Plus-One This: Proof That Google Plus Will Prevail

I have always thought of Google Plus as a cool alternative platform – not necessarily a Facebook killer. Looks like others think the same way that

Plus-One This: Proof That Google Plus Will Prevail

BY DAVE LLORENS |
JANUARY 7, 2013

Google Plus has been written off as a universal flop–but a deeper look proves that we will all eventually succumb to its siren song.

Plus-One This: Proof That Google Plus Will Prevail

Remember when Google Plus “flopped”? Well, it didn’t. In fact, it was, and still is, just part of Google’s plan–but everyone (including the media) has trouble seeing it as anything other than a swing and a miss for the explosive overtaking of Facebook, which is what most people believe was Google’s intention with Google Plus. Sure, I bet Google hoped in the back of its mind it would get lucky and eclipse Facebook, but Google certainly wasn’t counting on it.

99% of the people in Silicon Valley I’ve talked to about this, including some very, very bright folks with quite a bit of money and clout, will tell you that Google Plus flopped. They have, in their own minds, written it off entirely. The remaining 1%, while willing to consider that it didn’t flop, are still so tepid that they refuse to stake any credibility on saying it will be successful (which I would measure as having the same level/range of active users as the other big social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). Articles written by that 1%, like this one, are all chock-full of “mights” and “maybes.”

But I’m willing to stake my reputation on the following statement: If Google Plus doesn’t have a staggering number of active users by the end of 2013, you can all come over to my office and pie me in the face.

Google knows when they have failed (Buzz, Wave, etc). It shoots those products in the head like zombies, and they move on.

So then why didn’t Google shut down Google Plus if it was purportedly such a colossal flop? Why is the team working on it the size of the contracting team building the Death Star? And why is Google integrating its other products with Google Plus at a freakish, breakneck pace? Is Google just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? No–because it wasn’t not a flop at all, and its adoption rate was what Google expected.

Google Plus never was, and will never be, only about competing directly with Facebook.

From its launch through today, everyone viewed Google Plus as “Google’s version of Facebook,” because that’s the only sticky, simple headline that we can wrap our brain around. Most people believe it’s just another social networking service where all of our friends are supposed to join and share photos, status updates, and messages with each other. But it’s really not that at all.

GOOGLE PLUS’S BRILLIANT METHOD OF GAINING NEW USERS IS PLAYING OUT RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR EYES, BUT NO ONE RECOGNIZES IT.

Sure, there’s a social networking aspect to it, but Google Plus is really Google’s version of Google. It’s the groundwork for a level of search quality difficult to fathom based on what we know today. It’s also the Borg-like hive-queen that connects all the other Google products like YouTube, Google Maps, Images, Offers, Books, and more. And Google is starting to roll these products all up into a big ball of awesome user experience by way of Google Plus, and that snowball is starting to pick up speed and mass.

We all glommed onto the concept of “Google’s version of Facebook,” and focused only on comparing the similarities and differences between the two (such as number of users it had, whether “Circles” are “good,” and how “hangouts” are weird). But in reality, none of that matters. I happen to think Circles are a slightly smarter way to organize your personal connections, but it’s a “feature” that Facebook could copy with their eyes closed in a single hackathon. It is not the kind of thing that decides success or failure.

What makes Google Plus different is that it is the new backbone of a company that does search better than anyone already–something Facebook could never compete with. You use Google to search, right? Well, imagine if Google knew every piece of data about you that Facebook knew. Imagine how better equipped they would be to serve you what you are looking for. Google Plus is a way of entrenching Google’s dominance in that area, not a way of stealing Facebook users. If you are in first place, that’s the time to accelerate your lead.

Google Plus’s brilliant method of gaining new users is playing out right in front of our eyes, but no one recognizes it.

When talking to smart people (some of them technology-based venture capitalists) about Google’s method of getting new users, the same thing happens every time: First they chortle. Then, after delivering a two-minute explanation, they hem and haw for a bit… and for a fleeting moment you can feel the struggle of trying to reconcile some rock-solid logic coming from an entrepreneur whom they know is not an idiot, and their own very concrete impression of Google Plus as a widely known failure. It’s like an immovable force is meeting an unstoppable object inside the brain. The easier answer and the incumbent usually wins in this situation. Here’s that two-minute explanation for the rest of you:

Google Plus’s user acquisition strategy is to methodically absorb certain verticals using the carrot instead of the stick.

