Google+ Has a Perception Problem

Remember that smart kid who sat in the front of the class, but was ignored by the cool kids? That’s a good metaphor for what Google+ is going through.

I’ve heard from corporate social strategists I should be cautious about how much time and how frequently I discuss this nascent social newtork, and I spoke to media from a Tier 1 this week who said “does anyone even go there anymore? It seems like a wasteland”. Furthermore take this damning image which has been viewed 11k times suggests Google+ is filled with Google employees –and that’s about it. In fact, in our data on Super bowl ads, not a single ad by the world’s largest brand even mentioned Google+, an indicator of what the rest of the ads could look like for 2012 in this Facebook centric market.

Why Google+ suffers from a perception issue:

  1. Facebook IPO buzz leaves little room for Google. As analysts, we feel this quite heavily, in fact, we’ve been interviewed by many media about the Facebook IPO. in the last 30 days, I can recount on one hand a conversation with press and media about Google+
  2. Google+ doesn’t have the full backing of brands. Google+ Brand pages are substandard, forcing brands to double down on Facebook:  The brand pages lack a platform (although their recent partnerships indicate feature rich apps are coming) and their gaming network is limited.  Brands also are skittish to open yet another conversation area to manage and engage in, when resources are low.
  3. Strong growth numbers still dwarfed by Facebook, 16 to 1. Even with 60m members and growing, that’s less than 7% of Facebook’s 845m, despite making these big gains since Oct, this social network is still dwarfed by Facebook’s international spread.

To win, Google needs to focus on public perception beyond just building a platform. Google+ continues to integrate the social features with the newly updated homepage on Google.com and we should continue to see it span across their set of products now that they’ve consolidated their profiles which has caused privacy woes. Google knows they must make their social platform work, to meet the needs of the modern web, as advertising dollars shift to other social networks.  They must not only double down on building a successful platform for users, brands and their business model, but must also do proactive media, press and influencer outreach.

Related: Although Jesse Stay agrees (he runs social at a global org and wrote a book on Google+) John respectfully suggests my perspective isn’t reality.

  • http://www.phacient.com Patrick Healy

    But isn’t that the point? Everyone up here is clearly a Googler. You’d get a ton of +1′s if you had that button up there. Look at the numbers above, LinkedIn is beating out the FB share button…..

  • Matthew Rivard

    +1

  • Matthew Rivard

    +1

  • http://twitter.com/j6ordon John Gordon

    Google+ has more than a perception problem.

    The only problem it attempted to solve was overcoming Google’s lack of a social play.

    Circles has made it an interest graph rather than a social graph which means its competition is Twitter more than Facebook. And Google doesn’t seem to know it.

    Facebook will eventually lose to a social platform whose DNA is mobile. Rather than developing Google+ as a web platform with mobile capabilities, Google should have developed it as a mobile platform from the get go.

  • http://twitter.com/j6ordon John Gordon

    Google+ has more than a perception problem.

    The only problem it attempted to solve was overcoming Google’s lack of a social play.

    Circles has made it an interest graph rather than a social graph which means its competition is Twitter more than Facebook. And Google doesn’t seem to know it.

    Facebook will eventually lose to a social platform whose DNA is mobile. Rather than developing Google+ as a web platform with mobile capabilities, Google should have developed it as a mobile platform from the get go.

  • Matt McGee

    Since google is now forcing all new accounts to be Google+ accounts whether or not the person actually uses it, any measurement of G+ users is a farce going forward.

  • Matt McGee

    Since google is now forcing all new accounts to be Google+ accounts whether or not the person actually uses it, any measurement of G+ users is a farce going forward.

  • http://www.phacient.com Patrick Healy

    That addresses the first part but only reinforces the second. I’d be very impressed if 60% of FB users were active.

  • http://www.phacient.com Patrick Healy

    That addresses the first part but only reinforces the second. I’d be very impressed if 60% of FB users were active.

  • https://plus.google.com/101291101232846883299 brierjon

    After taking the time to read through everyone’s comments up to this point I am somewhat surprised at the lack of view of the larger picture and path that Google+ seems to be going.  As a person who studies social computing including online communities many are overlooking the general strategy which is not so much creating a social network, but bundling the Google services in to a platform which can provide much greater visibility to their products and services.  

