Who Uses Google Plus?
I’m a realist, so I understand that in the world of social networks Google+ has long been considered a second-rate Facebook occupied mostly by Google employees and super tech-geeks. Fortunately, I also stay on top of these kinds of things since it’s the nature of my job, and because of that I know that the truth about Google+ is a much different picture than most paint.
Numbers and Growth
First, the numbers thrown around about G+ are misleading. In fact, last Autumn in the US a study showed that G+ had surpassed Twitter to become second only to Facebook in total users, meaning that it is the second most popular site in arguably the largest segment of online use. That’s not really the definition of obscurity.
It’s also growing pretty quickly in recent years and months, with a huge upside potential in growth once more Facebook users switch. Why would they switch? Because Facebook isn’t Google. You can argue six ways to Sunday about Facebook’s longevity forecast, but Google is undeniably the single most powerful tech force in the world today, and they’re not going anywhere.
Don’t Be This Guy
Even armed with the knowledge of how most people view G+, I was struck recently by the cavalier attitude of the owner of a trendy new coffee shop I visited. I pulled out my phone to check in on G+ (I was going to check in and give them a good review) but couldn’t find them, so I asked the girl behind the counter about it. She had to ask someone else, presumably the owner, who stated that they were “on enough of those things”, which he then explained meant that they had a Facebook account.
I asked him if he knew what the difference was between Facebook and G+, to which he smugly replied “What? Everyone uses Facebook?” I took my coffee and thought to myself, “No. G+ has a search engine connected to it that you might have heard of. It’s called Google.” Didn’t he need the extra business? Looking at the lack of customers lined up out the door, it was obvious that it wouldn’t hurt. How can a business owner afford to have their head in the sand about such important things that affect their bottom line?
The Holistic Approach
Google+ has been called a social layer of Google rather than a social network, which is entirely accurate. Think about it. Google’s play all along is profiling you by tracking what you do and like online, ten feeding relevant content to you. It’s ultimately the wet dream of AI enthusiasts and at the same time the nightmare of tech-doomsday proponents, it just depends on your outlook and their implementation.
Assuming it’s not building SkyNet, the positive results that eventually blossom from Google could be more mind-blowing than we can currently conceive. For now, it’s the quickest and most efficient engine available for e-commerce, the fastest growing segment in the economy. And it does it socially as well.
It’s a Better Product
Here’s the dirty secret that keeps Zuckerberg awake at night. Without playing just the right cards, Facebook is the next MySpace. Usage is already dropping precipitously in Europe, where teens wouldn’t dare be on the ‘old folks’ social network, ie Facebook. Growth has stagnated as well. But don’t forget demographics, because they are all-important to this discussion.
So the problem is that mom and pop and grandpa and granny have figured out how to use Facebook over the years, and they’re not about to have to figure out something else. As long as families stick with Facebook to stay in touch, we’ll have to wait for some of the older generation to drop off as the kids go elsewhere. In the meantime, the teens and preteens of today will drag the non-Facebook-family-bound social crowd away from the limping giant and into the waiting arms of a name they’ve been familiar with for years: Google.