After a week of playing with Google+, along with 20m other visitors, I’ve liked a number of features including:
1. Some nifty little functionality, like the ‘circles’ which allow you to segment your social network more easily than Facebook or LinkedIn.
2. It works seamlessly across platforms within GGE (Great Google Empire), meaning I can switch straight to my gmail account from it with a single click. And it’s always accessible on the top bar.
3. It offers Skype quality video/audio chat, and easy access without Skype’s annoying ‘buy minutes today’ advertisements.
Yet after posting a couple items and photos, I’m not sure I’m ready to scrap either Facebook or LinkedIn. Part of the challenge is I’m not sure what niche or area it is fulfilling that warrants giving it more time in my ‘laptop day’. It could replace Facebook, which I use mainly as a ‘mass broadcast’ to friends, with a more ‘refined’ and segmented approach. I like that, but do I really have the time to re-connect with all those on Facebook and bring their details over to Google+? Funny enough, there isn’t a feature on Google+ to allow importing of Facebook or LinkedIn contacts – I’m sure the GGE would have hit a big ‘+1’ on that idea, and had no ‘like’ from the folks at Facebook. Similarly it could replace LinkedIn and the business use of Skype, but the hassle factor weighs heavily again – is the reward worth the effort, especially if few of my existing contacts are into Google+ in these early days?
The challenge for any social network, particularly one like Google+ which arrives probably a couple years too late to give Facebook or LinkedIn serious runs for their money, is the same problem brands have faced for many years: first mover status usually wins out over late arriving ‘me toos’. Think of all the brands Coke and Pepsi have seen off over the years. How Tide dominates laundry care. Admittedly, challenger brands can take on the early-to-rise gang successfully – especially when innovation can be a huge differentiator and allow sectors to redefine themselves rapidly. But what we may be witnessing with Google+ is similar to the online only banks from the late 1990’s/early 2000’s: simple idea, which on the surface sounds good, but which may not be worth it to change behavior and switch. In the case of online only banks, few survived once the established banking brands got their acts together … and that little old financial crisis of a couple years ago!
For Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the battle is clearly set over one asset: your time. At this stage, I’m skeptical GGE can pull it off, but I’m certainly not prepared to write them off! After all, GGE came to the market with an outrageously high share price of $85 per share in 2004. Current value $618. They must have done something right in the last seven years.