    More so how I see Google+ really moving into a prime position is the integration with Google Apps.  While everyone is comparing Google+ as a social network that is competing with Facebook and Twitter… none are talking about the company social network and its application as a collaboration platform.  Facebook nor Twitter are really primly positioning themselves for business, education, or nonprofits as a productivity tool as much as Google+ is moving.  To bring it back to a point made “Facebook had universities” Google+ has Google Apps in any organization that chooses to use Apps… meaning universities, government, small medium and large business as well as new android users.  All an opt in basis, but still it is general enough that each can find a use or reason to join.

    Organizations that use Google Apps and enable the Google+ have an instantaneous collaborative platform allowing for removing of the time and money to develop an internal platform and it integrates with all their apps… or will very soon will be.  Additionally the hangouts bring web video conferencing for those on the go or distributed at little to no IT time needed to maintain the services as long as the networks can handle the load.

    Taking this move to bundle services and products together we extend out of just a social network isolated to the phone, tablet, and computer.  Google’s diversification into various realms of hardware/software developments enable a prime first move into the ubiquitous social environment platform.  No other company is even thinking this big picture application for using the Google+ or any other social network as a contacts management platform to help socialize your life.  Android@home, Android phones, Chrome, Google TV, Chrome OS, Search, Apps, etc… circles in Google+ makes navigating these other devices with friends easier.  It is not so much Google Needs to move to Google+ because of Facebook (while not discounting it is a measure and competitor whose risk needs to be counted in the next development) it is that Google needed an easier way for the general public to be able to manage their contacts across these devices and platforms.  Google+ a circle(list like) oriented environment really provides a huge new tool when tying together and bundling their existing and future moves to push the edge of technology into what sci-fi writers have only dreamed about.  You being able to be everywhere and anywhere.

    Bringing this back to wrap it up Google+ shouldn’t be evaluated purely on its performance as a social network as we define it today nor should people think it needs to behave in the way that others have that had similar features.  Think about Google+ as a product that is bringing together elements of a larger system to provide Google with enhanced understanding of us for a more tailored experience across all devices if we want and providing us as users with a new step towards the next revolution in pervasive computing which this is barely even the tip of the iceberg of the potential applications.  While that is the big picture I know many people here are looking at the Google+ platform for marketing… in my view if Google stays on course people will want to use Google+ because of the features and applications that are built into Google+ as well as the applications that developers can build because the unique features of Google+ are exposed to developers for use.  My prediction for 2012 we will see a further integration with other Google products (pending no regulatory investigations causing delay) and the shaping of a gigantic feature rich platform with at its core an account that enables you to easily connect with the people near you, with similar interests, and expose social clues to enhance your daily routine.  A second prediction for 2012 is Google+ will become more popular due to organizations exploring the potential application for collaboration within their organization.

    Right now I think Google+ suffers somewhat from a perspective problem as indicated in the article, but it also suffers from people knowing what to do with a more public presence and a lack of instruction or way to get over the cold start of filling out their profile which is something Facebook has shown the value in filling out their profile more.  Though I think demonstrations in communities as well as more app users start to realize the potential for group organization withing their company and sharing of skills it enables for apps customers there will be more industry and consumer demand there will be for it.

    This will be an interesting year and I do not see Google+ going away as it is still a relatively new social structure on the web… there is time to grow, expand, and make shifts to find its best niche design.

  • Lmentwistle

    +1

  • http://wartrolcure.com/ Liziko Modino

    +1 & + Like :)

    All the businesses i know around they all have Facebook pages and pay money for advert there, but none of them is registered on Google … its weird but it’s truth!

  • http://gregg.mine.nu/ Димитър Цонев (Dimitar Tsonev)

    the “one content to rule them all (SNS)” is the worst thing we still see in social networks. That’s why Google is not releasing their API – to teach you all figure out ways to engage customers and followers in conversations that are genuine, not automated. That is what users want – people, real people, real conversations, not robots.

