How the Google+ Hype Lost Its Mojo

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Gplus50mil

If you read some top social media blogs, it’s clear that Google+ is the hottest thing since the launch of the iPad. Others believe the fledgling social network is dying, with dramatic declines in interactivity.

The truth is that the network seems to be growing pretty rapidly still, especially since opening its doors to the public. Estimates have the network at 50 million users currently. Though no one seems able to discern interaction or retention rates from the earliest adopters, Google+ growth has reignited in September.

Yet perception of the network amongst early adopters has fallen quite a bit. Some of this has to do with retention and frequency of use, but the Google+ blues have deeper roots.

From a marketing stand point, one has to wonder how did the Google+ launch lose its perceived mojo so quickly? Here are three possible reasons:

1) Google Culture

Google’s cultural approach to product launches is to release the product, and let people figure out how to use it (full disclosure: I have done unrelated work for Google in the past year). This typically less than social approach has created problems with prior social launches.

The Google+ launch is different with much more interaction on both the blog and with community managers. But there is still some remaining cultural impact. Numbers are not well reported. There have been communication snafus with a promised Google+ for Business offering that has yet to materialize (which is fine, but communicate why).

People are unsure of how Google+ is doing because Google isn’t really communicating well. Yet.

2) The Facebook Assault

It’s clear that Facebook has responded quickly to Google+, and is taking the competition seriously. From video chat to new friends list management to a revamped news stream, Facebook has matched or tried to surpass Google+’s primary differentiators.

While Google+ has made changes to its network during the same time, it has not launched any major new initiatives outside of games. This has lent the perception of momentum to Facebook. In essence, people believe Facebook is evolving while Google+ isn’t.

Further, unlike Google, Facebook is a PR machine. So this perception is one created of attention and noise, too. There is no equivalent of the F8 conference or feature season for Google+. Yet.

3) The Social Media Expert Land Grab

The social media expert land grab that occurred with Google+ this past summer was a big turn-off. From audacious statements to webinars to books about Google+ for Business (ironic given that Google+ hasn’t opened its doors to businesses yet), many people in the industry were repulsed by the zeal of digital “49ers” seeking Google+ gold.

The most notable Google+ “expert” Chris Brogan argued that business is open and everyone is free to make a buck. He is correct. That doesn’t mean that it’s attractive or admirable though.

Unfortunately, throwing out the baby with the bath water may have occurred here. Some early adopters left or ratcheted down interaction simply because they were turned off by the behavior of some more well known people in the field.

Truth and Reality

There are accounts, and then there is usage. Right now Google+ has done a fantastic job of breaking all industry records for new accounts. Interactions and page views seem to be growing, too, if not from the first adopters, then definitely from the sheer volume of people coming on to the network.

At this rate — IF momentum continues AND if continued interaction and retention occurs — it will be hard to deny Google+ as a major tier 2 network by early 2012.

With increased user interaction, more growth and page views, the truth will reveal itself. Thanks to strength of numbers, Google+’s perceived mojo problems will go away. But Google can help the process by opening up more, and continuing to evolve its network in a more exciting competitive fashion.

Businesses and nonprofits should be experimenting with the network. Please keep in mind that only 10% (give or take) of the network’s users are actually in the United States.

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  • http://www.loudpoet.com Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

    I think writing off G+ is not just premature, but also illustrates just how wrong our impatient Microwave Culture has gone. The platform launched four months ago, opened to the public a few weeks ago, and is still very much an early Beta release with existing features actively being tweaked and new ones rolled out on a regular basis. While the gurus may have moved on (thank god!) and the hype is dying down (thank god!), I’m seeing activity from regular people steadily tick upwards, not unlike what happened when Facebook lagged MySpace because it was just for kids.

