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Google+: The Next Big Thing or Another Google Failure?

Google+ is the search giant’s newest foray into social media. Google has attempted to become a player in the realm of social media before, but every previous attempt up to this point has been a failure. Will Google+ be a success and a serious competitor to Facebook, or will it fade into history like all their previous attempts?

Google’s Previous Attempts at Social Media:

Before we jump into Google+ let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane and reminisce about Google’s previous, ill-fated attempts at social networking.

Orkut

Orkut was launched in 2004, a month before Facebook went online to students at Harvard. It was created by Google engineer Orkut Büyükkökten. It could have turned into what Facebook is today, but it appears that Google didn’t know exactly what it had and how powerful social media would become. While Google was still trying to figure out exactly what to do with Orkut, Facebook went live to the public in September of 2006 and the rest is history.

It’s not exactly fair to call Orkut a failure. It does have over 100 million users worldwide, but few are located in the United States. It is extremely popular in Brazil and India.

Dodgeball

Never heard of Dodgeball? Don’t worry. You are not alone. Dodgeball was Google’s attempt at a mobile check-in network. It was acquired by Google in 2005 from Dennis Crowley.

Google had the right idea, but once again they failed to capitalize on it. Maybe they were just ahead of their time with this one. Four years later, as Google was shutting down Dodgeball, Dennis Crowley created Foursquare and again the rest is history.

Jaiku

Google acquired Jaiku in 2006. Jaiku was Twitter before there was Twitter. It had the same 140 character limit and many other similarities. However, Google gave up on it just around the time Twitter launched. Who knows what would have happened if they had stuck with it. Perhaps instead of Tweeting we’d all be Jaiking…or something like that.

Wave

I’d love to explain what Wave was, or trying to be, but I can’t. It was a mix of photo sharing, email, instant message and groupware put together in a very convoluted way. It launched in 2009 and was like nothing anyone had seen before and that might have been the problem. Google stopped new accounts from being created two months after it launched and deleted all existing Waves this past April.

Buzz

Buzz was Google’s attempt at micro-blogging. It launched in February of 2010. It was very similar to Twitter except that it was integrated into Gmail. Buzz didn’t create much “buzz” at all and was shut down at the end of 2011.

Google+

As you can plainly see Google hasn’t had much success with social media. It’s not as if they didn’t have some good ideas, but they either gave up too quickly or didn’t realize what they had.

That brings us to Google+. There are now over 100 million users of Google+. That total is expected to grow to over 200 million by year’s end.

While its number of users continues to grow, the average time users spend on their Google+ profiles continues to fall. Last November users spent an average of 5.5 minutes a month on the social network. As recently as March of this year, that number had fallen to just 3.3 minutes. Compare that to Facebook whose users spend an average of 7.3 hours a month. That’s a huge disparity and Google will have an extremely hard time closing that gap.

Google+ is essentially Google’s version of Facebook, although it does incorporate the use of hashtags like Twitter.

Google has thrown a ton of money behind their social network in the form of marketing and advertising. While that has increased its visibility and grown its user base, it has yet to find a way to create an environment that can engage its users like Facebook does.

As of now Google+ has been the most successful attempt at social media for the search giant, but the odds of it being able to seriously compete with Facebook are long. While the gap in the number of users will most likely continue to narrow, it is the average time users spend on the network that is Google’s biggest hurdle.

How can Google get people to spend less time on their Facebook accounts and more time on Plus? That is a question that I am sure the brain trust at Google is trying answer. If they can’t find an answer then they don’t stand a chance at competing with Facebook.

There are some conspiracy theorists out there that believe Google doesn’t care how long people spend on their Plus profiles. They believe that all Google cares about is gathering as much information on their users as possible the way Facebook does in order to eventually deliver customized ads and increase their already large revenue stream.

While I have no doubt that Google eventually wants to use their users information to deliver individually customized advertisements, they have to ensure that their social network is around long enough in order to do that. The only way Google+ will survive is if a way can be found to create an environment that better engages their users.

While I don’t think it is likely that Google+ will ever seriously compete with Facebook, I wouldn’t put anything past Google. With their immense resources, talented engineers and the lessons they have learned from their past failures, it is possible they may one day become a minor nuisance to Mark Zuckerberg.

What do you think? Will Google+ ever seriously compete with Facebook?


Joseph Piracci is an internet marketing expert with over 7 years of experience in SEO, SEM, Social Media Marketing and E-commerce management. He is also the owner of a SEO company in Buffalo, NY called Predominant Domains.

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Joseph Piracci

Joe Piracci is an internet marketing expert with over 7 years of experience with SEO, SEM, SMM and E-commerce management. If you are in the need of any of the above services please contact Joe’s company, Predominant Domains, an SEM Company.

36 Comments

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  • I suppose Google is a very good SEO. Google+ is upcoming and will be able to compete with facebook.

