As many others, I too have been literally forced to create my own personal Google Plus account. Before setting it up however, a single thought came to mind:
“Google+ is doomed to succeed…”
It wasn’t that far back when mother Google started to abandon quite a few projects (Google Health, Google Buzz, Orkut very recently and many others); simply put, history has shown that Google cannot succeed on a “social” aspect.
Things with Google Plus started taking on a very serious form when much time and money was invested in it catapulting Google Plus to the status of Cappella Sistina of all Google’s social projects .
Will they succeed? In numbers yes. But certainly not as a disruptive Social networking platform.
I’ll get back to this later on, but before that, let me continue from where I left off. After setting up an account, inevitably a simple question aroused:
“What is Google Plus anyway and why is different”?
According to their definition, “Google Plus is a social networking platform for discovering and sharing digital content with friends, family and co-workers.”
Okay, it’s clear enough, isn’t it? No… it’s not.
Let me rephrase my question by asking “What is Google Plus’s Unique Value Proposition?”
Is it something similar to Facebook? To LinkedIn? Tumblr? To all or to none?
The point being that Google Plus is a social hybrid with many features which excels in no specific direction. Some of them might be great, but still, the people behind the Google+ project failed to ask themselves some very vital question: What exactly is Google Plus and what is its vision and mission? What is the purpose of this social product? What makes it unique, user friendly and useful?
I’m pretty sure that many of you have great answers on this question, but frankly, I don’t.
If I want a social network, I use Facebook. If I want a professional network, I use LinkedIn and if I want to blog socially, I use Tumblr.
And just because Google forces me to use its Google Plus platform by having a Gmail account connected with other —extremely— useful products (analytics, docs, YouTube, etc.), that’s not a valid reason to stay attached to it and start using it.
Note: some vanity metrics may apply in this case; Google Plus has more than 359 million active monthly users, but how many of these accounts are really live and kicking?
And that lead me to the hardest part of criticizing a product in such a strict manner:
“What would you do if you needed to make Google Plus a success?”
While greater minds than mine like the extremely talented product managers (Vic Gundotra, who recently gave his position to David Besbris) and UX designers are working on Google+, and because, as everything else, “it’s easier said than done”, here are some thoughts-suggestions that came out while on a sandy beach in a Greek island:
• Act like a start-up and ask simple questions to your end-users: “What could you possibly need to stop —progressively— using Facebook, LinkedIn and Tumblr and start using Google+? “
Simply ask people to help you build a greater product. I’m positive that thousands of them –me included- would certainly be glad to participate in a group-survey (but make it extraordinary).
If you want to create the best social network, become social and let your users help you; for free.
Oh, that’s a priceless gift and you should handle with care!
• Define your vision and communicate it; don’t just force people to adopt it.
We all know that Google Plus would certainly be an added value to your advertisement packages, but it has to add something much bigger and useful than this.
• You can’t create a social network by not being social. Facebook has succeeded because it has had a social origin from the beginning.
Sometimes the person behind a product defines the impact of this product to people.
Find your own Jimmy Wales for this role and bring him upfront.
• Emphasis on useful content and form open dialogue between your users. And yes, your users have skills and transferable knowledge to share with others.
Find a simple way of facilitating that (wait, am I suggesting having Quora on board?)
• Dear product managers of Google Plus, please make our lives easy. Become extroverted and allow us to share content everywhere; not just on our Circles, but everywhere.
For instance, I want to share a useful article about the advantages of breast feeding (don’t laugh; it’s my wife’s favourite topic these days!).
In my ideal digital world, I’d just have to post it on my Google+ profile; then I would be given the choice of sharing it to all of my connected accounts. Yes, Facebook included!
In a few words, become the threshold and the centre of all of our online presence.
Don’t expect people to pack up their bags from Facebook, LinkedIn, or Tumblr and move into Google+ just because it’s the capstone of your products (who cares anyway?)
Dear Google Plus Head of Product, you have all the means in the world at your disposal; please use them accordingly and create something that could profoundly change how people socialize, connect and interact and learn from each other.
In a nutshell, become Social.
Sincerely Yours (With love, for your great products.)