Google+ was first launched as an invitation-only Beta in June 2011 amid a lot of hype about it being the next big thing in social networks. By August, Comscore.com was reporting that Google+ was growing fast with 25 million new members, and it seemed that the prophecies about the death of Facebook and Twitter might actually have some substance to them. However, by the end of 2011, Google+ was stagnating and struggling to compete in the social media world despite it having been integrated into many of Google’s other services like Gmail and Google Profiles. In February 2012, Mashable reported that people were spending only 3.3 minutes monthly on Google+ as compared with 7.5 hours per month on Facebook. So where did Google+ go so wrong, and what things did they get right?
Everyone that comments on Google+ seems to agree that on the surface it looks like a great social network. The format is user friendly and almost everyone like the concept of circles for keeping aspects of your life conveniently separated. This feature has been compared to Facebook groups, but that function doesn’t have the same ability to really separate business contacts from pleasurable social networking, which Google+ offers. The addition of hangouts and other real time networking functions really offer value to users.
Integration with other Google services is also something that Google+ got right and it allows users to access their e-mail and their blogs at the same time as they scroll through the news feed. Having access to so many of Google’s other services via the Google Account that comes with the Google+ sign up is also handy, but all of them, including Gmail and Blogger, can be just as easily accessed without visiting Google+ and that is what seems to be happening.
The first failure of Google+ was that it wasn’t really complete when it was launched. Originally it wasn’t connected to the rest of the Google empire, and when they finally did integrate them in November 2011 it looked very much like an afterthought or a part of the project that didn’t make the launch date. The launch of Google+ Pages at this time also failed to offer anything as an incentive to entice businesses to duplicate their current efforts on Facebook in order to have a brand page on a social network with so few members, and so Google had failed to attract the large number of members needed to make it work. In early 2012, Google changed its indexing algorithm to give more weight to likes and shares on Google+, and it was seen as a blatant drive to attract traffic to the ailing project.
Google+ has so far failed to compete effectively with Facebook as a social site and lacks the established credos of LinkedIn for professionals. To its credit, Google+ has reached 100 million users in April 20121 and it does look as if it is going to survive, though it seems as if it will always be overshadowed by Facebook, which has over 800 million active users and growing. With the recent emergence of Pinterest, Google+ has even more competition for the social web surfers’ time, and the novelty of this new platform’s format must be drawing users to it from Google+. It remains to be seen if there is room in cyberspace for all of these competing forces in the Web 2.0 world and it will be interesting to see what Google comes up with next to try and bolster its flailing social network site. Presently, it is hard to see Google+ living up to the potential that it promised in June 2011.
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