Don’t Count Out Google+ Just Yet

ImageIn a world where Facebook has become the Kleenex of social networking, all other social media sites seem to be vying for second place. Facebook leverages its network externalities and brand name to lure new users and it facilitates high switching costs to retain existing users. Even if better alternatives existed, you would still join Facebook because that’s where your friends are, and you would stick with Facebook because it would be too difficult to switch (years of your life are documented there, right?). Facebook seems unstoppable right now and it would be a major undertaking to dethrone the biggest social network. Still, I think one service, Google+, has the potential to do so.

 

Although the hype of Google+’s launch has since faded, it nonetheless has surpassed twitter to become the #2 social network, with over 350 million active users. I’m not predicting Google+ will ever overtake Facebook, nor am I advocating anyone to switch (I know I’m not), but I will present a case for Google+ to make moves in the next couple of years and become a viable threat to Facebook. Here’s why:

WE USE GOOGLE FOR EVERYTHING ELSE

Gmail. Search. Youtube. Drive. Google has a breadth of Internet services, so many in fact that they were able to make their Chromebook laptops run only by using Google products. Because of this reach, integrating a social aspect to existing services seems only natural. This blending of products creates synergies which add value to the user. When you search for businesses or people using Google, their Google+ pages will also be displayed. Even if a business doesn’t have a Google+ page, you can still read reviews written about it on Google+, all within your search results. Profiles can be embedded in Youtube and Gmail accounts too. Soon, all of Google’s products will become saturated with Google+ access. As of last year, in order to signup for Gmail or Google Drive, you also have to create a Google+ account. This has contributed the growth of its user-base. Google+ has evolved from a destination site to a social layer across all of Google’s products. Google+ will soon become so engrained in the rest of Google’s offerings that it will only make sense to join.

COMMUNITIES

Facebook groups tend to be extensions of existing clubs or organizations where groups form in person, and then create Facebook pages to stay in touch online. Google+ communities work in reverse because they can arise organically online, based on common interests. Users can connect with others based on common interests and engage in communities that are relevant to them. I think users will find tremendous value in this as online-only relationships become more common.

BUSINESSES WILL ENGAGE AS A COMPETITIVE NECESSITY

Traditional Google Search has started to include +1’s (the Google equivalent of Facebook “likes”) in their search algorithm. This means that companies engaging in SEO will have to maintain a strong Google+ presence to garner +1’s and remain in the top results. Furthermore, with reviews becoming popular on Google+, businesses will want to join to monitor conversations their customers are having about them. With businesses adopting Google+, their employees will also be expected to use the service and they may be inclined to recruit their friends as well.

EASY MIGRATION

One of Facebook’s biggest advantages is that it already holds all of your information, making it unappealing to leave. Google answers this hassle by including several chrome extensions that help you easily import photos and friends from Facebook. Furthermore, you can integrate your Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts so that a post to one, ends up cross-posting to the rest.

HANGOUTS ARE AWESOME

Google Hangouts are group conversations that blow Facebook Messages out of the water. They are streamlined message threads that are easily searchable and sharable. You can videoconference with up to 10 people and even live stream a videoconference to the public. Then, you can post a recording of the conversation to your page or on YouTube.

 

While Facebook is familiar and safe to us, Google+ is a sleeping giant. It has too many resources and features to be counted out and Facebook needs to be cognizant of this. l’m not sure if Google+ will ever succeed, but it is certainly a real threat that Facebook is taking very seriously.

Should Facebook be worried?
Would you consider using BOTH Facebook and Google+ or is that redundant?

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http://www.businessinsider.com/google-plus-is-outpacing-twitter-2013-5
http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/ 
http://socialmediatoday.com/marinarn/1798071/social-media-trends-2014

14 comments

  1. Nice post! I tweeted a few weeks ago an article that basically said the same, not to count out Google+ just yet. However, my text that accompanied the article was along the lines of “why? is the potential really there?”. Obviously the article was less convincing than your post, because a lot of the points you bring up are eye opening to me. I am not on Google+, and though I did know about Google Hangouts, I didn’t realize how easy it is to import Facebook data to a Google+ account. I also didn’t realize that Google+ surpasses Twitter in number of users. I definitely can see that there is a draw for businesses to develop a Google+ presence, and I think that there may be a large migration to Google+ from the our “Facebook generation” if we either want to start fresh with a social media profile, or want to be selective about what we choose to import onto Google+ accounts from Facebook.

  2. Very interesting post, and I like how you laid out your argument. I do have both Facebook and Google+ but mostly because at one point I knew a lot of people who were joining the site. I don’t use Google+ and might have posted just one time over the span of 2 years, but I do see the logic in your argument. Google is already the “go to” mechanism for most things in our lives, I currently use google as a search engine, calendar, drive, and for hangouts. I’ve found Google hangouts to be incredibly helpful for quick check-ins for group projects or committees because you can share your screen.

    I think the only reason that I don’t use Google+ now, is that there isn’t a large enough community among my friends that are on the site. Unless Google+ becomes the new Facebook I don’t see myself leaving Facebook (even though I’ve tried haha). However, I can see myself becoming a more active Google+ user!

  3. Great post! I like how you brought up many different points about how Google+ is the best. When Google+ was first announced I made an account and filled my profile. I was (and still am) surprised to find that it didn’t take off right away. I love having everything in one location and use Google for everything– as you said. A reason I can think that would cause this site to not take off is because the social media “market” is over-saturated. Twitter and Facebook already consume enough of my time that I don’t have the time to fit another social network into my schedule. Especially when this social network is so similar to the others I use. I think many others feel this same way. Therefore, I don’t think Facebook has to be worried quite yet but Google isn’t going away anytime soon. I think Google+ will eventually catch up to the other social networking sites once more advertising and word of mouth is established.

