For many of us Google is the starting point on the web. Most of us start out by searching on Google. In many cases, even if we know the brand we resort to searching it on Google (as opposed to directly typing the URL). We have come to believe it to be an amazing search platform which has not let us down. It's the starting point for many of us and has an enviable search market share. This gives Google+ a superb launching pad. Inspite of this perceived advantage the Social Networking platform is struggling for viability.
Google+ was able to capitalize on it's vast search base (at-least initially)....
When we look below the surface concerning traffic trends start to appear. Traffic on Google+ has been declining consistently from it's peak. While there has been a double digit increase post launch (June 2011) the trends are undeniably concerning. (Source: Chitika)
That said, here is why I think Google+ is not able to increase it's market share....
1.Google+ active user-base paints a concerning story: Remember it's not about volume it's about value. I define "Active Base" as users who log into the platform on a regular basis (i.e. daily)
2. The value proposition of Google+ is questionable:
Facebook has mission statement that is quite simple "To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected".
Twitter's mantra is equally so: "To instantly connect people everywhere to what's important to them".
What is Google Plus' mission statement? Is it the same as that of Google's "To organize world's information and make it universally accessible and useful"?
Afterall, how can one manage a plethora of Social Networking platforms. I have one where I manage my professional network (LinkedIn), another where I know I will find all my friends (1 in 14 in the world have a Facebook account), third which perfectly satsifies my sense of instant gratification and allows me to listen to conversations I care to listen to (Twitter) and then there is the fourth which allows me to unlock/check-in new places and discover friends and deals all based on my location (FourSquare). So where do I slot Google+ in the Social Media mix? As a user this becomoes too overwhelming for me and as a result puts a big question mark in it's unique value proposition.
3. Google+ is selctive when it comes to opening accounts:
For one businesses cannot open a Google+ account. It's like having 40MM users and no-one can interact with the brand. The whole purpose of allowing brands to come in is to allow for a deeper level of engagement with the audience and build an ecosystem. Secondly, if they deem your "handle" to be affiliated with a business or not associated with a valid name, they reserve the right to take you out of the Google+ network. They have done so in mumerous occasions. In my opinion a platform should be open and allow the user to engage at many different levels. I don't understand why Google+ missed that. Perhaps it wants to be a "purist"? That saddens me.
4. The demographics of Google+ users is (generally speaking) skewed:
Google+ is highly skewed towards male population (60%-70%). They also tend to be younger and tend to have higher income (>$100K). This is great news on one hand as this audience group is in many ways the most valuable segment. Particularly true if you ask a marketer. However, to remain in the game and to maintain it's stickiness it has to expand to closely align with it's search poulation. This means securing a diverse demographic base.
5. Google+ is struggling to differentiate itself as a platform:
This may be a by-product of the recency of Google+ launch. They came out of beta only less than a month ago but in the process of designing the social network didn't quite build a set of useful & sticky products around users. This could be the reason why it has a demographic problem. Contrast that to Facebook which has Wall, Friends, Games etc. The ecosystem it has created allows it to be anything to anyone. Google+ hasn't done that and it's not doing anything about it, at least, not in the near term. I also think this is a key reason as users tend to get lazy about learning a whole new platform.
I believe Google is an incredibly talented company. It has a substantial edge over it's competitors, I also believe if they front-load the efforts towards integrating their products (YouTube, Gmail, Google Docs, Maps, Games) with Google+ and convert it as a platform it can then be whatever the user wants it to be! To me that's what makes a product truly great.
Although history hasn't been on Google's side with in this area as Google Wave, Orkut, Google Buzz etc are now in the process of being shelved. I believe they will find a way as amid chaos there is opportunity. I am a big fan G, don't let me down.
What do you think? Do you agre//disagree or have other reasons why Google+ isn't capturing market share?
P.S. As of November Google+ launched Brand Pages which is great. Although, it now faces a stiff battle with Facebook Timeline, Facebook Brand Pages, and Twitter Brand Pages.
P.S.S. The more I think about this landscape the more I feel that Google+ can create a niche market where companies can leverage their Hangout / Chat feature to create a quasi webinar zone. For example, an asset management firm like Oppenheimer can have a hangout with one of their portfolio managers or a distributor can have a webinar session with a small cohort of their Financial Advisors.
P.S.S.S I also noticed small integration steps where the Gmail friends are now visible in G+. What a great way to cross-pollinate and socialize. I am starting to believe in their vision.