Google Puts Feet on the Street

Google’s DC Office Featured Love Bugs on Valentine’s Day

The Wall Street Journal slammed Google last week for launching another social network when one wasn’t needed (um, yeah, that’s why Pinterest is doing so poorly, right?). Meanwhile, Google has quietly been deploying its local offices to meet with businesses and internet aficionados. The company wants to humanize the Google brand, and personally help people use Google+ and other products.

This is a smart move, one that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have yet to match. Google is literally investing in relationships one by one, and putting faces to what has often seemed a distant and monolithic company.

So many of today’s untrained marketers believe that social media is the primary form of grassroots communications. In reality, they form just one component of a strong word of mouth strategy. Great word of mouth includes personal interactions through meetings like these, small events, local outreach, strong email management, and core stakeholder loyalty development programs.

Google needs to do this right now. While off in its core thesis that the world did not need another social network (again, Tumblr and Pinterest are demonstrative that this is not true), the Wall Street Journal rightly points out that engagement on Google+ doesn’t match its 90 million accounts. Citing a Comscore report, Zynga and Intel as evidence, the story notes that people aren’t actively engaged on the network.


Yet there does seem to be a core group of people that do actually use Google+. Google claims 50 million everyday. To me, the statistics are skewed because of the large number of accounts, plus the claim that the Plus system extends beyond the social network to Google products. In reality there are likely millions actively using the actual network daily — maybe even 10 million — but certainly not 90 million. This is the problem with opt-out recruitment. When you throw a lot of accounts on the wall, most of them don’t stick.

The Grassroots Strategy

Fostering a group of core loyalists, and encouraging them to evangelize is a strong, organic approach to any marketing effort — including launching social networks. Pinterest’s core group of women users drove the network for more than a year quietly until its recent overnight media success. Similarly, Tumblr’s loyalists continue to drive user engagement and social network expansion. So developing a closely knit local following is a smart, proven and traditional growth strategy. Hopefully it develops long-term roots for Google.

Relationship development for Google means more than just getting people on board. My sources told me they are seeing how people use their products first hand, and then incorporate the feedback to develop better products. Google+ in many ways has become a user developed network, as evidenced by numerous feature upgrades based on critiques and comments.

Google has been pretty stoic in the face of criticism. My source says they expect push-back, and they read criticisms to find ways to improve their network. And frankly, their dedication in spite of blogger rants (see Andy Beal’s take on this) and the like is admirable. When faced with adversity, winners adapt and find a different way to achieve their goals. Losers quit.

The reception to its grassroots efforts have been strong so far, says Google. In many cases, the team says they have been able to show people how to better use Google+ for their online needs.

In the end, the only thing that will end the discussion is increased engagement and success stories stemming from Google+. But we know one thing, Google is adapting and doing everything in its power to make G+ a success.

Full disclosure: I performed consulting services for Google in 2011.