  • http://twitter.com/stewkelly Stewart Kelly

    Interesting, but you forgot to add some more perception issues Google is having that also  affect Google+ adoption. First, the mass slaughter and delisting of smaller affiliates, with valuable content, by the Pandas, now the growing irrelevance of Google as an independent search engine because they use SERPs to pimp Google products (Youtube videos, Google ‘news’, Google places) and the real fear that Google is indeed doing evil by using it’s sheer economic brute force to monopolize the Internet and dictate access to millions of web site owners.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CoreyBuller Corey Buller

    From a social network life cycle point of view, Google+ is surpassing where it needs to be. I think a lot of people forget that in Facebook’s infancy, it was barely avaialable, let alone had the functionality that Google+ has right now. It’s just a standard, yet elevated and more focused on, product life cycle. Personally, Google+ has lots of redeeming qualities, just the fact that everything done on Google+ has more of a footing in search engine results than any other social network (which is an entirely different issue all together), it allows for a combination, basically, of several social trends. There are aspects of almost every other popular social network built into Google+. Granted, Google does not have the most spotless track record for social sites, if as many resources as Google is reportedly putting into this project, I don’t think it can fail.

    Give it time, and don’t be surprised if Google+ takes over the world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CoreyBuller Corey Buller

    Monopoly is a funny word, I like to think of it as an empire, a very, very dangerous empire.

  • http://www.swordandthescript.com/ Frank Strong

    By those standards, Jeremiah,  no one mentioned  Pinterest during the Superbowl either but the headlines are  more optimistic about that network.  As for  comparing user growth to Facebook — Facebook took four years to reach 58 million  users  (according to an infographic  on Venture Beat  on February 6th).  In fact a year or so after Facebook’s founding it had just 6 million users.  It is a difficult comparison to make:  Facebook initially for college kids and a bootstrap organization, while G+ has the power and resources of a company with a market cap of some $200B.  Google+ growth has been ridiculously fast even with all the allegations about  creating users from other services.  If we give Google+  7 or 8 years of time before we compare users bases, I think we’ll  see a marked difference.  Google has the benefit of failing  (at least) twice before with a social network.  I’m  inclined to believe Google has enough smart people and lessons learned to be successful this time around!

  • http://www.swordandthescript.com/ Frank Strong

    By those standards, Jeremiah,  no one mentioned  Pinterest during the Superbowl either but the headlines are  more optimistic about that network.  As for  comparing user growth to Facebook — Facebook took four years to reach 58 million  users  (according to an infographic  on Venture Beat  on February 6th).  In fact a year or so after Facebook’s founding it had just 6 million users.  It is a difficult comparison to make:  Facebook initially for college kids and a bootstrap organization, while G+ has the power and resources of a company with a market cap of some $200B.  Google+ growth has been ridiculously fast even with all the allegations about  creating users from other services.  If we give Google+  7 or 8 years of time before we compare users bases, I think we’ll  see a marked difference.  Google has the benefit of failing  (at least) twice before with a social network.  I’m  inclined to believe Google has enough smart people and lessons learned to be successful this time around!

  • http://www.phacient.com Patrick Healy

    I wish my blog got this many comments. I gots to get writing more and better!

  • http://www.phacient.com Patrick Healy

    I wish my blog got this many comments. I gots to get writing more and better!

  • http://twitter.com/fcseh Frank Cseh

    Google+ have a different audience, mostly techies I guess.  I like the G+ platform better than FB. The branding stuff is not so visible on FB, since who wants to be friend-ed with companies ? Google+ and Pinterst together would be a good marriage (!?)

  • Charles

     No, you misunderstood the figures Larry Page gave in his Q4 presentation. Not surprising, because they were subtly done. He said G+ has 90m registered users – correct. Then he said that “Google+users are very engaged with our products — over 60% of them engage daily, and over 80% weekly.”

    Note that: our PRODUCTS. That’s Google search, docs, all that stuff. Not necessarily G+. If you think about it, it would be a bit surprising if a G+ user didn’t use Google search.

    So we have no idea how much G+ users actually use G+. (Also: it would be *fewer* users. Same as you don’t say “fewer coffee”. If you can count them individually, it’s “fewer”. If they’re indivisible, it’s “less”.)

  • Christina

    I don’t think Google needs to compete with Facebook.  I know they’re looking for ways to add compliments to their offerings to dominate how we use the internet.  But I’d rather interact with Google’s productivity-oriented products (search engine, gmail, calendar, gchat, Hangout) than use it as my social network.

