SWOT: Five Ways Google+ Can Become Mainstream

Google+ A Solid Start, Yet Still Not Compelling for Mainstream Adoption. I spent nearly the entire weekend playing with Google+ (here’s my profile), and even was using Google’s Android Honeycomb operating system on a Galaxy Tab to see how well it integrates.  So far, I’m impressed, and think Google finally got the formula right that will spur on adoption.  In my initial reactions, I stated that Google+ was pretty much mirroring Facebook’s features, and didn’t give a compelling reason for many mainstream users to port over.  While just about a month old, there’s been some discussion that Google+ has reached a significant number of registered users quickly (although it’s not clear if they’ll be repeat users beyond the test drive), there’s concerns of plateaus in repeat users, although the jury is still out.

Beyond Facebook, Google+ a Threat to Twitter.
While the most obvious competitive comparison is Facebook, we’re seeing the early adopter tech crowd dominate the top 100 lists, and I’m seeing some similarities to Friendfeed.  In reality, I believe that Google+ could actually be more of a threat to Twitter than most realize, as it organizes fragmented conversations on single threads.  In any case, we’re seeing some of the early tech adopters port their networks over, and a few celebs indicating some early strides –yet don’t jump in yet, we see this behavior with many tools.

Strength:
Finally got basic social networking features right by hiring seasoned staff, mainly cloning what’s worked for other social networks. Legacy of building scalable systems, nearly unlimited amount of resources, existing advertising, analytics, and ad buying network.
Weakness
Lack of integration with other Google systems, existing feature set limited and not compelling enough for mainstream users to set up camp on yet another social network. Significantly behind Facebook and Twitter’s global reach.
Opportunity
Integrate with all Google features also including search (which would spur on brand adoption, and ‘free’ marketing), email (The first social network) applications platform (they already have a thriving developer community)
Threats
Feature war: Facebook has ability to enable search features and can blow out their inbox features since they have the developer chops from Friendfeed, Gmail team. Secondly, Google+’s features are status quo, that enable email platforms to quickly catch up.

Strategy: Five Ways Google+ Can Become Mainstream:
Now, I’d like to give five strategies that Google can deploy to crank up mainstream adoption, here’s how:

1) Comment Management Features
First of all, I’m already seeing their commenting system break with users with a lot of circles,  the comments aren’t easily sortable, nor can you drive signal from noise –chronological ordering isn’t sufficient.  As they eventually launch brand pages, and attract more heavy users and influencers they will need nested commenting features, ability to see top responses, and other ways to highlight signal from noise.  This low hanging fruit is feature upgrades –and should be done quickly.    By doing this, they actually continue to compete with Twitter, shifting rapid conversations over to the Google+ platform.

2) Integrate Search Tools
Search features are Google’s core DNA, however the current search tools doesn’t easily search content within the Google+ stream (it’s limited to finding people, images, circles).  Because Facebook features lack any significant search abilities and Twitter’s search is limited to a short time duration this is a significant competitive advantage as users can rely on this platform for long term retrieval of information.  On Google’s over arching strategy, integrating this data with their existing search tools is obvious –it’s more fodder for their engines.

3) Enable an Applications Platform
Google has an active developer community that already encircles their camp, in fact they should offer developer platforms and integrate opportunity to integrate.  Facebook and Twitter developers are frustrated with a ‘one-sided’ relationship and want to spread their eggs into multiple baskets.  As a result, they will be glad there’s competition between platforms which will give them new opportunities and improve their relationships.  As a result this influx of new use cases will fuel adoption of the platform and we’ll start to see brand sponsored apps that will result in corporate marketing promoting branded Google+ Brand pages (more on that on #4)

4) Launch Brand Pages (no, really)
Google suffers from at least one major flop for every social networking flop, and this year it was their closing of brand pages in a very messy way.  While there are few early adopter test brands like Ford that are still active, most brands pages have been sunsetted.  Expect Google to offer a new set of brand pages and vanity URLs with application features, and coupled with their existing analytics products and web advertising network.   If they do this right, the brands will do the marketing for them, here’s how it will go down: brands will jump on, their competitors will say “quick we need a Google+ strategy” and follow suit, then they’ll race to see who gets the most circle members and turn their marketing engines on.  The best case scenario for Google is having brands link to their Google+ brand pages from their corporate homepages fueling mass adoption.

5) Integrate Google+ into Search Engine Results Pages
Finally, the Coup de grâce, will be for Google to announce (or prove) that what happens in Google+ will integrate with google SERP pages. Because Twitter and Facebook have limited search tools and their use cases are limited to social networking or social utility they will not have a competitive edge. When they do this, X things will happen: 1) Early adopters and bloggers will immediately invest more to be first of mind, in fact, expect news to break within Google+ from bloggers and press. 2) Brands will heavily invest in their Google+ brand pages, fueling more adoption from corporations and their agency partners (we know social media teams already spend on advertising) 3) Backlash from the industry as anti-trust and anti-competition will occur.

Love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment on what you think Google’s next moves should be.