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.