When Google+ came on the scene at the beginning of July, the early adopters were all over it, but they were skeptical. We all remember Wave and Buzz, which didn’t quite hit the mark. This time though, the general opinion is optimistic, and the conversation has turned from “should competitors be worried” to “WHICH competitors should be worried.”
Of course the first reports of Google+ was that it’s trying to compete with Facebook. But when we started using it, Facebook no longer seemed to be the only competitor. When comparing it only to Facebook, critics said that the major fault of Google+ was that, despite its growing popularity, it would never have an many members as Facebook and thus would be inherently less valuable. (Although there is at least one opinion that says that’s perfectly fine.) David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, talks about why Google+ is surprisingly likable an
So if Google+ isn’t necessarily competing with Facebook, who is it competing with? Robert Scoble, a prominent technology blogger, says that Twitter should be worried because it doesn’t allow the right types of community interaction and conversation. Peter Stringer, Director of Interactive Media for the Boston Celtics, says that Linked In should be worried because Google+ profiles could replace it as the most popular place to find professional information about individuals.
My opinion? Google+ is gaining popularity because they’ve somehow figured out how to combine the best of all the social networks. It combines the easy conversational interaction and “liking” or “+1” mechanism (like Facebook) with the ability to connect with and follow big names in your professional industry without them having to follow you back (like Twitter) and professional public profiles (like Linked In). Plus the circles concept allows you to organize your connections in a way that’s more representative of real life, such as the ability to put individuals in more than one circle, and to selectively post. All this combined with the simple interface and ease of use we’ve come to expect from Google. Now I’m not saying that Google+ is the end all be all of social networks, but it does help to be late to the game if you’ve got good analysts. (Remember, the iPod was not the first portable music player, it was just the right product at the right time.)
The design of Google+ allows for new types of interactions. For example, because there is a public component to Google+, strangers now have “permission” to introduce themselves to each other through their comments on a mutual friend’s post. On Facebook, commenters tend to have parallel one-on-one conversations with the poster, whereas on Google+ it feels more like a group conversation. (Watch out Linked In: 2nd degree connections are connecting on Google+.)
Another example is the ability to share posts with people who are not on Google+. On Facebook, non-members can only see the homepage. On Linked In, non-members can see a limited profile. On Twitter, non-members can see a full profile plus the Twitter feed. Google+ takes this one step further, allowing members to put non-members in their circles and to send posts and links to them by email. This lowered barrier to entry is convenient for members, and is a less hostile and more gradual sign-up process for the skeptical non-members.
So now let’s get back to the question of who should be worried about Google+. Because it’s so new, Compete.com does not yet have monthly data for plus.google.com, but the daily metrics are interesting. Here are the daily metrics over the last month for Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
If you look at daily reach for Facebook, you can see that it goes up over the weekend and down during the weekdays. This makes sense because it’s primarily a personal social media outlet. Linked In has the opposite trend, showing a lower reach over the weekend and a higher reach during the week. This makes sense too because it is primarily a business-oriented social media service. Twitter, which is a little bit of both, has a pretty consistent reach on week days and weekends. The daily reach for Google+ actually goes down over the weekend (but not as drastically as Linked In goes down). Does this mean that Google+ has captured the professional social media market? Stay tuned for updates in the next few months.