Roughly two months after its release, Google+ has become a serious competitor in the social space. Google’s version of what a social network should be reached 25 million unique visitors in just over a month, making it the fastest growing social networking service ever. As far as social products made by Google go, Google+ certainly seems to be on the right track to success.
The service, even in its beta phase, shows a lot of potential. If Google+ was publicly released today, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone complaining about huge bugs or privacy leaks. That said, Google is taking it slow. They’re not in a rush. In fact, they have all the time in the world. They’d rather get Google+ right from the get go than face another Buzz-like privacy nightmare.
Meanwhile, the company has more than 25 million people going through Google+ every day, digging out every little bug and privacy leak they can find. These people can’t rightfully complain about Google+, because they freely decided to sign up for a service that’s still in field trial. It’s a win-win situation for Google, who will soon have a social network as polished and airtight as it gets.
However, most of those 25 million people are interested in technology, social media or both. They’re not what we call the average consumer. They’re the early adopters. The influencers. The ones who tell their friends and family which phone, email service, antivirus and computer they should use. And while 25 million users is still a pretty respectable number, even for Google, it’s not “average consumer” big. That’s more like 750 million (the number of users Facebook has).
Despite Google telling us otherwise, Google+ is aimed directly at the heart of rivals like Facebook and Twitter. Googlers might tell you Google+ is all about making Google better (which is true), but the real target here is reaching that 750 million unique visitors mark. In order to do that, Google+ needs to appeal to the average Joe–not just us tech-savvy people. Here’s how they’ll do just that.
Google+ everywhere you look
Google.com is currently the most popular website in the world with more than 1 billion visits a day. As a result, everything you put on Google.com is going to catch a lot of eyeballs. Google has already used its search engine to promote other products. (Like when it launched the Nexus S, the Nexus One and Chrome OS). However, these “promotions” often consist of just a small sentence with a link underneath the Google search bar. Not really what you’d call eye-catching. What’s more, they only appear for a few days before Google pulls them out.
That won’t be the case with Google+, which will be heavily promoted on Google.com–probably forever. How will Google do that? They already showed us. The company will place a +You tab right next to the Search tab on the universal navigation bar. However, if you’re logged in with your Google Account, you’ll see your name instead.
I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing that catches my attention more than my name. In fact, the first time I visited Google after signing up for Google+ my eyes went directly to the +Alberto tab. It was like my brain noticed my name was somewhere on the page and told my eyes to look for it. And just like that, everyone with a Google Account will automatically sign up for Google+. People just won’t be able to resist clicking on a link that has their name on it. It’s as simple as that.
Then there are other Google products like Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Android and Chrome. All of them are powerful channels through which Google will push its social network. And all of them, except Chrome for now, require a Google Account to use them. And as I said, every person with a Google Account will eventually have a Google+ account. That’s hundreds of million of people.
Celebrities on Google+. Yuck, I know. But hear me out for a second. People love celebrities. Whether it’s Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Oprah or Kobe Bryant. Most of us have a person that we’d love to “hangout” with. For us Android enthusiasts it might not be a Hollywood celebrity. But maybe you’d kill to be able to talk endlessly with Andy Rubin, Vic Gundotra or Steve Kondik about Android. You see? We all have celebrities.
However, most of us Android fans already use Google+ — celebrities or not. But that’s not the case with most people. For the average person to join Google+, there has to be a strong incentive for them to do so. And what’s a stronger incentive for a Bieber fan than the chance to talk face to face with their beloved idol?
It’s all a matter of convincing celebrities (paying them) to schedule Hangouts with their Google+ fans. As soon as word gets out that Bieber is Hanging out on Google+, Google’s servers will be put through their worst nightmare as millions of female tweens rush to sign up for Google+. Those tweens will then tell their friends and family to join Google+. And before you know it, the average adult person is signing up for Google+ because their little niece or daughter is now using it. Which brings us to…
The domino effect
Why do millions of people sign up for Facebook every month? Is it because they heard about it on TV? Maybe. Is it because of the addictive Flash games? Could be. Is it because they’ve heard great things about the service? Not likely. The main reason people sign up for Facebook is because somebody they’re interested in is already using it. Be it the hot girl they keep stalking, the daughter who never calls or those old friends they’d like to see again one day.
Initially, college kids signed up for Facebook because it was the easiest way to meet hot girls and guys and because most of them despised MySpace. Coming back to the “strong incentive” issue I mentioned, there’s no stronger incentive than sex. Naturally, “cool” teenagers signed up because the older college kids were using it. The rest of the teenagers followed the “cool” ones. The parents followed the kids, and now even grandma is on it because how else will she able to see photos of her grandson? That’s the domino effect for you.
Meanwhile, MySpace was abandoned overnight. Mainly because most people don’t have the time to manage two social networks. That’s why Facebook is so scared of Google+. If enough people sign up for Google+, the rest will follow. And Facebook could very well become the next MySpace.
Will the same domino effect happen with Google+? I truly think so. It’s probably already happening. In fact, I’d say Google+ feels very much like the early days of Facebook. The social network has a strong and loyal user base that won’t leave because they believe that the alternative (now Facebook, then MySpace) is deeply flawed. As a result, you have a small, but hugely influential group of people using a service, while the masses are using another. Which group do you think will win this tug of war?
Up next: Games, Google’s pace, and user-friendly strategy