Oh dear. It somehow had a feeling of inevitability about it, but Google Plus just doesn’t seem to be making much of an impact. I’m not calling in the undertakers, but wonder whether it can really make the statement Google so badly want.
I’ve tried to like it, it makes sense for me to use it as I’m a GMail user (and a big fan) and I use a lot of Google App services, but Google Plus is failing to tie it together.
Of course, Google tells a different story – squillions of users sign up every day, but as ever the numbers are only part of it. Early figures showed encouraging signs that users were registering in their droves – my fellow early adopters, keen to see what the Buzz (oops) was all about. However, looking in on it these days feels like it’s already stagnated as a service and the pessimist in me already fears it’ll go the same way as W*ve and Bu*z (sorry Google, it doesn’t feel fair to speak their names!)
However, Google is nothing if not persistant – it WILL make it work to some degree – it has to, as it can’t sit and watch Facebook biting its thumb in its direction much longer. But how to convince users to jump ship? They could just wait for Facebook to do it themselves, after all, recent changes to Facebook’s ‘Top Stories & Most Recent’ feed had users frothing at the mouth and threatening to reactivate long-lost Myspace and Friendster accounts in rage.
Realistically though, to loosely quote one of my favourite films ‘No-one gives it to you, you gotta take it’, Google NEEDS to have something it can shout about from the rooftops and really move us onto the next level of Social Networking. The difficulty for them is finding something that is attractive to enough Facebook users to make all the related hassle of porting across worthwhile and it’s here where I think Google slightly misunderstands the different roles in Social Networking:
1). Broadcaster. We all have them, the friends that merrily update their status with what they just ate, their journey to work and their cats’ every thought.
2). The Stalker. The user who, despite replying to every utterance from their favourite Broadcaster with a volley of ‘likes’, ‘lol’s and inane ‘You go, girlfriend’ comments, doesn’t really dare put much of their own personality out there.
3). The Mystery. Remember Friends Reunited? Remember those people that clearly registered just to check if everyone else was having a better time than they were? The Mystery is an engima, wrapped up in the anonymity of the Internet – they are a name, a sillouhette or perhaps a distant photo taken on top of a mountain somewhere, on a Tuesday.
4). The Social Butterfly. This is the new breed, the people who were born to exist in a public theatre, admired by many and always first to the bar – but can you remember their Birthday? Or actually their Surname? Hmmm…
5). The Advertiser. I think we know what’s going on here. Regretting saying you ‘Liked’ Whiskas cat food? Fed up of the constant status updates offering 25p-off coupons? Still, at least my friends are under no illusions as to my preferred choice of Meow Chow.
So, returning to the point of this post? Google doesn’t know what to do with Advertisers, Mysteries and Stalkers – it doesn’t really want Advertisers using Google Plus as an alternative to Sponsored Advertising, it doesn’t want Mysteries to make its platform look bad by never putting anything out there and it certainly doesn’t want Stalkers, as it’s created the tools (circles) to be able to deal with them in a way that Facebook never really got to grips with.
In short, Google still doesn’t get the different ‘faces’ of social networkers. Until it does, Google Plus stands to be quite a lonely place to be.