I think everyone is being a bit mean to Google. Yeah, that’s right. I think the community of social media / digital analysts have been very rash in their assessment of Google+ and its social offering.
Google+ is the new kid in the playground and everyone knows they’ve got exceedingly rich parents; this is a back-foot start straight from the off. No one wants to focus on the functionality, no one wants to talk about where it fits and no one wants to let it find its feet.
Is that because it’s rubbish? I don’t think so… It’s actually a pretty good user experience. Is it because secretly, people love to see Google fail at social (Wave and Buzz)? Or is it the assumption that if you’re a massive company like Google, you should somehow be able to bypass the one thing every social media start-up has been afforded… time for the community to work out how the channel works best.
Facebook started in a blaze of Ivy League glory way back when in 2004. They conquered the University market at quite a pace, but when it came to taking on the wider population of the US with their work networks concept in 2006, the reaction was lukewarm. No one noticed. People feared for the social networks future, even the biggest believers/investors in the company at the time were nervous. A combination of open registration and the address importer remedied those fears and the rest is history.
Twitter in the early days was questioned and ridiculed by many as a waste of time and an exercise in narcissism. ‘What is the point?’ many asked, ‘You can’t communicate meaningfully with 140 characters’. I’ll admit that I opened an account only due to the peer pressure of being a blogger and keeping up with the Jones’s.
I set up my handle in January 2009 but I didn’t really start using the account heavily until about 2010. Only now is the channel really etching into the mainstream and growing out of the ownership of the early adopters.
That brings me onto Google+. They managed to pick up 40million users in 4 months, making it the fastest growing social network of all time. Then came the October traffic crash. People were signed up but they weren’t using it. As of November the 12th, that pattern had changed and traffic was up 25%. Returning visitors were also up 17%. Google+ hadn’t died in a month. Shocking, I know.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that you can’t force a social network into the mainstream. You have to let it grow organically, you have to let people work out how it fits into the social eco-system and you have to give it time. My activity on the platform hasn’t been major, I’m just watching. The more Facebook gets my timeline wrong, the more I look at Google+ as an uncluttered haven. I can follow the people I’m interested in, I can see their information in a beautifully structured way and slowly but surely, all my favourite Google online apps will no doubt integrate into what could become the most practical social network on the web.
Social networks are a bit like trendy up and coming areas. The artists and creators move in first, followed by the young professionals and the students, followed by the masses. We’re still being shown how cool the place is by the creators. Give it a couple of years and we might all be moving in. Then I’ll be writing a blog about another social network that’s trying to find its feet!