If You Think Google+ Is A Failure… You Are A Fool!

Posted on March 4, 2012

I was talking to a colleague the other day, and she mentioned that a social media company was advising our shared client not to bother with Google+, “Because it doesn’t look like it’s going to take off.” I responded with, “They are a fool, and they don’t get it”. What don’t they get, you ask?

Here is a secret… Google doesn’t care of Google+ dethrones Facebook. That’s not why they built it. They built it because they want to apply the, “Network Effect” to search.

What is the Network Effect?

The network effect is an economic principle that states that the value of a product increases when more people use it. For example, if you were the only person in the world with a telephone, it would be a pretty useless piece of technology. The minute a second person owns a phone, all of a sudden that product becomes pretty useful. The more people who own phones, the more valuable it becomes for everyone.

A second example is Facebook. Facebook wouldn’t be useful if you were the only person on the site. But the more friends that join, the more useful a tool like Facebook becomes. That is why it is so hard for new social networks to enter the space. Even if you hate Facebook, you’re not going to leave it for another network unless your friends are on there already. Could you drag some friends over with you, sure, but it’s probably not worth the effort for everyone to setup brand new accounts. The switching costs are too high. That is the power of the network effect.

Search has been Google’s core product since it was a startup. They stole marketshare from dinosaurs like Altavista and Lycos by using better algorithms, having faster loading results and delivering faster innovation. Throughout the years they’ve planted hooks in us by giving us free tools like analytics, maps, Android, etc. We’re at the point where most Google account holders would never cancel their account completely, but there’s not much to keep us from trying out other search engines like BingBlekko or DuckDuckGo. What Google is missing in search is the network effect.

Imagine if your search experience was primarily powered by your friends and contacts. Let’s also assume that this social graph powered search experience was something that you wanted, and was hands down a better experience than the traditional link graph approach. If this were the case, then the more friends you had in your graph, or the more connections you established, the better your search experience would become. In order to get the same experience on a different search engine, you would need to bring your social graph with you. It is essentially the network effect applied to search.

This scenario is exactly what Google is shooting for. They could care less if you spend hours sharing pictures of kittens on Google+. All they need you to do is setup a profile and place your contacts into the appropriate circles. Once Google knows who you are and who you are connected to, it can start connecting all the information they know about you and your friends to deliver heavily personalized results. Data from:

  • Browsing history
  • Phone (geo, contacts, music, apps, pictures, videos, text, wallet)
  • Maps
  • YouTube
  • Checkout
  • Email
  • IM
  • Blog posts
  • Blog comments
  • etc.

Don’t be a fool

We all know that Google+ isn’t as engaging as Facebook. That is a given. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that Google+ is going the path of Buzz and Wave. With over 100,000,000 users in 6 months, I wouldn’t poo poo the fastest growing social network in the world just yet.

Remember… With Google, search is everything.

[box type=”bio”] If you’re not already following me on Twitter, my mother highly recommends that you do. Follow @DanCristo[/box]

8 Replies to "If You Think Google+ Is A Failure... You Are A Fool!"

  • Ismael Jimenez
    March 7, 2012 (4:52 pm)

    Me parece muy importante comentar que uno de las cosas que más e gusta sobre G+ es el hecho que se convierte en un explorador de contenidos, donde el orden de las cosas prevalece por encima de la absoluta congestión que representa facebook.

    Ademas estoy completamente de acuerdo con lo que dices, sobre google y su enfonque sobre las busquedas y su sentido de red, donde la disposición y adquisición de la información son los intereses esenciales de google.

    For me is very important to say that one of the things that I like more about G+ is the fact that it becomes in a really organized content explorer and sharing platform, where the order of the stuff is above the full congestion that facebook become.

    Also I’m completely agree with your reasons, about Google and it focus on search and sense of a network, where the indexation of content and information  are the esential interest for Google.

    • Dan Cristo
      March 9, 2012 (6:39 pm)

      Hi Ismael,
      Great point. The real advantage Google has that Facebook doesn’t is information about the rest of the Internet. 

      Facebook is better at helping you discover what your friends are dong. Google is better at helping you discover new info you might find interesting around the web. I wonder what features they will incorporate to capitalize on that advantage.

  • Fraser Cain
    March 7, 2012 (5:07 pm)

    Hey Dan, I think you’re right about the search implications of Google+, but I deeply disagree with your opinion about its quality as a social network. Almost every post I make on G+ will have this level of involvement and engagement. It absolutely buries Twitter or FB.

    I highly recommend you give it another look and give it a serious try as a network. Don’t worry about your old friends being there, discover your new friends. If you want to see the communities evolving, try this post:


    • Dan Cristo
      March 9, 2012 (6:49 pm)

      Hey Fraser,
      Thanks for leaving your thoughts.

      I agree that engagement on Google+ often surpasses Facebook at the post level. And hands down it’s easier to have a conversation about a topic on Google+ over Twitter.

      Just to be clear, I haven’t turned my back on Google+ at all. I honestly don’t do much conversating on any social network these days. Just when the mood strikes.

  • Brent Pohlman
    March 17, 2012 (8:56 pm)

    Great article here! I think people are always going to second guess and review where they are at with respect to their time and results. I know Google+ has SEO impact with the Google Authorship http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1408986  This can’t be ignored.

    I think Google+ is still evolving and I look for some new functionality to be added soon. I think Google is watching what other social media platforms are doing and Google will find a way to implement new functionality at a higher level of value. Just my opinion.

    • Dan Cristo
      March 19, 2012 (2:31 am)

      Yeah, I totally agree with you there. Google is no dummy. They know that social isn’t just a trends, but a “coming to age” so to speak of what the Internet was designed to be.

      They are betting their company that Google+ will be the future, and consider Google’s pockets… It’s a sizable bet.

  • ArcticLlama
    March 28, 2012 (3:00 am)

    The biggest flaw in all of these analysis, and in Google’s premise about the power of social, is that using the information and opinions of my friends gives me better search results. Maybe it’s just me, but my friends don’t know ANYTHING about how to fix a hinge on a vanity cabinet (searched for last night). Sure, they might know about some bands I would like, or maybe good book suggestions, but guess what? We TALK about that. I don’t search for it on Google.

    I think as a publisher you are fool to ignore G+ because, yes, Google is leaning on it very heavily. However, I think in the end, users and Google will realize that social and search don’t dovetail as much as everyone assumes.

  • Webstats Art
    April 7, 2012 (6:24 pm)

    Oh, Google Plus gets backlinks from Google’s home page. +You is the first dofollow link from their page rank 9 website, not to mention a million other backlinks from everywhere else. I guess this is showing the SEO community that forcing your way to the top (even if you have the power) will definitely bring you traffic and sign ups. I have not used Google Plus yet but am curious to know about the backlinks in the system. Are they all nodofollow?
    Of course I know that page rank is not everything but more page rank never hurt anyone and has anyone noticed that Youtube no longer has a single dofollow link ? Google exchanged them for a whole bunch of nodofollows. I wonder why? Hmm!

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