s intended to be doing – and succeeding.

  • There actually is a huge interest on the corporate side to move to cloud-based solutions. Why? It’s easy and it is scalable.

    Yes, there are legal implications and IPs to consider but they can be ironed out and overall the benefits are big. Just look at SalesForce. Other big companies are moving to Cloud services as well IBM, Microsoft etc.

    Cloud-based services’ Achilles heel is you have to be online. While Google are great at keeping their services running they would still need to rely on the end-users connections.

  • This is a superb comment Rachel and an accurate assessment. But I have to wonder if it is an assessment of where Google has ended up, or where Google really intended it to be. I’m not sure how you could postulate that the intention was not to compete with Facebook. It was, it is, and they do. It’s unavoidable. Thanks for the great comment.

  • Great points.

  • Ryan Batty

    This might be the most interesting thread, of many here. I have wondered if video will end up being the top social medium of choice for teens and young adults, since it is direct, immediate, emotive, authentic and ultimately not saved forever on a wall like a digital tattoo (although who knows what Google is going to do with Hangouts data)

    I do think G+ was created to compete with Facebook and it’s social graph, and hasn’t come close to winning on that front. But I also believe Google has a bigger vision than Facebook, when you factor in everything else they are doing, tying together, with one username. To earlier readers’ comments, Google offers more value for businesses and thought leaders, even with just good old-fashioned SEO (yes, search still matters), which will draw real, paying B2B and B2C customers. Meanwhile Facebook will continue trying new, controversial ways to monetize a fickle, and possibly shrinking, user base. If the Facebook Home phone is the best they can do against Chrome and Glass, I know where I’m placing my bets.

  • This is a fresh perspective, and I agree with you to some extent. But I don’t think Google+ wants to be like Facebook or appeal to the same people– in fact, that’s what people like about Google+: it feels like Facebook’s more organized, sophisticated, high-achieving older sister. You can connect more deeply with people with shared interests, video chat with people from all over the world, and share information via Google Docs, community pages, etc. I use Google+ for myself and for the communities I manage when I want to get to know people on a deeper level. As Ray Hiltz said, it is a bit elitist. That’s precisely its initial appeal. And then you realize that it’s actually a great equalizer in the sense that you have even more options for overcoming boundaries on Google+. It’s a community manager’s dream. I just get annoyed because I feel like I’m marketing on behalf of Google a lot of times, creating tutorials for people and convincing them to join when Google should be doing that for me.

    Thus, I agree that they have a marketing problem and they need to focus their efforts there. They’re relying a bit too much on word of mouth and not doing enough outreach and tutorials for how to actually make things work. I think in a year or two, we’ll see quite a shift as people grow into G+.

  • John B

    “You are the company you keep”. That is the simple reason facebook still trumps all. People of my generation (30 years old now) are the people that made facebook so popular and continue to do so. We have talked about it so much over the past years that it has made our parents and family join. They wanted to see “what’s happening” and what “all the fuss” was about. Now they are all hooked. We (my generation) simply stay on it because as many people mentioned, that’s where all of our “connections” and friends are. Many don’t want to take the time to learn a new social platform because we are the ones who learned facebook from the ground up. If you build a house from the ground up and know all the nooks and crannies, you don’t just tear it down in 1 week to move to another house you are unfamiliar with and had no experience in building. My generation all works 9-5 jobs now and we have kids, We don’t have the time to change social networks. The younger generation (I would say 21 and under) are the ones who will control where the “new” social networks go. They have the time to mess around with them. In terms of facebook still gaining users, it’s also very simple.. I was not friends with my family or parents 3 years ago. Now I am, we are still drawing in more connections and more family as we become more “mature” and don’t mind our families snooping around. So, our connections are still building on facebook while the younger generation starts building on other networks. The difference – after myspace we had ONE network to build. Nowadays they have 5. Instagram, Pinterest, G+, Facebook, Twitter. Social media is too spread out now for anyone to overtake Facebook.

  • First site to give me a free pony and I use it 100%….

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  • Tammy Bridenbeck

    and please, keep all the incessant Bible verse postings, kid needs surgery will get dollar for every share, and lost kid postings on FB where I never have to see it. One of the most wonderful things about Google Plus is that people don’t do that stuff!

  • Tammy Bridenbeck


  • Tammy Bridenbeck

    and I think we oughtta put a SHARE ON G+ right in every FB updates!! Also, I am amazed at how many sites have SHARE ON FB, but not a G+ button! Really?

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  • David Webb

    Hi Mark, I am looking for some advice – It seems Google has confused a lot of things that have been established and this means I might need to reconnect acccounts again. I have a main Google + page for my business. I also have four google places profiles for the bricks and mortar local businesses. I would like to connect them all under the one umbrella being the main site – this avoids having to duplicate a lot of information. Google has not created Google + local. So now I have 5 google + sites for my business. Without having to redo what was done to set up google places, I cannot see how to easily connect the sites. Any advice?

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