Yes, of course Google could force most of us to use Google Plus begrudgingly tomorrow if it wanted to, but that’s playing with big, big, brand fire. And that’s not really who Google is at its core anyway. It has shown the will to resist sexy, positive impacts to the bottom line in order to hold onto who it is as a company and this is a good example of that. So how does Google do this?

Step one: Corral every single blogger. Have you used Google lately and noticed faces appearing next to certain posts? That’s called Google Authorship–bloggers can link their Google Plus profile to the content they create. Guess how many online writers see that and say “Eh, I don’t need to have that.” If you said “zero” you win a prize. All you need is a Google Plus account with a headshot to glue this up to all your posts, and it adds tremendous value to bloggers who can now claim their posts instead of having Google show a “stolen” version ahead of their own. Not only a tremendous value to the person searching (who is finding the person who truly generated the content) but also the content generator who no longer has to worry about this infuriating issue. In short–huge value and a 100% adoption rate of a specific vertical.

Step two: Attract every single small business and at least one of their employees. Want your business to appear on Google Maps, Google Local, et al., so that you can tell your prospective customers where you are, what you sell, and when you are open? Yup, you guessed it–you need a Google Plus Local Business page now. But again, Google isn’t forcing your hand, it’s adding value. Reviews, hours, pics, videos, local search–all housed in one place. And this account must be managed by a real person with a real Google Plus personal account. Now you have all small businesses as well as a new person in each business using Google Plus. See where I’m going with this?

Step three: Convince you, because all of those other things that you already love get better. Maybe you’re addicted to that new augmented reality game Ingress. Maybe your Google Plus profile makes it way easier to win. Or maybe you want better music, movie, or book recommendations–look no further than Google Plus. Want to find a community of skiers or chefs or race car drivers with a flick of the wrist? Or perhaps that hilarious video about that thing that you once emailed to a friend but can’t quite remember enough about it to find again? When you have Google Plus, those communities and that video just appear when you search for your best guess.

The point is, once Google Plus has every blogger, every small business, lots of gamers, lots of YouTubers, etc., actively using the product, they will continue to use all that new data to make even more of their products more awesome.

I know. You are still in the “no freaking way am I joining another social network” mode. But one day soon you will wake up and find out about that one little thing and it goes something like this:

Your buddy, “Hey have you heard about this one little thing?”
You: “Oh. My. God. That’s Awesome. That’s so Awesome. How do I get that?”
Your buddy: “Oh, you need to have a Google Plus Profile or it doesn’t work.”

I’ll see you around–on Google Plus.

–Dave Llorens is a two-time entrepreneur currently running One Block Off the Grid. If you are interested in starting a business, please join his Google+ Community, “The MBA of Hard Knocks.”

[Image: Flickr user Laura Thorne]

What’s Different About The 2012 Olympics? Social Media, Basically

Love the Olympics and this years’ is more social – details from FastCo:

HOW MUCH BIGGER IS SOCIAL MEDIA IN 2012 THAN IT WAS IN 2008? THREE TIMES? TEN TIMES? TRY 100 TIMES.

The Olympics are one of our oldest traditions–a time capsule we revisit every four years. And while its athletes gradually become stronger and faster, other technologies have been advancing exponentially.

What's Different About The 2012 Olympics? Social Media, Basically
This infographic by Pappas Group really puts that idea into perspective. It compares the size of social media in 2008 with 2012, using Olympic events like weight lifting and pole vault to scale just how much this sector has grown.

“When we began to visualize the impact of the Summer Games on branded social media, each category we were looking at took on its own event-like stature. So the idea of using a traditional isometric style to create an Olympic arena of sorts seemed like a natural fit,” explains Art Director Spender Slemenda. “We started thinking of different events and how they would affect the chart data. The integration of the cut-out athletes came quite easily from that.”

The visuals are remarkably effective at fleshing out these stats–let’s just admit it, swimmers competing for first place, even if they just create a bar graph anyway, are far more interesting to look at than a traditional graph. But there’s a larger point that we see in Pappas’s infographic that’s more important than the sheer number of Facebook subscribers or the amount companies like P&G spend on advertisements: The web, Internet, or cloud, whatever you call it, powers entities that expand on the exponential scale, a scale far beyond the frameworks of even the most impressive physical specimens of the human species. And so while it’s not so hard to imagine the Olympics in another hundred years, imagining the digital infrastructure behind them becomes entirely unfathomable.

