Over the past few months, there’s one question I’ve been asked more often than just about anything else: What’s the future of Google Plus? Will it be come the next big thing, or become Google’s latest failed attempt to get traction in the social media space?
My honest response is that I don’t know, but I’m starting to have serious doubts. I certainly don’t have my my mind made up, though, because there are compelling arguments on both sides.
Why Google Plus may thrive
- The integration of Plus with Google search, YouTube, Gmail, Places, etc. is a HUGE advantage. Think of it this way: Google.com, YouTube, and Gmail are among the most popular websites overall, and each is a Google property. That means Google can promote Plus on those sites and create synergies that Facebook, for example, can’t. If nothing else, it just may become too hard to avoid.
- Google Hangouts, a key aspect of Plus, are one of the most fun and unique ways to connect via social. This is perhaps the best differentiator for Google Plus, given that Hangouts provides an experience unmatched by Skype, Facebook video chat, etc.
- Google is intent on making Plus work. Google has invested a significant amount of resources in the platform, with some heavy hitters at Google going so far as to call it a “bet the company” scenario. They won’t likely go down without a fight.
- Google has the money to be be patient. In addition making a priority philosophically, Google has made Plus a priority where it matters most: in the budget. Plus is getting all the financial support it needs, and Google’s seemingly endless influx of ad revenue means that money won’t be an issue for a long, long time.
- It’s a ghost town. Really, this is the only thing that matters. It’s been about a year since Plus launched, and it just hasn’t built a critical-mass audience. Hangouts won’t matter if there’s no one to hang out with, Google’s will to make Plus work may actually lead to bad business decisions (as James Whittaker claimed when he quit Google a few months ago), and money…well, money can’t buy the audience’s love. The bottom line is that, for all of its advantages, Plus’s performance has been dismal. And it may already be too late to turn things around.
My take is that even though there are good reasons to write the Google Plus obituary, a resurrection is possible–and I’d never bet against Google. But I have to admit that I haven’t recommended that any of my clients devote significant resources to Plus until it starts to gain some ground. So while my official position is that the jury’s still out, I’m definitely not convinced that Google Plus has any future at all.