  • i signed to google plus just because of google search. when your page is more plus oned, it will be visible more often in searches.

    for rest, i have facebook 🙂

  • imoh, + is a total waste of time and always has been. You wrote a great article but google + is not new, its been around for a while. And it stinks. Its boring. The only people i can find on there are google employees and SEO people who, like me, think they HAVE TO be active on there to get google traffic. Its dull, boring, and with Facebook around, its irrelevant. The sooner they drop it the better.

  • Google+ is different in that it wants articles rather than status updates published in the feedline so that it can link relevant content on search- especially now they are creating the ‘author’ tag to learn who the trusted sources of information are. Rather than seeing it like Facebook it needs to be seen as a repository for articles relating to your field of endeavour, linked, tagged and authored so that Google can pull up the best content. That said, it just somehow lacks the user appeal of FB and I can’t put a finger on why that is. Time will tell.

  • I am still fairly new to Google+ and find that the other social networks are easier to use, and get a faster response. It’s easier to connect with people, by commenting, messaging, adding pictures, and sharing. It is also easier to find people on the other social medias.

    It’s one I will try to get my head around, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • It was a good attempt by Google+ to compete with facebook but I do not see any overtaking in near future, Google+ is able to show its number of users because of the easy switch from gmail to Google+ , as all the users who are connected to gmail can easily see Google+ but is has nothing much to create interest for a user to stay for long. Biggest disadvantage I see in terms of Google+ branding is its launch on the subdomain which is plus.google.com, on contrary it would have worked on enhancement of orkut instead of launching something new, this way it has lost its charm on both the social networking sites, concept of circle is one good thing in google+. What I see is that mixing of gmail,gtalk, orkut, adsense, free promotions, songs, greetings, and circle concept with enhancement on its application and games and use of 3D concept can be advantageous. Good Luck Google

  • Facebook is one thing, and Google is lots of things. In the long run I think this gives Google the advantage in being able to see the market from a broader perspective and create integrated solutions that takes advantage of their inherent breadth as an organization.

    While Facebook won the first social media battle, in the long run I think Google will win the war.

  • The overview or Google’s past social media efforts was informative.

    I can not see G+ overtaking Facebook unless G+ can get Facebook users to move from Facebook to G+. This will never happen unless Google does a few things including; providing a compelling reason to swap platforms and method to migrate existing content. Both seem very unlikely.

    If Facebook self destructs Google could be an alternative, but waiting around for Facebook to implode may take years. Google has the resources to help expedite Facebook’s inevitable demise if they desired…

    Or Google can think out the box and dream up something completely revolutionary.

  • Hi,
    I thing google needs something like “Like Box”. The google+ button is not visible on page…

  • I think that everyone that writes articles like this gets it all wrong, no offense. Why does Google+ need its success measured by Facebook or how many people leave Facebook for G+? Google+ is its own service. I still use booth Facebook and Google+, personally I use Google+ more and more each day and Facebook less and less, but I do use them for the same and different reasons. I am more engaged with people on Google+ because people on Google+ are more engaging. Google+ isn’t Facebook, and I think Google knows that, and I think they’re fine with that. Who cares if it grows as quickly or gets as many users as Facebook, it’s an excellent service. And, especially if you are in the Googleverse with all their services as well as an Android phone, you will see how Google+ will be the Social blanket over all things Google, and that’s what is unique about it.

  • Personally i think google is more interested in finding out about peoples interests, and this is why it is using google +, and is not really interested in making money, as what people like is a valuable advertising target

  • Nearly 8 Years on from Orkut, i think google should stick to what it is good at is gmail, maps and search and invest more in these areas.

  • To me Google+ have already failed. They kind of proved that whent they released their new policy back in March where they merged all products in one. While I appreciate that this article highlight Google’s failure in the social era I am not entirely convienced that plus was only created to enter the social media game. If we see how these corporations make money its all about advertising yes? Google;s problem in comparison with facebook is that while it knows what you are looking on the internet it does not know as many things about you as Facebook. Google plus tried to do just that but due to market share or for any of the reasons mentioned above it failed to deliver. Google the merged all policies to one and try now by merging all google product accounts (youtube, gmail, plus etc) to get as many information about the user as possible in the hopes that they will learn as many things as facebook does.

    just my 2 cents and personal point of view. You can find a whole detailed blog I wrote about this here:

    http://www.atladasmedia.co.uk/blog/googles-new-privacy-policy-the-counter-attack-after-google-plus-failed

  • As a business, I still prefer Facebook for its ease of use. Google+ makes it difficult for people to “+1” your business page because you have to have people +1 you first otherwise you cannot add them to your circles for your page… it is a nightmare trying to accomplish anything on Google+ at the moment… thus the 3.3 minutes people spend on it per month… just enough time to see if anything has changed… then they go back to Facebook where everything is easy to use!

