For the past couple weeks, a select gathering of us (likely including many Search Engine Watch readers) have been playing with Google+. It's an interesting social media experiment by Google, but it is likely to remain that. Another "almost ran" in the social media game; another Google property that just won't quite make it. Here are five reasons why.
A huge problem Google will face here is that we all know how we use our social media tools and why.
Let's look back to May 2010, when Facebook had the "audacity" to force a layout change on its users – a change that garnered 1.7 million protests and many more complaints (including one from yours truly). If people are this opposed to simply adjusting how they use a single social media site (and let's be honest, the changes really weren't that significant; no manual required), who's going to want to learn an entirely new layout and way to communicate to do... the same things you can do on Facebook.
The overall layout of Google+ is similar to that of Facebook (coincidence?) but the subtle differences are going to be problematic in a world where you have the user's attention for a whopping five seconds. If they can't find what they're looking for, they're gone.
Let's say I tell you I "beige" something... what does that mean to you? Not a whole lot I'd imagine, because you don't have a base of reference for the word "beige" as a vote of support or opposition.
Now let's say I tell you I "like" something... what does that mean to you? Fortunately, we've all gone through our lives "liking" things so we have an easy reference.
I'm pretty sure by now you all see where this is going. None of us has a pre-exposed reference to "+1" as any type of support point. I've never listened to a band in a pub and shouted to the guy next to me, "I really plus one this song... it's awesome!"
People like what they know and from the outset, the idea of +1 as a rating of support has been a point of head scratching and mild snickering. This additional lack of intuitive use is another point against Google in the battle for users' hearts and minds.
Google+ has some awesome features. My personal favorite is Circles. That one may want to share something publicly but differently is a concept well grasped by Google.
The friends I went to the pub with and listened to the song I completely "plus one" are different than my co-workers. And goodness knows my SEO friends are different than anyone else I know.
Google created Circles to allow the easy filtering of messages by grouping friends and the easy sharing of images, status updates, etc. to and from these same groups. It's a great idea.
Unfortunately, my dad doesn't have this problem, nor does my sister, nor does my grandmother; in fact, about 80 percent of the people I know are OK with one level of sharing. And if it is a bit of a bother to them, it's less of a bother to put on the personal filter every now and then than to try to adopt yet another communications medium.
Sure, we geeks love new toys and we like to try new things, so we were happy to create a new account, figure out how to use it, play around in the settings, upload our photos again, etc. But how many of your relatives would?
Sometimes the simple question needs to be asked (and every 2-year-old knows it): Why?
We know why Google wants the project to be successful. If Google+ became even half as successful as Facebook, the information on relationships they could collect and what that could mean to them as far as feeding advertising in our direction more accurately would be incredible. But we're not Google.
Oh sure, we'll play around with Google+, but if your non-tech friends and family don't adopt it, it'll likely become that thing you check every blue moon when you remember it's there.
The problem Google is up against is that Facebook really isn't bad. Plus, it's already got virtually everyone you likely know signed up, connected, profiles built, comments, and history. Why would anyone give that up when there isn't a problem? So you can drop people in Circles as you attempt to rebuild your full friends list and convince your parents to join Google+?
And for those of you thinking, why not use both, I would ask ... why? Do we really want to waste more time updating our statuses – now on multiple websites? Tagging photos, chatting with friends, etc.? I think not.
I touched on it before, but it's a core issue with Google+ that's worth discussing on its own. Using Google+ is not convenient.
I, like many, am busy. The number of draws on my time increases almost daily, many of these draws from the online world. I've got Facebook, Twitter, Skype, AIM, MSN, forums, a blog, email, the phone and (here comes the shocker) live human interaction. Why on Earth would I want another?
The single biggest problem that Google may be up against right now is that they're fighting a battle from behind. While I anticipate very solid growth early on, once users realize that many of their friends haven't moved over, rather than have to access yet another social media resource to communicate, they'll slowly move back to just the one. The one where all their friends and contacts already are, where they can communicate in one location: Facebook.
Will Google+ die? Maybe not. It's possible the folks at Google will adapt and focus it more against LinkedIn than Facebook; that battle they could win, as it's the same audience.
But Google+ is not set to become the Facebook killer it's hyped to be. It just doesn't solve any problems worth solving for the majority of people.
And now, back to check my Facebook messages – and maybe Google+, if there's time.
Editor's note: This column originally was published on July 15, 2011, and comes in at No. 9 on our countdown of the 10 most popular Search Engine Watch columns of 2011. Over the final two weeks of 2011, we're celebrating the Best of 2011 by revisiting our most popular columns, as determined by our readers. Enjoy and keep checking back!
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