Seems many people are ready to eulogize Google Plus. Vic Gundotra, Google’s vice president for engineering, even went so far last week to say that Google Plus is not a social network. But as much as people try to frame the issue, Google Plus (fairly or unfairly) will be compared to the only other site with traffic comparable to Google: the Facebook.
Richard Darrell of Bit Rebels wrote a thoughtful piece about it the other day recommending a withhold of judgment about Google Plus’ long-term viability. His accompanying infographic was not so generous. The infographic (shown below) makes some interesting observations, but I think they’re a little short-sighted. Among them:
- Google Plus audience is half of Twitter. This is probably not accurate. Experian Hitwise (where the information is from) measures datapoints from IP addresses and (I believe) only tracks traffic from Twitter.com. So data from third party apps (where Google Plus isn’t present) and mobile (where Twitter is exceptionally strong) aren’t included in that measure. So Twitter’s true market share is probably much stronger than Experian’s numbers indicate.
- “why would someone abandon the social profiles they spent years working on?” This is probably not a fair indictment of Google Plus or social consumers. The 70% male demographic of Google Plus is in sharp contrast to nearly every social network out there, and is indicative of a user experience problem. Specifically, the user experience of Google Plus isn’t as appealing to female users as it needs to be.
- “$.04 – the theoretical stock price of Google Plus stock” – This is based upon the Facebook IPO price multiplied times Google Plus usage as a percentage of Facebook usage, and this is most misleading. Forget the ancillary Google Plus functions to inform search, the Google AdWords product is far and away a more mature, more efficient, and better product than Facebook ads. When Google fully integrates AdWords into Google Plus, it will be quite effective as an advertising medium, much more efficient than Facebook. Also bearing consideration: Facebook isn’t worth their IPO price right now.
- >1 +1s, replies and reshares per post – If Facebook and Twitter stats aren’t similar, I suspect that if you omitted the top 5% of posts the stats would bring parity (because of the scale and greater audience). To me this seems like a bit of redundancy substantiating audience size.
Make no mistake, Google Plus is not a mass-market product right now. It won’t make a sizable dent in Facebook audience in its current incarnation, but it’s a much more thoughtful social platform than most people are acknowledging. Google integrates social signals two ways, informing a user of relevance within their network and also (presumably) informing a portion of organic search by social popularity. As discussed they also have the AdWords platform, which could be integrated seamlessly a la Gmail. And they also have tremendously respected advocates in Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble (among others).
Maybe the most intriguing aspect of Google Plus is Google Plus history, a tool that would track your activities and give you the opportunity to push what you want to your circles. For instance if you went to Saffron Grill Indian restaurant in Seattle (which has the best Palak Paneer and Naan in town) – Google Plus would track that activity and allow you to share it with others later, presumably also to review it on Google Plus or Zagat. Coupled with the biggest gamechanger on the horizon Project Glass (aka Google Glasses) it could really take off. If Google can acheive an adoption rate of that device on a scale similar to the iPod, Google Plus could be the proprietary product that the .aac file is for Apple or the .azw file is for Amazon, or at least the default setting that Internet Explorer was on PCs.
The two things missing from Google Plus right now are a more attractive user experience and the audience that follows. Despite some of the opinion to the contrary, there is reason to believe that Google will do what’s necessary to make Google Plus viable on a large scale. After all, what is Google Plus’ first name?
Google+ infographic from Browser Media