    PS: I’m cross-posting this comment as I’m curious to see where you get more activity. :-)

    • Anonymous

      I think you are right.  My attitude has been wait and see, and I have not wavered from that.  I still think we’re waiting and seeing, too. Interaction rates could stand to increase still.  We’ll see. :)

  • http://twitter.com/franksting franksting

    It’s easy to get to an arbitary number of users if you already have a large user base which can be directly integrated into that new service from the existing services you offer.
    If <5% of those 'users' are using the service on a daily basis, it'll be hard to show any benefits in the short term – especially if there's no growth outside the existing Google user base.
    The biggest challenge Google plus will have to grow that 'circle', is there already are a huge number of social networks which people are engaged with. Perhaps, unlike Linked In and others, they need to focus on their key differentiator not on features which mimic facebook and that will attract users from the outside in.

    • Anonymous

      I would agree with this during the first phase. Recent growth exploded after Facebook’s F8 conference and changes to privacy. Competition is a bitch.

  • Vicky Hennegan

    I am seeing or interpreting things a little differently. To me, Google products have always had a good base product which I see as great building blocks for the features that will later lay upon that base product. I don’t necessarily think that Google+ will take the social media market. I see Google+ as more of an extension of their social features and integrating those into their integrated schema.

    Saying that, Facebook is putting up a better fight than I thought they would. However I think FB will will plow forward with reckless abandon as they have done recently with their sharing our every move on news sites and will eventually turn people off. Their scrambling now. With that said, I think their partnership with Spotify and other music/multimedia companies is smart as long as they see these companies as more of a partnership and let them do what they do best and not try to oversee and control things at a high level essentially locking out possible innovation.

    I have always thought Googles culture was very innovative when they had Labs and were trying new things. I’m not so sure that closing all the projects in labs was a good idea and has caused me to second guess where they are heading. I think Google+ was also a big push for Android and Chrome. I think they are looking at those markets and Google+ has seemed to have helped. Personally I think it’s almost to the point of acting proprietary when they stopped adding any of their Tools/addons to Firefox and it is getting old that most of the new things are Chrome based.

    I still think Facebook will hang itself eventually if they are not very careful. I see Google as always in it for the long haul and they are slowly getting where they are going. A little more slowly than I thought tho so it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with the proprietary remark, especially when they stopped indexing Twitter in favor of Google+.  Good observations on Chrome and Android, and certainly a very good perspective of Google.  Thank you for sharing your insights.

  • http://www.contentstrategyhub.com Eugene Farber

    The fact that there were “Google+ Experts” the day it came out really bothered me. And I think that the majority of the people that joined Google were blogger/techie types who went out of their way to sneak their way in before it was open to the public. But if you’re doing social media for business, you would still have to go with Facebook because that’s where the majority of the customers are – sooo… not sure why there would be Google+ for business experts. 

    And I do agree that the market is open and you can do what you want with it. I would just hope that people wouldn’t buy into the hype and purchase the products.

  • Anonymous

    Great post, Geoff. On Point #3, I was an early adopter who connected to a large group of those social-media 49ers. I also added as many real-life friends I could find, though I sent no invitations.

    My real-life friends have pretty much given up on G+, and so have I — for now. The SM “experts” continue to post regularly. Even noticed one who posted an “I’ve moved” notice on his Facebook page while writing a book on G+. Maybe just a marketing ploy, eh?

    G+ is a great platform, but those soon-to-be billion folks on Facebook have a lot of inertia. Will G+ ever find a point of difference big enough to move them? It may take a major blunder by Zuckerberg to change the game. And he certainly appears capable of that.

    • Anonymous

      I think there is much to say about this third point. Things like people spinning spinners (or BSing BSers).  I just don’t want to get dragged down in something that clearly makes them look like the ambulance chasers they are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sporin David Morin

    I think for most folks, it’s all about how many of their friends and family are on G+. Most have already established a network on Facebook and until/unless ALL those people go to G+ with you then there’s really not much reason to go there yourself.

    I certainly haven’t written it off, I’m just in a wait-and-see phase still.

    • Anonymous

      Many of us are.  I find it to be a strange place full of people I don’t know. Maybe it’s Twitter redux, but I am too old and cranky for it this time.

