Why Google+ needs to be Jay-Z and not Tom Hanks, but can it change?

Tom Hanks updates his Google+ profile (not really)Google+ has a problem. While Google’s social network might have somewhere north of 25o million active users, and some predicting it might eventually have a huge impact on search campaigns among other things, others argue it is a failure.

That Google+ equates more to a failure like Buzz than a success, like Gmail.

What though is its problem and why is it struggling? Mark Schaefer argues very well that its problem isn’t about the product itself, about features or anything like that, but about its image.

While it is popular with industry people such as Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki and Chris Brogan it is failing to get beyond that niche appeal.

The way he puts it is pretty simple: the cool kids don’t care. And he’s right. They don’t know the trinity of  Scoble, Kawasaki and Brogan. Those names are not going to persuade the cool kids to leave Facebook for new shores.

He brings Google+ down to the celebrity game and the one he associates with Google+ is Tom Hanks.

Safe. Wholesome. Mainstream. Reliable. Somebody you would bring home to mom. The problem is, the age group they need to appeal to wants Jay-Z or Justin Bieber. Maybe both: Jay-B?

Today, Google+ does not fill any significant need that is unmet by Facebook. They don’t care about hang-outs or possible implications for SEO.  Google+ is invisible to this generation. Kind of like Tom Hanks. Somehow, they need to get in a Jay-Z frame of mind.

Unless Google’s goal is to always be the “niche for geeks” they simply must break out of that Silicon Valley love-fest bubble and get out on the street with the kids. Google+ has to figure out how to appeal to the 19-34 demographic deeply, rapidly and NOW if it has any hope of really going mainstream, Schaefer writes.

And what does he conclude? Can Google do it? No, he argues that it is “just too far from who they are as a company”.

Google’s answer, he argues, will be about building a better product, but that isn’t the issue. It is more fundamental than that.