It’s safe to say that news channels are now in the calm-after-the-storm phase concerning the initial Google+ stab at Facebook. The social giant’s speedy defense in expressing their views that they simply regard it as a “validation” and a “recreation” of the social infrastructure that Facebook has already laid down has also been well documented.
Given Facebook’s views on where future innovations will come from, the company seems to be confident that it has already won the social search war.
As the yammer about the upstart social platform goes on, the social and search kingdoms seem to have had their cumulative say and are waiting to see what the user-split will be in the months to come as the Google+ mother-ship completes its landing. Of course, nobody is sure of the outcome, largely because Google has currently only made the platform available to a limited number of people, via invitation, similar to the initial Gmail rollout. Though if we’ve learned anything from technological history, the first is not always biggest and best, so there will likely be nay resting on laurels happening on planet Facebook.
While successful in the fields of search and browser technology, Google’s attempts at social networking have limped into the digital arena thus far, with lukewarm public receptions. Now Google+ is here and they’re hoping to bring back that “lovin’ feeling” to their social agenda and measure up to Facebook and Twitter in their own backyard. That aside, the ultimate question around Google+ revolves around how many users will be abandoning their Facebook accounts to join the new alternative.
For social networks, profitability and user density walk hand in hand. Social data is a goldmine of contextual information and direct marketers should be reluctant to abandon rich, established veins for a fresh information shaft that has yet to prove itself in practice.
Google+ is no small fish. Their challenge to Facebook has had Mark Zuckerberg himself riding the PR rodeo on the matter. It’s obvious that, overall, G+ comfortably serves the current wants and needs of social users. It gives people more or less all the social tools they’re used to on other platforms with a few tweaks and additions the allow for differentiation. It also puts a more human face on the search monstrosity, and does so with no lack of style.
One of the major pros for Google to move into a social space is that this will make it easier for them to target their users with interest-driven, social network-backed Google ads.
Google+ represents a substantial assault on the social market as it is, but there is one major component missing from the Google social framework: migration incentive.
In nature, African elephants annually trudge hundreds of miles across the barrens in search of a water source. Salmon swim upstream, leap over waterfalls and brave grisly predators to reach their spawning grounds. As for the rest of us creatures of habit – we’ll do just about anything if the payoff we envision is sufficient, and on the other hand just refuse to part from the couch if our pizza cravings weren’t genetically entrenched. Similarly, having a shiny new social service to play with is one thing, but it will only win hearts and minds if it presents a way to bypass
users’ digital inertia.
So, what Google as yet remains to answer to is: Why we should move our already well-entrenched social lives from Facebook to Google+? And why would we be motivated to uproot from one service and go through the painful effort of re-establishing connections on a new platform?
As Google+ still needs to present a peak-level defining characteristic that distinguishes their social package in a new and commercially useful way, the attraction to G+ might not extend beyond the magnetism of novelty itself. As it stands, Google+ is merely another destination social network which will give you more of what you already expect from the search stalwart, with some soft and sticky layers of personal relationships baked inside. The social war has not been decided, but Google must find the enchantment that will have it leap off the web page and into our lives.
While there is still plenty of room for improvement in G+, some direct email and social marketers already want to know more about how they can use the social network for campaigns are penning their docket of strategies.
The marketing community may be taking a walk on the wild side; planning and operating on the assumption that + will not turn into a minus and that it will provide a fertile land for promotions without any of the tyrannical rules and restrictions so characteristic of Google. But for now, knowing that the majestic company will throw its immense piggy bank behind social media should at least be enough for marketers to justify experimenting with G+.