  • http://www.sheilasguide.com Sheila Scarborough

    When they launch business pages (that will impact search, the area where Google really rocks, ’cause social ain’t their thing) then I’ll really pay attention.

    When 3 of 5 regular folks in line at the Safeway have heard of it, then I’ll really pay attention.

    After the hoo-haa and then die-down of Wave, Buzz, Sidewiki et al, I’m not wasting much brainpower on Google’s latest toy until it makes an impact on search, where they DO know what they’re doing.

    • Anonymous

      I have already seen the impact on search, that is for sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501456842 Ken Mueller

    I’m on G+ but no one else in my family has any interest. They are all on Facebook, and one is on Twitter. I think it is still seen as something only for “insiders”. I’m also less impressed with the record breaking rise to 50-million. We need to remember that all of the other platforms were startups. They were nobodies who came from nowhere. Google+ is owned by…Google. They start with a huge base and easy distribution. And a lot of the accounts were created for people, not by them, because of others tagging them, etc. In my mind, they should be at a much higher number now, solely because they ARE Google.

    • Anonymous

      Hey, it’s good to be the king!

  • Henry Posner

    G+ doesn’t make my life easier. It just adds one more site to those I have to monitor daily. I’m already busy with Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and the rest. Until G+ somehow distinguishes itself, and so far it as not, it’s more of the same IMO.


    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video

    • Anonymous

      Ha, I am with you on that. Personally, it has made social media much more complicated.

  • http://dempseymarketing.com/journal/media/ Robert Dempsey

    I’m waiting for the business pages to come out Jeff but I find Google+ a far superior experience over Facebook, which I am still using. However nothing will tear me away from Twitter unless it stops being available.

    I saw some of the land grab you mention and found it funny that anyone had enough to work with to create a course that cost money.

    Regardless I believe that if Google+ does continue, and I think it will, it will begin to effect SEO and rankings.

    • Anonymous

      I like your willingness to stand up for your network of choice.  It’s a good thing, and I totally agree with you on the SEO front.

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  • http://www.margieclayman.com Marjorie Clayman

    I’m really struggling with Google Plus myself – much like I am really struggling with the three columns of content coming at me on Facebook now. The posts on Google Plus are too many, too big, and I just find it overwhelming. The “share a post” feature is the new direct message, it feels like, and I’m unclear on the etiquette. I’m also unclear on what the difference is between “following” and “circling.”

    However, when I have written about G+ or done informal surveys here and there, there have been several people who are really loving it, and one of my friends has already abandoned Facebook completely in favor of G+. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. I’m trying to stick with it.

    • Anonymous

      I am struggling with three networks right now. It’s too much.  I am sure some will love one or all of them. I am sure I cannot do all of them well as an individual.

    • http://twitter.com/mentormarketing Debra Leitl

      I am also struggling to allocate time and content to G+. Right now I’m focusing where the ROI has been proven. I can experiment in the future after I have my bookings and funnel running more smoothly. 

      I think G+ has a future, but the user base will be a different beast from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or even YouTube. 

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  • Michelle

    People will join Google+ simply because it will be foolish not to.  As a blogger, I don’t publish there as often as other social media, only because business pages are not open yet.  As soon as that happens, it’s going to be a free for all.  I am already in the process of joining and adding to as many circles as possible.  Facebook has hurt business with the changes too quickly, Google+ is starting there.  It can only improve.

    • Anonymous

      Bloggers aren’t normal people.  They are content publishers who need SEO.

  • http://twitter.com/JGoldsborough JGoldsborough

    When I worked in the restaurant industry, we never used to judge a restaurant in the first 3-6 months after it opened its doors. We called that the honeymoon stage and most restaurants do well in the honeymoon stage. The key indicator of a restaurant’s success was its performance in the 12 months after that honeymoon period.

    Google+ has a LONG way to go to be considered a legit competitor to Facebook. The question is should Google be focused on ramping up its social networking efforts? Or should it be focused on ramping up its search efforts so the company continues to dominate in that area? You don’t see Facebook focusing on its search.Good stuff, Geoff. Cheers.

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