  • Ian Miles

    Google+ is the smart kid who sat in the front of the class, and, accordingly, is used by the smart users.

    I’ve found Google+ it’s like facebook but everything +1 better. Decluttered, easy to mantain and manage, and best of all, full of really pro people who expand their twitter accounts, but not falling into the farmville invitations spam frenzy.

  • Charles

     That 57% for Facebook’s daily active usage (from its S-1, where untruths can be prosecuted). I hope that Patrick Healy is suitably impressed. Meanwhile, G+? No figures – just that if they’re registered, they might do a Google search in 60% of cases. That strikes me as *low*. I’d expect 100% of G+ users to use Google once a day.

  • Anonymous

    Until youth adopt Google+, it is going nowhere. As much as I like the “adult oriented” aspects of Google+, it’s dead in the water until either young people come over to it from Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter (yes, Twitter is far cooler with young people). I personally believe it is never going to succeed as anything more than a place for unhappy former Flickr users (there’s quite the community of bitter Flickr power users over at Google+ who no longer get the attention they feel their photos deserve on the long in the tooth photo sharing site) and “tech people” (yes, you are detecting derision).

  • http://twitter.com/TedRubin Ted Rubin

    There is an amazing opportunity for brands to build interactive two-way engagement, interaction, and sharing within this platform, but consumers will have to adopt it to make it worthwhile, and so far that is not happening. Google certainly has the wherewithal to stay the course, evolve as necessary, and make this a long term play… but it is too early to be sure how this will truly scale and whether people have the bandwidth for another similar platform or willingness to change. A lot will have to do with how Facebook proceeds and integrates what is happening there into the search process. Google can certainly integrate and offer a huge array of features (which makes it an amazing tool and one which has great value in that respect right now)… but that may prove overwhelming for the masses. Simplicity will often win the day. And as always something completely new that captures the imagination of consumers, like Pinterest, can slip in unnoticed and and grab the additional brand/consumer mind-share.

  • john g

    Well then we both have only cyber contacts on G+ and all real contacts on FB. I find my real contacts have interesting things to post and do not regularly respond to me with hostility, ignorance, boorishness, and worse. Buzz was a good example of an anti-social network which was interesting to discover how many truly stupid people found you stupid. That was an Eric Schmidt observation too so I am not alone in that view.  Getting interesting content from all kinds of strange persons and places is not the  issue in social nets. I don’t need a social net to help me with that. If that is the case then your social  model is based on the insane logic of Blanche DuBois, always relying on the interests of strangers.  

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  • StephJ

    As someone studying Social Media Theory & Practice in #NewhouseSM4 with @dr4ward at @NewhouseSU, I completely agree with this post and the idea the that Google+ seems like a “wasteland”. My classmates and I have shared many discussions about how Google+ is almost like the forgotten social network, a place very few choose to use for their social media needs. However, I think this problem can be fixed, and I agree that Google+ needs to focus on public perception first and foremost and then success will follow.

  • http://twitter.com/StephJacobs_ Stephanie Jacobs

    As someone studying Social Media Theory & Practice in #NewhouseSM4 with @dr4ward at @NewhouseSU, I completely agree with this post and the idea the that Google+ seems like a “wasteland”. My classmates and I have shared many discussions about how Google+ is almost like the forgotten social network, a place very few choose to use for their social media needs. However, I think this problem can be fixed, and I agree that Google+ needs to focus on public perception first and foremost and then success will follow.

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  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/112957065719498086306/posts Kirk Jordan

    Hmm.  can’t find my earlier comment.  Just want to say once again how baffled I am.  Google plus has eclipsed every other medium I use.   I stop in on Facebook on the weekends, but Google plus is where I live.  Granted, most of my interaction on Google Plus is with other photographers…so it clearly is a niche driven relationship.  But the whole dynamic is different than Facebook.  I use Facebook to connect with those I already know, and Google Plus for those I am either getting to know, or wishing to learn from (or, frankly, to fold into my world as an audience.

  • Eric Sandberg

    You are absolutely correct, and I liked your post…  Then Why is it that I would still like to root for the, “800 pound” gorilla, and  +1this?

  • Eric Sandberg

    You are absolutely correct, and I liked your post…  Then Why is it that I would still like to root for the, “800 pound” gorilla, and  +1this?

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