INSANE Graphic Shows How Ludicrously Complicated Social Media Marketing Is Now

Wow – this is wild! Sure glad computers, the Internet and the Cloud make things so much easier! LOL from Business Insider:

Maybe this is the reason General Motors went “mental” and pulled its Facebook ad budget.

Digital marketing is confusing—really confusing—as this insane graphic shows (below).

Trying to navigate through the various new social media categories, blogs, sharing sites, and social media firms is an absolute mess.

This depiction of the digital marketing landscape was shown at a Buddy Media event marking the launch of the social marketing software agency’s new suite of measurement tools.

You can click to enlarge it, but that won’t make it look any simpler.

Bonus points for reader Ryan, who realized Pinterest isn’t on there.

buddy media social marketing

Switching to Google+

Interesting reasons on why to switch to Google+. I am not sure about the term switching, but might think about integrating it more and more into the social networking mix. This article is from InfographicLabs:

Google’s answer to Facebook recently announced 100 million users. While that’s still nowhere near Facebook’s 800 million, it clearly has a lot to offer its users- especially those who use other Google services. The jury on Google+ remains out, but in this infographic we came up with twenty reasons to switch to it.

Reasons to switch to Google Plus

How Pinterest Could Save Google

Wow – that’s kind of a wild, but maybe interesting thought! Googlrest or Pinteogle? Especially after the Facebook<->Instagram acquisition! Interesting idea from Gizmodo:

How Pinterest Could Save Google

It’s no secret that Google desperately wants Google+ to be the cornerstone of how you use the internet. The problem? No one’s taking the bait. It might be time for something drastic. Something like backing up several truckloads of cash to buy Pinterest, a social network crammed full of 10 million people who actually want to be there.

Yes, Google+ has 170 million users. But how many of them actually use it is another matter entirely. The social network’s Circle-centric design works too well for its own good; it’s easy to keep private stuff private on Google+, which makes everyone act like information hermits, leaving newcomers with a ghost town. Pinterest could solve that. It could make Google+ fun.

It’d Be Good for You…

The problem with Google+ has never been design. Selective sharing actually makes for a very smart floorplan, made all the prettier by this week’s overhaul. But Google+ is like a house with a bunch of rooms and ample wall space but no one around to decorate. And what furnishings are there—the links that get shared—made the rounds on Twitter twenty minutes ago.

Pinterest, though? Pinterest is full of decorators, and man do they like to decorate. The length of the average Pinterest visit is north of 14 minutes, which is phenomenally high. You don’t stick around for that long on a social network page, or any page, really, if there’s nothing to look at—or share. Contrast those 14 minutes to the last time you popped open Google+, dodged a tumbleweed, and closed the tab. Pinterest users would fill up Google+ with things worth sharing.

And these aren’t just teens and tweens taking duck-faced mirror shots. They’re spread across abroad range of demographics. Pinterest is like Instapaper, but for everything. Weddings, recipes, shopping, decorations dominate today, along with just cat photos, or inspirational quotes. But there are also Pinterest boards for cars and guns and old timey radios and anything else you can find on the Internet. Which—hey!—sounds very similar to what Google envisioned for Google+. And a far cry from the hyper-techy echo chamber it is today.

That’s a big deal. A huge chunk of Facebook’s ubiquity rests on its ability to reach your mom, your uncle, your fourth grade teacher. So far, Google+ hasn’t been that. It’s been a thing Google nagged you into signing up for that’s been easy to ignore ever since. Today, it’s mostly populated by enthusiasts and tech geeks. If it’s going to succeed, it’s in desperate need of some diversity.

So what’s Google+ mixed with Pinterest for you? An extremely logical, selective sharing service, filled with a healthy mix of quick news and life updates and everything beautiful on the internet. Circles filled with boats, or muffins, or dogs, or whatever you enjoy, shared with thousands of people or just your closest friends. And—not unimportantly—the first viable alternative to Facebook since MySpace turned into a shitty band listserve warehouse.

Sounds good to me.

…And Great for Google

It makes even more sense for Google, a company that desperately needs your social information. Craves it, but doesn’t have much to offer in return. Not really, not yet. But making Google+ a place that’s worth hanging out in gives you much more reason to feed the beast with all your juicy, marketable data points.

Pinterest also brings in a more diverse demographic to the male-dominated (around 70% of users) Google+. As of last year, Pinterest’s user base was about 54 percent female. By late January, that number shot up to something like 80 or 87 or 97 percent, depending on who you ask. The broader the range of active users Google gets under its tent, the more highly targeted its ads can be.

