Google+ is failing because users see Google as fast, smart and powerful – not fun

Posted In Mobile Web - By Ryan On Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 With 0 Comments

All is not well in Mountain View, as far as cracking the social networking conundrum is concerned. Google launched Google+ three months ago and have since seen 25 million users sign up for the service. A large enough number for any ordinary startup but a mere fraction of Google’s total daily visitor base and a million miles away from Facebook’s 750 million active users.

This might not be as concerning for the Google team if their stats graph showed an upward trend. Unfortunately, they’re already in a steep decline, with 41% fewer public posts than they had when the service started 12 weeks ago. Even Google’s co-founder and new CEO Larry Page has stopped using the service. His last post was over a month ago. Even today’s ‘exciting’ news that Google+ has opened registrations up to the public (until now, you’d need a friend to send you an invitation to join the service) wasn’t enough to encourage Page to go to the trouble of updating his status.

Honestly, who could blame him? Google+ is a desperate attempt by Google to tackle the two thorns in their side: Facebook and Twitter. Google needs to have a strong, self-owned social product where it controls some aspect of the average internet user’s social graph. But Google+ is failing, and here’s why.

The first problem is that they’re a bit far too late to the game. Why should the entire human population go to the effort of recreating their network of friends on yet another platform? But even though Facebook has this in the bag, they haven’t been sitting on their laurels after witnessing Google’s foray into the social space. Facebook recently introduced two new features that match some of Google+’s major USPs: open profiles and targeted messaging.

The second problem Google+ faces is something they’ll never get away from, no matter how many new features they come up with: users see Google as fast, smart and powerful – not fun. Google’s ultra-professional approach to web applications doesn’t really gel with people uploading photos of their drunken binges over a holiday weekend. Especially not when Google has my real name and bank account details (for Adwords), my business documentation and spreadsheets (Google Docs), my passwords and browsing history (Chrome browser) and contact details for everyone I deal with on a daily basis (Gmail).

We all see the Google brand as something established, trustworthy and reliable. These are the same three words you’d use to describe your parents, not your friends. If Google had successfully acquired Twitter and continued to operate under their brand, the separation between church and state would’ve been in place and everyone would’ve lived happily ever after. Google knows the truth here, which is why they decided to kill their Google Videos product in favour of keeping the YouTube brand after their acquisition.

At the end of the day, Google can run from Facebook and Twitter, but they can’t hide from the numbers. Declining user activity at such an early stage in their business (they’ve barely garnered 3% of Facebook’s user base) is not an encouraging indication of what’s to come. Google guys, checkmate isn’t far away. If this was a Hitchcock movie, the eerie violin music would’ve started five minutes ago. It’s time to partner up with the big boys or haul out the chequebook. Either way, RIP Google+.

About - With at least 20 phones tucked away in drawers around the house and office, Ryan is a buy-to-try mobile consumer and loves playing with new handsets. Right now he's stuck on the iPhone 4.

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