What’s the future of Google Plus?

“Google Plus” by west.m on Flickr

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.
Why Google Plus may fail
  • 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.

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6 Responses to What’s the future of Google Plus?

  1. I like your comment about google integrating all it’s tools and that is hard to ignore. I use it more to connect to people I haven’t met in person and to follow them and also for some personal interests I don’t do on LI or FB.

  2. Matt Warrener says:

    I think the most difficult challenge facing new social media platforms will be differentiating from the competition and really selling people on new features. I compare switching social media sites to moving out of a dorm room; it’s kind of a hassle and nobody likes to pack up and leave. I have my friends and contacts already set up on Facebook and Twitter, so why would I bail? Sure, dividing my contacts into circles and participating in online “hangouts” sounds fun, but at this point I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

  3. well, they have been more than one year without offering an ipad version of google+
    they’ve just introduced that ipad version as of second quarter of 2012, a version that is still far from being easy to swallow. Google seems to have the microsoft disease: creating what they think people want, but never listen to comsumer critics/complain/reactions…..until money talks: ipad was a joke when it came out but has defined a new standard for computing web surfing etc despite the fact that it’s too much appleish.

    Actually i was waiting for google+ well before they officially launch it because facebook makes a large consensus: it’s always playing with privacy (just likew google apple and microsoft) alway changing de UI and it’s full of unsollicited garbage: farmville cityville and the rest…and much more they seem to be reactive instead of being proactive, after all they have paved the way of social networking isn’t it ?

    This was what was appealing to me from google plus: more discrete advertising, circles etc…. more refinements, well integrated à la google..

    But theses were only bells and whistles.

    So much that i’m awaiting the windows hate “mouture” before i buy my next computing device. that was my two cents to that only beginning debate….and i know i can be totally wrong but google+ is just like the sahara desert: expanding itself a little more each day

  4. It does seem to be struggling. When it first launched it did look like facebook may finally have some competition. Plus seems to be mainly used by businesses and in particular bloggers from what I can tell. As you say Google has the resources and name to give it the best chance to work but I still find not enough people know about it. Nice article

  5. I think Google Plus just like http://www.chatterclub.ws is a long time project. They are more worried about creating a quality product at the moment.

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