Google+ is now over two years old. They can spin the numbers whatever way they like but the reality is it has so far failed to make a dent in the social space – that’s my opinion. But it’s changing slowly… getting people signed up wasn’t really an achievement – it was inevitable Google would get hundreds of millions of people signed up… all they had to do was push Google+ out and merge it with all your other Google stuff. That’s exactly what Google have done and are doing these days in an increasingly aggressive manner…
Out of sight, out of mind
The problem with Google+ has always been the fact that nobody uses it. I’ve got 300+ followers and I’ve no clue who most of them are. I’m convinced they’re Google employees or early stage spammers who were trying to inflate their own followers in the hope that one day a Google+ profile with a big following may be worth a lot.
Everything on Google+ seems forced or unnatural… people who use it tend to post things to Google+ as a token gesture. It’s rare you’ll see people (or brands) who use Google+ exclusively above Facebook & Twitter. The fact that Google are now shoving it down your throat and encouraging you to merge all of your accounts and set up a profile / pages for every Google account you own just seems like a desperate move. I don’t believe it is a desperate move, but that’s what it *feels* like as an end user.
It’s as if Google are saying “Hey, don’t forget about Google+”. But nobody has forgotten about it, people know it’s there, they just don’t want to use it because investing time in to it is a waste of time when everyone’s eyeballs are elsewhere. Of course if you do merge accounts then you’ll receive notifications about Google+ activity so you’re much more likely to check back in to Google+ more often, at least that’s the theory…
Google+ is the best designed social network out there
Despite my frustration with Google doing what i’d consider a ‘hard sell’ of late (pestering you in to creating or merging accounts), Google+ is the most attractive and visually pleasing social network out there. It’s simply beautiful on all devices. It started out that way but they’ve also done an excellent job with recent updates. This is by far and away the biggest advantage of using Google+… it’s pretty to look at and that makes you warm to it and want to use it more…
The problem is other people won’t use it
I don’t believe people are blindly loyal to a brand and reject all other competition. People usually gravitate towards the easiest / simplest / most cost effective solution for their particular ‘problem’. Familiarity plays a huge role but just because I’ve bought two iPhones doesn’t mean i’ll keep buying them… i probably bought 4 or 5 Nokia’s before switching for an iPhone.
Treating your social profiles as products, Facebook is tried and tested and what you’re used to, as is Twitter. Google+ is that product that you’ve seen knocking around for a while, tried it out and then ditched it when the novelty wore off after a few days / weeks. They may revamp it and it’ll pique your interest again only for you to repeat the cycle of ultimately failing to adopt Google+. It’s like jump starting a car with a dying battery.
Hope on the horizon
The good thing about Facebook (from Google’s perspective) is that the stock price is high, revenue is up and that’s all a nice big distraction from what matters – the end user experience. It’s collapsing day by day. We’ve seen this ‘trend’ so often in the past that this would have major alarm bells ringing for me. It’s very difficult now to log in to your facebook and see a post from a person you know without having to scroll down the page.
But it’s not just sponsored ads or brand competitions that are the problem, it’s the quality of them… here’s an ad from flutterclub.com – a sports betting site – on my homepage in the right column… (no connection with these guys and no problem with them – this ad is just a small example of where i feel Facebook are going wrong).
I’m a Man Utd fan so clearly they’re targeting Utd fans in a certain age group… it works… the ad is somewhat relevant to me. It’s visually appealing and the copy grabs my attention. But the ad is about Cesc Fabregas potentially moving to Utd, right? I’m expecting to be taken to a debate or discussion or news article about that topic. But no, if i click on the ad i’m taken to a spammy looking Facebook landing page and encouraged to ‘like’ the page…
I’m all too familiar with these tactics… i study them, i employ them in certain cases and you’d be amazed at what works and what doesn’t. Having a blond haired girl -v- a dark haired girl could impact on the end goal – getting people to like the page. Putting a small border around the image could dramatically impact on the conversion rate too… there’s a huge number of variables at play with any online marketing campaign and the goal is to find a combination that works and to learn why it works. You never stop experimenting and learning.
Anyway, the core problem here is that Cesc Fabregas is nowhere to be seen. That’s what attracted me to the ad… that’s what i *expected* to be brought to. Instead, i’m looking at a hot, topless, blonde woman holding €50 and €20 notes and i’m being told i have to like the page before i can see anything else. If that’s not dirty advertising tactics, i don’t know what is… but we see this all the time on Facebook and it goes unchecked. You wouldn’t get away with this in Google Adwords.
It’s no coincidence that Facebook’s revenue is up but the volume of ads i’m seeing is also up and the quality of those ads is down… this is a tiny example and the guys at flutterclub are probably seeing decent results with this campaign without violating any terms and conditions so nobody gets hurt at the end of the day. Nobody gets hurt, but the value of Facebook to end users goes down. There’ll come a tipping point where people feel they’re losing time and wasting energy on Facebook and they’ll switch to another network or at least contemplate and try switching.
Google+ is now primed and ready for those guys and at a stage where most people would probably have a better experience on Google+, they’re just not ready to make the switch. Google don’t need to do anything though in my opinion because Facebook is shooting itself in the foot. They need to make money somehow but it’s a fine balancing act between making enough money to be content and not pissing off users by being a bit too greedy.