Google+ aims to take on Facebook by creating a platform that revolves around sharing among personalized user groups. Obvious comparisons have been drawn to Facebook, as Google+ has a “Stream” similar to Facebook’s News Feed, the +1 button is similar to the “Like” Button, and encourages the creation of “Circles,” similar to Facebook’s “Group” feature. The “Circles” feature allows users to control the information they share with customizable user groups, i.e. family, work, friends, customers, thought leaders, etc., and strives to replicate our real-life sharing behavior in the digital realm. However, there are some significant barriers to adoption that Google must overcome in order to gain mainstream acceptance.
The most glaring of these is the issue of differentiation, as many users are hesitant to adopt a new platform, particularly when their network, sharing, and search habits have already been established elsewhere (namely Facebook and Twitter). Google+ seeks to overcome this by offering unique features (streamlined photo sharing and group video chat, socialized search, and enhanced privacy control), but new features are not always enough to lure users away from their platform of comfort, and competitors are taking notes, and can copycat and implement what works with Google+ on their existing platforms. However, many people already use at least one Google product on their computer or smartphone (one out of every three smartphones is an Android), and the instant photo upload feature from Android is predicted to encourage adoption more than any other feature. The streamlined interface does not have a steep learning curve, and its current simplicity may be a welcomed relief from the ad-heavy Facebook.
A second barrier is the time necessary to organize the user’s “Circles” in order to take advantage of the group features. The number of contacts in many Gmail address books can reach the thousands, and each contact needs to be sorted and added to a user-defined “Circle.” As the Google+ user group expands, it will be interesting to see the trends in individual and industry behavior as the potential creativity (and profitability) of its use as has already been predicted to impact both Education and Enterprise.
A third barrier is the current inability of brands to officially create and maintain a Google+ page (though the Google+ team are currently working on this highly requested feature). The Facebook Brand Page was adopted by businesses since its inception, and Facebook Advertising is growing at an astonishing rate. It seems a natural fit for Google to incorporate Google+ by leveraging existing search data to create more opportunities for customized ad campaigns, but appear to be holding off on advertising initiatives until Google+ is widely adopted.
To Google’s credit, they make the process of amassing a network as painless as possible with an intuitive drag and drop interface. Whether or not the sharing control, ease, and flexibility are enough to attract a large enough user-group to reach mainstream popularity is yet to be seen—but Mambo will keep you posted.
- “Circles”- Social circles, user lists
- “Sparks”- a search engine for sharing content between users
- “Huddle”- a group messaging app that allows users to share with certain “Circles”
- “Hangouts”- group video chatting designed to allow 10 user video chats at once