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June 29, 2011

Will Google+ succeed? Probably. Will it replace Facebook? Nope.

by Josh Bernoff

Google plus You woke up this morning to the news that Google is once again entering the social space, this time with an offering called Google+. It's not the first time. Google's Orkut social network is a great success -- in Brazil. Google Buzz bombed. There was the collaborative system Wave ... we waved goodbye to that. You can almost taste the urgency -- Facebook is taking over people's time online and a lot of advertising dollars, and this is a threat to Google.

But this is the first social launch since Larry Page took over as CEO and declared that social was a major battleground. It's in limited release beta (unlike Buzz, which took everyone by surprise and upset a lot of them.)

Google+ is based around the idea of circles. A circle is group of friends. Circles can upload and share content, update each other, even participate in a little group texting.

Google is, of course, starting from the relationships it has. Specifically, Google IDs and knowledge that comes from Gmail. It seems obvious that Google Groups will be part of this as well.

Google has finally figured out that an all out frontal assault on Facebook will always fail. Facebook just has too much of an embedded user base. As Charlene Li has pointed out, Google+ attempts to fix a problem that many have with Facebook -- they accumulate 800 friends and then realize they don't want to share everything with everyone. In other words, it fixes one of the big privacy problems.

But if people were really all that upset with the privacy problem they would have left already. (Recent reports of "Facebook fatigue" notwithstanding, there is no mass exodus happening.) People are putting up with it. It's like a bad habit -- you know it's a problem, but inertia keeps you from leaving. (And yes, I know Facebook has the ability to create groups and share only with those groups, but the same inertia keeps people from figuring out that feature, too.)

What will happen? Facebook's traffic will not suffer. People will keep using Facebook. But when you have a tight little group, you may find Google+ to be just right for sharing with that group. So I think Google+ will catch on with lots of groups -- boy scout troops, book groups, college cliques, that kind of thing. It may build a nice niche out of these groups, and extend the value of Google Groups in general. It will get people to spend more time on Google.

But it won't replace or even dent Facebook any time soon.

What does this mean for marketers? First -- yes, you should keep a close eye on this, and consider advertising on it to the groups that matter to you. If Google+ makes it easy for companies to create brand groups, that's worth a look (when it happens).

But I think you can safely ignore Google+ for at least 12 months.


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David Truog

I think Google+ will be worth paying attention to if it does a better job than Facebook at privacy.

When Google fumbled the Buzz launch by defaulting to an opt-out friend inclusion policy, it showed it was as naive as Facebook, when it comes to privacy. Does Google grok how to handle privacy in social networks, now, where Facebook has failed again and again? Circles will be the litmus test.

Want to show your vacation snapshots to close friends without bothering everyone else on your friends list? On Facebook, if you create a list called "Closest Friends," even your friends you don't invite to the list will see that you've created a "Closest Friends" list -- and that they're not in it. Do you want that? Didn't think so. Sure, if you later comb through the options, you can make the list "Secret," in Facebook parlance. But that's not the default, so unless you study those settings (who wants to do that?), you'll find out the hard way, possibly not without some hurt feelings.

Will Google do any better? The way it describes Circles today is too vague to tell whether Google+ is committing the same gaffe. But if Google manages to consistently be more sophisticated (which does not mean complicated, just more aligned with the subtleties of human social interactions) about privacy, I think Google+ could gain some real momentum at Facebook's expense.

Axel Schultze

Not sure if we 'need' another try on social networking. But what we would *really* need is a complete overhaul on search engines. So I decided to make an open suggestion to Larry Page here:

He won't read it because he is not present anywhere in the social web. But maybe an inspiration to some who want to compete at Google's home turf while they are busy jumping into other "opportunities" ;)



Circles seems to be the only genuinely innovative and unique feature in Google+ - and then its just a refined UI for dealing with the groups other social networks have had but not been able to get users to use.

So surely "what will happen" is that Facebook will copy the feature, call it rings, and the one competetive USP google had goes out the window?

Deb Krier

Interesting - especially as I already use lists in Facebook. I can hide or show posts to my lists. For example, vacation pictures to those "My Family" list and my latest blog post to my "Business" list. What I'm hoping Google will create is a social media platform that's dedicated to businesses.

Craig Stark

I agree with @DebKrier that Google could/ should look at business applications of circles. People pay to use collaboration services like SocialText and Huddle- a scalable offering would be an extension of fragmented offerings like Docs.

I don't trust Google at this juncture- privacy vs. their landscape rights to create ad revenue- it's anti-social.

Gavin Heaton

I see this as a great first step. It already feels more trustworthy than Facebook. It can't replace FB for me yet, but I'm already seeing it as a strong alternative - because most of my social graph are already using Google mail or apps.

Sure there is a question around the advertising side of things, but that happens already with FB.

I don't expect a mass exodus - more of a transition.


"You can ignore google+ for the next 12 months" is a stupid thing to say, imo.

Nate F

Google+ has huge potential. ESPECIALLY because of it's privacy options.

Check this out

Keep it away from the public at this point is the only thing hurting Google at this point. Like Wave .. if they keep this as a "trial" for to long they are going to lose out big time.


Great post... I agree! Definitely agree with you... I think nothing can replace Facebook as of this time... Facebook have done a huge turn in Social Media world... I also tried Google + but I can't get in... I think it is not yet working...


i think the facebook is a best, fast and robust internet software, i think google+ will be not replace the facebook.

is the same with windows vs linux, may be linux is more fast and smart than windows but windows is the most used System operative in the world and change that is a very hard work

Gabriel Silva

Why would you ignore the site for the next 12 months, when it's already better than Facebook!


Great post! I have been following a lot of the updates on Google+ and agree with you on the idea that it won't replace Facebook, but will be a great tool in the future.

Aaron at TheWarehouse

The cross-the-board integration Google has done with this is EXTREMELY impressive. What is more, they didn't attempt a poor carbon-copy of Facebook.

5 bucks says Google Plus is bigger than Facebook inside of 3 years. You know, right around the time we're all in line to be chipped because RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. ;)

Aaron | WebsiteTrafficWarehouse.com

Logo Design NZ

I tend to agree with Aaron, we all witnessed Facebook's incredibly fast rise to the top of the social media world - I think Google will keep trying to ensure they retain their internet monopoly and they know they're behind in the social media field. If Google don't do it with Google + then I think they will keep trying until they find something that everyone will end up using - Google know that once they can provide us with a social media tool that people love it will only take 2-3 years before we all use it.

It will be interesting to see if they do it with Google +.

ronald van den hoff

Google is offering with + the right base-collaboration software, especially when all GoogleApps will be integrated, vital for the new value networks, the Mesh. New value networks crucial to the rising Interdependent Ecomomy. It is not 'another social network', but the next step in the development of social networking, with the focus on 'working'...

Bulk SMS Reseller

My opinion is no ads in google+ that is the big point.

Colleen Barnes

There are so many people invested so much time in facebook, it will be hard to have another facebook. Besides, facebook is unlikely to sit still.

Bruce Max - Online Marketing Training

Well I think its not that easy for Google to replace Facebook because Facebook has a very strong market. But even if Google succeeds doing so, the current traffic of Facebook will not be affected at a large scale.

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