But it goes deeper than just demographics. Pinterest users are also far more engaged than those on other social networks—up to two to three times as much as Twitter.

Also? Pinterest has shown it can build an iPad app worth a damn. Looking to you, Google+ web applet.

The fact is, Google needs Google+ to thrive, especially since it’s staked so much of its search prowess on it—so far, with dismal results. The company made social networking its bed. Now it’s time to make it worth laying in.

So Let’s Do This

And the thing is, it’s entirely reasonable. It’s not like it would break the bank. As of its 2011 filings in January, Google’s got $44 billion in cash and cash equivalents. That’s massive compared to an estimated $1.5 billion in cash Facebook had when it spent a billion on Instagram—and Pinterest wouldn’t come with nearly that high a price tag. Even accounting for a possibly inflated valuation after the gigantic Instagram deal, Pinterest only has about 10 million users, to Instagram’s 30. And while there were some hypotheticals last week about it running up a billion dollar price tag, its growth has slowed enough for that to go back to being crazy talk.

The reasons it wouldn’t work? The same ones that have Instagram snobs quaking in their cardigans: startups being swallowed by behemoth corporations rarely ends well. Ditto small, targeted networks being assimilated into massive ones. But Google has at least some history of being able to get out of its acquisitions ways until it makes sense to integrate them. YouTube, for instance. It was admittedly many times huger than Pinterest is now when it was acquired, but it remained mostly its own thing for years. Now it plugs seamlessly into Google+. Same thing could work for Pinterest.

Google could always just stay its course. Keep shuffling the all new and beautifully designed 3D chairs on the Titanic. Keep inundating us with prompts to join a ghost town network where most of us have already decided we’re not going to settle down.

But fill Google+ with people who want to be there and things that are worth looking at? That’s how you make a house a home.

The Facebook Chart That Freaks Google Out

I can see why its competitors are freaking out!  Is Facebook taking over your life??

From AllThingsD:

The overhaul Facebook rolled out last week is meant, first and foremost, to keep users sticking around. But, hyperbole aside, Facebook is already crushing the rest of the Web when it comes to stickiness.

Check out this engagement chart, courtesy of Citigroup’s Mark Mahaney. It’s a neat illustration of the Web 2.0 era, and does a nice job of explaining why Google is so freaked out about Facebook, and why AOL and Yahoo seem to be in eternal turnaround mode. (Note that just a couple of years ago, someone might have thought to include Myspace in here. Remember?)

And from Gizmodo:

Facebook started out as a fun distraction, then it became something integral. And while it’s currently trending towards being an essential part of our lives, will it someday become inescapable? If these graphs are any indicator, then it’s very well possible.

Citi Research conducted a study of the amount of time Americans spent on Facebook. In 2007, Facebook only occupied two percent of people’s days. Fast forward to the present, and it takes up around 16 percent, good for an eightfold increase. Though unlikely, if Facebook’s increase in engagement were to continue at this rate, it would literally consume our entire lives by 2015.

And equally important, as All Things D points out, is how substantially Facebook is outpacing the other major internet players in this category. Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL sites have all been flat or dipping in the amount of time they hold visitors attention. Google’s properties show overall engagement growth, but not nearly as impressive as Facebook’s. The question is, will we come to love and accept Facebook as our central hub for everything internet? Or will they commit some Netflix-esque blunder and cause us all to flee in droves?

The Growth Of Social Media

Doesn’t look like a fad to me! I’d say it is here to stay, albeit with some interesting changes in the future! I am not sure what happened to the 65+ year olds in November 2008 though – glad to see them come back 🙂
click on the infographic for a zoomable view: 

The Growth of Social Media: An Infographic

From HuffPo:

A new study suggests half of all American adults are now on social networks. In fact, out of American adults who use the Internet, Pew found that nearly two-thirds use social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.

Search Engine Journal agrees social media is here to stay, despite some dismissing it as a fad:

[T]ake a look below at the steep curve of the user growth rate in all age ranges and demographics, and the continuing pervasiveness of social networking into every facet of work, play and life in general. It’s hard to argue that social media hasn’t changed forever how we interact and connect online.

It’s true that Twitter and Facebook have seen stunning growth in the last few years. Similarly, daily deals sites that are social in nature have seen exponential growth. There are also some convincing stats, such as 96% of millennials have joined a social network. These booming online communities have even inspired new social media-based maps.

Have a look at the growth of social media for yourself with the infographic above, via Search Engine Journal.

Source: The Growth of Social Media: An Infographic

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