When it was reported last week that Pinterest had catapaulted LinkedIn and Google Plus to become the #3 social network in the world, it was positioned by many as an indictment of Google Plus. I’m not convinced that this comparison is apt.
Pinterest is a great concept that resonates with a huge audience, but their success didn’t happen in a bubble. It wasn’t until their partnership with Facebook that the concept of “pinning” became accessible to such a wide audience. The takeaway from this should be the power of co-opting brands with Facebook, not as a critique of Google Plus. Its strategy to gain reach is quite different.
Google Plus has a partner you may have heard of in upstart search engine Google. Beside being the number one website in the world, they have a near-Monopoly on search and will for the foreseeable future. What they don’t have right now is a sticky concept (like Pinterest does) that compels people to participate. I thought (as did Google) that hangouts would differentiate G+ from Facebook, but that hasn’t come to fruition (yet).
The point of leverage that Google has is that its social network is tied to search results, so the advantage that Google Plus enjoys is that businesses want to (or will want to) have a community on Google Plus. Even if people aren’t focused on SEO, the optimism that search gives businesses is a compelling driver. Google is the only site with the potential to marry SEO and social where before they were mutually exclusive.
Once businesses start to understand the extent that Google Plus communities affect their SERP position, I expect that they’ll try to opt-in users and this may be a driver of audience. With the money that Google is poised to invest and the innovation that they’ve shown in the past – they may come up with something brilliant that spurs a faster migration of users from Facebook.
However they attempt to get market share, it is important to understand that Google Plus can co-opt an audience in-house from Google. Once they find the sweet spot that resonates with a larger audience, my guess they will be a solid fixture at #2.