I’ve been using Google+ since the day it was released, and a bunch of people have asked me for my impressions. There have been plenty of responses on the Internet, so the initial wave of reactions is pretty much over. After seeing these reactions, I thought I’d share what I think are some of the misconceptions about Google+.
Google needs to beat Bing, not Facebook
Almost all the Google+ articles lately have suggested that Google is trying to replace Facebook. However, Google is a search company. In the context of the competitive landscape of search, Google needs Google+ to answer the fact that Bing has exclusive access to Facebook’s data. Even Eric Schmidt agrees that Google’s biggest competitor is not Facebook, not Apple, but Microsoft.
Having access to social information about users via Facebook is currently a competitive advantage for Bing. However, Schmidt also says the battle for social data is “not a zero-sum game”. Google is betting that users will be willing to share their data with companies other than Facebook. Google is trying to be one of those companies, particularly in the local and social space.
Google+ may look like Facebook, but…
In order to improve search and its own revenue, Google needs (1) online real estate (2) data about users.
Google+ offers more online real estate for Google Ads, which Ill bet will come eventually. Other recent initiatives such as What do you love? show Google becoming more of an online media company.
Schmidt also argued that “everything that Google does can become better if we have more information about who your friends are and what they’re doing.” Clearly, gaining a social context for individual users is important to Google. While ‘social networks’ were designed to collect this type of data, this is not exactly the kind of data that Google needs. Google wants the data that will make Google properties a more important mediator between you and content. Facebook and Twitter need us on their site. Real social networks actually need to be the content.
The +1 button is different from the Like button in ways that reflect the differences between Google+ and Facebook. +1 focuses on giving the user personal, long-term benefits. Over time, this will help Google deliver better ads and search results. The Like button focuses more on instant, visible gratification, and sharing. People Like something to share it, and there isn’t really a direct personal benefit.While +1 may have more ‘real’ user benefits, the Like button has more concrete and therefore more enticing benefits to the average user.
Google+ has potential negative effects
Things like +1 and the Like button are designed to help identify remarkable content on the web. Aaron Wall pointed out these signals can actually easily be exploited, especially favoring big brands. Well-known companies will get more +1s than lesser known companies with fewer site visits. This is another way for Google to further its focus on brands. As an independent webmaster myself, I don’t expect any of this stuff will help me out… What’s the point of the web then, if not to give people like me a voice?
Joshua Bixby also wrote a post on the Unbounce blog about how third-party tools can be conversion killers. Note this is not just limited to Google. Stuff like Google+, the Facebook Like button, and other little add-ons make page load time noticeably longer. Any B2B web marketer will tell you that’s an undesirable thing. This coming after Google telling us to improve site speed for better rankings.
What users want from Google+
We don’t need a new, “better” Facebook. We do want a better search experience. Many of us want social features to be effortlessly integrated into our search experience. See if Google+ offers you that.
Google always talks about being user-centric. Even its job ads have “a user-first mentality” as one an employee criteria. But where’s the mention of my better user experience when I agree to sign up for Google+? Would a company with user-centricity in its DNA miss this, and only talk about its precious ads? I just hope this doesn’t reflect their actual attitude on the future of Google+.