  • I feel Google is wasting time trying to compete in the social media game, they are too far behind the curve at this point and because they keep jumping in and jumping out of the game with new idea’s people do not want to invest the time.

    Google needs to go back to concentrating on the search engine thing which has been questionable at best the past few years

  • I believe Google+ is just a big con and they have no intention of trying to topple Facebook. The fact that you need to sign up for a Google account in order to join + just shows that they want to get much more information out of you than they currently do with the profile. They want to know your habits and as much intimate information about you as you are stupid enough to provide in order to sell more ad space.

  • I think the biggest advantage G+ is that is Google. Google creates an all in one control panel where you can bounce from your email to you tube, docs, to G+, etc…Its easy. And it may not be for everyone, but if they can tap into the social media network and create their niche like Android has created its niche in the smartphone battle, and chrome book is in the laptops, they will receive a nice additional revenue stream and information for the search engine.

  • I think G+ is easier to use and is less cluttered than FB which will appeal to older users as well, plus it keeps everything in the same catchment area if you have a website and your trying to grow a business, after all Google is indexing most of them, more useful than FB.

  • G+ is a ghost land, hard to use and IMO a failure. Too hard to use, no real landing page, etc. Nice to get the G+ next to your website in a search, but too few people use it and lots of people are leaving Gmail due to new privacy policy.

    We are very curious to see how the new Google Shopping works out: will consumers realize that they are not seeing the best deals but rather the products that sellers paid the most to list? My bet: Overstock and similar sites will overpower all others.

    Google Shopping is first step for Google to try again to compete with Amazon. However, having product listings based on the fees paid by merchant rather than the best value to consumer is silly. Flat PPC? Different story, but the bidding really befuddles me and surely isn’t in the consumer’s best interest.

  • I Love G+. Facebook is full of irrelevant garbage IMHO. Self interested people telling you the finest details of their mostly boring lives. Google Plus has quality information and less boring people.
    Facebook will fail before Google +

  • gahendra wrote – “Biggest disadvantage I see in terms of Google+ branding is its launch on the subdomain which is plus.google.com”

    Absolutely agree. Last I heard this was something recommended not to do. And…if I’m not mistaken, Google was the one who said it. I think I want to laugh…

  • I think Google realized early on that they couldn’t compete for individuals so they turned to businesses as a catalyst by replacing Places with G+ Local. The only problem is that they’ve gone about it all wrong since.

    As many other sites have already proven, catering to businesses will eventually cause the individuals to show up and use the site. The problem with G+ is that they’ve made it too hard for people to interact with the business before understanding the site’s purpose(making them have an account first, as an example). I was always under the impression that, to prosper out of the gate, you basically give away the store. Allowing people to interact with business pages easily would get people more accustomed to what’s going on there and the comfort level would follow. (Then you tighten the reins). They’ve already got the businesses there so why not use them to help grow?

    G+ is too convoluted right now; attempting to lure the business AND the individual. If they’d concentrate on the business and make it more of a social area for them, implementing changes that would better benefit [local?] companies, I think they would fair better both in acceptance and in revenue derived.

    G+ now has a G+ personal, G+ Business and G+ Local and what for? Basically, it’s a stop-gap because they released it before everything was ready. And, no apps? REALLY??? How does that help anyone?

    A focused plan is always better than a shotgun – especially when someone else has the bigger gun.

  • I never liked Facebook. But it has become what hotmail is in Mexico (You ask anybody in Mexico for their email and it ends with hotmail.com/.mx)

    I do have a Facebook account, but its mainly for marketing. I use G+ more for social. It is cleaner, no clutter, love the interface.

  • As a 13 yr vet of Internet Mktg and a beta tester for Google I can tell you there is a DEFINITE plan ahead that involves G+ which will be making Google the COOLEST:-)

  • As a photographer, I find Google+ far more intuitive than Facebook. Google+ circles make a lot of sense – I like the way I can share different content with different groups of people. I’ve tried all the past Google social networking efforts and didn’t find any of them were for me.However, I often find myself recommending G+ to others (I hardly ever recommend things unless I genuinely believe they’re good), and I’ve no doubt it will be a massive success.

  • Google+ was never intended to compete with or overtake Facebook as its primary objective.

    Google can’t crawl Facebook or Twitter in their totality and it needed its own way to get an idea of the social buzz surrounding any given website.

    Google as an entity is not stupid and I am sure they are well aware that + is tanking compared to FB with regard to true user engagement. I guess it remains to be seen whether they scrap it or not.

  • […] the basics of Google+ and really believe Google hit it right this time compared to their previous failed social media attempts. This should be a great lesson to us that no matter how many times we try and fail we can always […]

  • Google+ is a failure and I’ll explain why in terms easy to understand:

    #1 – I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it.
    #2 – I don’t see many of my real friends or family on it.
    #3 – I just don’t care enough to fix #1 or #2 because I already have Facebook.

    Any questions?