Google+ Is Great, But Is It Needed?

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Google Plus traffic via HitWise

Like many others, I was excited to try out Google’s new social network, Google+. I had tried out Google Buzz and Google Wave before Google got rid of both of the services. The early word was that Google had used those two services as a beta test for the more refined Google+.

Initially, once I scored an early invite back in June, I was excited to see what they came up with. I set up my profile, did the tour, I read a few posts from the early adopters and then….nothing. Which is what most people seem to have done. According to a recent article from the LA Times, after the initial flood of signups in June and July, traffic to Google+ has decreased substantially.

But, the announcement about Google+ supporting brand pages prompted me to take a second look at Google+. In addition to (finally) populating my profile, I added a Google+ page for Grassroots Online. I decided to really give it a chance and I have to say, I’m glad I did.

For me, Google+ is a welcomed relief to the increasing cluttered Facebook interface. As a heavy Google user (Gmail, Google Apps, YouTube, etc) I fund it easy to move between my work and my social profile on Google+. And Google being Google, everything is easy to integrate – as long as it is on the Google platform. But the streamlined design, the innovative Circles feature, the notification and chat system – all are easy to use. I quite enjoy them.

But I think Google+ is, unfortunately, doomed. Three reasons.

1. It Serves No New Purpose

Why does anyone need to be on it? What can you do on Google+ that you can’t do anywhere else? The answer? Nothing. Facebook created a value far beyond a mere social network by becoming the place where you went to learn about your extended world. Twitter carved out a significant place on the Internet by aggregating real time conversations. What does Google+ bring?

I often find myself posting the same items on Google+ as I do on Facebook, LinkedIn and other spots. But those are different audiences with different purposes. What the specific purpose of Google+? Right now, it is replication. My former colleague Jay Vincent says it well:

“The switching costs on this one is time. I just don’t have the time or desire to build the relationships on G+ that I have built on Facebook.”

Why would you, if it serves no actual purpose?

2. Your Friends Are Not Using It

I have a unique perspective where many within my social and business circles are not heavy users of social media. Sure, they are on Facebook, etc but they are not power users by any definition. And one thing I can tell you is that they are not using Google+. And that’s a shame.

Right now, Google+ could best be described as a social network for social media practitioners and professionals: the “early adopters”, as they are known. That’s great if you want to read about what Robert Scoble and Chris Brogan are thinking, but your social circle is no where to be found. If that doesn’t change quick, Google+ isn’t much of a social network.

3. It Does Not Really Do Anything

This third point creates the “perfect storm of doom” in my mind. If you found yourself in the coolest club around – with the hottest guys/gals, cheapest drinks and fantastic music – and your friends weren’t there, what would you do? You’d get them there as fast as possible. The problem is, Google+ is more like a clean family restaurant than a hot club. Solid experience, but not something you’re dying to tell your friends about.

Slate’s Farhad Manjoo summed it up this way:

“The real test of Google’s social network is what people do after they join. As far as anyone can tell, they aren’t doing a whole lot. Even Google’s own executives seem to have gotten bored by the site.”

And he’s right. Besides aggregating content largely available elsewhere, what is it that Google+ does? As much as I enjoy the overall Google+ GUI, I don’t have an answer to that question.

We do forget that Facebook also started in one particular community and eventually expanded far beyond it. Google+ may very well be able to get over it’s current lack of forward momentum.

But right now, it seems to be one the same dark path as Google Buzz and Google Wave, which suffered from the same problems.

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