  4. This was very interesting to read, and I am on the same page as the above commenters. The only reason I have a Google+ is because during my summer internship, my team had a project that we had to finish and the group chose to meet over Google Hangouts. I had to create a Google+ account in order to use Google Hangouts, so I made my profile but have not looked at it since. The two main reasons for this as others have pointed out are that 1) Google+ does not have a big enough community of people I know, and 2) I simply do not have the time to procrastinate on Facebook AND Google+. I would say that these reasons are common among many other social media users, which is why I do not think that Facebook should be concerned for the near future. Maybe if more people start exploring Google+ and realizing how awesome it is the community will start to grow exponentially. Therefore, Facebook should certainly not count out Google+ as a worthy competitor just yet.

  5. I agree with the realization that there simply aren’t enough people on Google+ to make it worthwhile. But I do think it is important that most of us have had some exposure to the site and already have accounts (whether it was for a project, curiosity or to get gmail). This means that if our friends ever migrated to Google+ (it would take a big blunder from Facebook), it would be very easy for us to start using our dormant accounts and Google+ could really take off. Not sure this will ever happen though.

  6. Nice post, James. I think that part of the reason that Google+ may be the second biggest social network is because of how many people have gmail accounts. I know that I have a Google+ account that I have litteraly only used once or twice, I only made it when I noticed the “+” button on my Google toolbar and once again for a Google hangout. I will say that the Google hangout was really cool and I think Google is in a much better posistion to add innovative features to their social network. However, I don’t see Google+ ever really reaching the level that Facebook has just because of the switching costs, like you mentioned in your post.

  7. Great post! I think you bring up a lot of really valid points and your description of the way online communities are formed at Google v. Facebook was particularly fascinating. When I was working on marketing efforts for higher education, we found that facebook and twitter were much better vehicles for getting our message out in the US, but Google + was huge for prospective students abroad. In your research did you come across any data about how Google + is fairing overseas compared to Facebook?

  8. Regardless of the viability of Google+ in its current form, I doubt that Google will be giving up on trying to have something in this space to compete with the likes of Facebook.

    I agree that the user base on Google+ leaves a lot to be desired, and to be honest, I would not personally be interested in having another Facebook-like site, regardless of features (unless I suppose if others were supportive).

    It will be interesting to see how long Google makes a go of it (similiar to how long Apple iTunes Ping service) using Google+ or if they might be willing to try it in a different form (through a new portal, acquisition, or partnership). Great read!

  9. Very interesting topic! I remember being invited to Google+ Sophomore year. I was surprised that it did not catch on with people around school, especially since most people that I knew had gmail accounts and used google “for everything else” as you say here. I agree with your point that Google+ is the next form of social networking after Facebook. There seems to be no reason not to if you can do more in the hangout circles and it is easy to migrate. Knowing Google, they will probably just acquire more companies to make this the next form of social networking after Facebook.

    Thanks for posting!

  10. Really interesting post! I am very unfamiliar with Google+. However, I was one of those people required to sign up in order to use Google Drive, so I am a member… but a very inactive one at that. Your post has sparked my interest and maybe I’ll become a more active user to see what Google+ its all about. I very rarely use Facebook anymore and am not looking for a replacement, but I’m interested to see why Google+ is such a big threat to Facebook. With Facebook on the decline, some other form of social media will step in at some point. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it was Google considering their expansive offerings already, like you said.

  11. I have long said “don’t count out Google+ yet,” and I’m glad finally someone agrees with me. We’ll likely discuss this one in class, so please be prepared!

  12. I have always recognised the existence and value of Google+, but for me, it’s always been in the background. It works in the shade, adding value to every Google search I do (it’s like my peripheral vision has been trained to glance the Google+ page of the search result and check out things like reviews of businesses and their location on a Google map). It’s amazing what Google has done, and how Google+ can bring all their services together into one all-encompassing offering like the Chromebook. And what a scary day that will be when Google takes over everything we do…

    ps. I love Google Hangouts too

  13. Really glad someone finally addressed this awkward social elephant in the room: Google +. Described and compared to Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms, on paper Google + sounds like knock out of the park. Like you spelled out for us in this post, it really has everything we could ever want from a social platform: easy migration and connectivity to everything Google (Docs, Gmail, Youtube, Drive) which you’re right, we do use ALL the time! So why do I not know a single person using Google +, talking about Google + or any social buzz whatsoever about Google +. Yes I’ve heard of it, yes it’s in the news here and there, but all in all the thought of joining has never once crossed my mind. I see a few problems here. Above all, they’re late in the game. We’ve spent years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears building up our Facebook networks. Now that Google + is ready for us, I don’t know why anyone would want to go through that again. If there was no Facebook I’m sure we’d be ALL over it. But now, all of Google +’s features are either somewhat redundant to what we already have on Facebook, or they’re already available to us without being a part of the Google + community. So yes, I will admit it Google + is superior, it is forward thinking, smart, cleverly integrated, easy to use and pretty much everything we need to be highly efficient online with our social activities. So no- absolutely we cannot count them out, frankly it’s better. But until they find a way to entice myself and my network to migrate over, until they have something that I cannot live without, I don’t see it taking hold. But maybe that’s just me!

  14. You bring up some excellent points here! I especially appreciate you alluding to the importance of a Google+ ecosystem. There are huge switching costs which you also bring up. People have their lives on Facebook, so to switch away from that means a lot of lost data. There would have to be something that makes it really worth the switch for the long term.

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