Can Google compete in social?
Google has a pretty large task in creating a successful social network. This isn’t the first time the company has tried to do this either, but early buzz about Google+ has been fairly positive, though there is certainly some negative out there too.
Google has its work cut out for it competing with the monster that is Facebook in the social networking space, even though Google says it’s not really a Facebook competitor. Right.
Google has plenty of obstacles to overcome if this is going to be a huge success. Here are some of them.
1. Most people don’t want to leave Facebook.
Sure there are plenty of people out there looking for a good alternative to Facebook. Some of them have found it with Twitter. Some want something better. That said, it is highly doubtful that the majority of Facebook users are looking for something else. They like Facebook just fine, and aren’t looking for a reason to leave.
Sure, it’s possible to use both, but as long as people still have the majority of their friends on Facebook, and not so many on Google+ this is going to be a hard nut to crack. Not an impossible nut, but a hard one.
2. People are already gravitating more toward Twitter.
Speaking of Twitter, it is growing pretty well. It’s also about to be integrated into the hugely popular iOS. Many of the users will also be using Facebook. Google+ is simply another thing to add to the list, and could be deemed an added burden.
3. Google’s previous attempts at social
Google doesn’t have the best track record or reputation when it comes to social. Some of this is simply perception, because YouTube is social and it’s obviously a huge success, but it was acquired by Google – not created by Google, and one could argue that it’s not the social aspect of YouTube that is its main driving force, but the simple fact that it has tons and tons of stuff to watch.
4. Google’s reputation for privacy
When Google launched Google Buzz, it was a huge privacy fiasco, and one that is still in the news. Google greatly damaged its reputation in the area of privacy with this. It’s not hard to find commentary throughout the web indicating growing distrust of the company in general, whether justified or not. Reputation can go a long way.
5. People largely still think about Google as search
One of Google’s biggest challenges is its existing success. Google has become synonymous with search. Google is a verb, that means to search for something on Google. People don’t think to go to Google to share things necessarily. They think to go to Google to search.
Yes, Google has many products that do many different things outside of the realm of search, but first and foremost to most people, Google is still search, and Facebook is friends. That’s another hard nut to crack.
6. The Like Button
Speaking of Facebook being friends, that “like” button that is everywhere on the Internet, has been quite powerful, and is the premier way that people share content now, I believe. Google has the +1 Button. Not so much. At this point (disregarding the Buzz button for a moment, which doesn’t have much to do with Google+ at the moment), publishers are asking people to either “like” this and share with your friends, or “+1” this so that other people that you may or may not know may be able to find it in search results for some query that may or may not be searched for. Which one is going to get clicked more?
7. The Retweet button
See numbers 2 and 6.
Back to number 5 for a moment. Google is synonymous with search, but it is still the key ingredient to keeping people using Google+. Meanwhile, Bing is just going to continue to gain market share. The more people using Bing as their default search engine, means the less people using Google, which will likely mean less using Google+.
Realistically, Bing currently doesn’t come close to Google in market share at this point. Whether it ever will remains to be seen, but so far it’s been growing fairly steadily, and now Google faces FTC scrutiny over its competitive practices. When Microsoft was in a similar situation, it greatly set the company back in innovation for years, many people say. Depending on the outcome of that, it’s hard to say what Google’s future will hold.
Yahoo still makes up another significant segment of search market share, and maybe even more importantly, It still has a very strong presence in other key areas like email,finance, news, etc.
Part of the Google+ strategy is that it extends across Google products. Some of these products compete directly with some of Yahoo’s strong points. Let’s not forget that Yahoo is also in the connected TV space, where Google is still trying to gain more significant market share.
The sheer complexity of Google+ may also work against it, particularly when you pair it with number one. You’re trying to get people to use your service instead of Facebook’s, while trying to sell an overly-complicated concept (mainly with Circles. Read this explanation of the feature.).
In the end, it might not really be as complex as it seems, but again, perception goes a long way. If it even seems complicated at a glance, and all of your friends are already doing just fine on Facebook, how big is the incentive?
Suffice it to say, Google has its work cut out for it.