The fact Wave failed to live up to the hype was not Google's fault. The company intended Wave as a collaboration tool and released it first only to developers; it was users who rushed in and rapidly declared it the next big social network. It is easy to see why that happened--social early adopters arrived en masse, immediately connected to one another; and found Wave was akin to an exciting party of like-minded individuals. In hyping Google Wave, early users mixed up cause and effect: they weren't social media pros who found a great social conversation tool; they found a great social conversation tool because they were social media pros.
I think Google+ will have a long life and will make a dent (or more) in Facebook and Twitter, but there is evidence social media addicts may be getting ahead of themselves. The Google+ hype is deafening. In recent days, Computerword's Mike Elgan declared many were replacing Facebook and Twitter with Google+ and Chris Brogan announced that Google+ was "the next big thing." (Perhaps we could close the Federal budget deficit by instituting a special tax on the phrase "next big thing"?)
Google itself added to the hype when CEO Larry Page said that Google+'s 10 million users were sharing 1 billion items every day. I'd love to know more about what is behind that number, because that is five times more sharing than occurs on Twitter with 2,000% more users and the same amount of sharing that occurs on Facebook with 7,500% more users.
To try to find out what the "man (and woman) on the street" are thinking about Google+, I today conducted a survey, promoted via my blog, Twitter and Facebook. While a survey of 137 people is somewhat less than scientific, there is reason to believe the folks who answered my one-question poll are very adept at social media. Google+ has less than 20 million registered users--a fraction of the social media population--but 93% of the survey respondents have already given Google+ a test drive. Here are the results:
What is your experience with Google+ thus far?
- I've not tried it and am not yet interested in doing so. 4%
- I've not tried it and would like to do so. 3%
- I've tried it but do not find myself using or checking it regularly. 57%
- I've tried it and it has become a regular place for me to share and connect. 32%
- I've tried it and it has replaced other social networking on sites like Facebook or Twitter. 4%
Among those who have tried Google+, well over half say they do not find themselves using or checking it regularly. Conversely, less than 5% of those who have tried Google+ indicate it has replaced other social networking.
I'm not suggesting Google+ is not a major, new development in the social media world, but I do think it behooves social media professionals to bring some sanity and objectivity to the discussion. There is plenty of time for us to anoint a new social networking king or queen should Google+ dethrone either Facebook or Twitter; after all, it took over four years after Facebook launched before it surpassed MySpace based on monthly unique visitors.
There are things marketers and communicators will want to do now to prepare for Google+. For instance, if you haven't signed up for Google+, find a friend who is on it and ask for an invitation. Even without snagging an invitation, you can start by burnishing your Google Profile, the essential starting point of Google+. For now, Google+ is no longer accepting applications from companies--the application page has been closed--but you can check out the few brands that are present on Google+ such as Ford, Mashable, and Gilt City (which, interestingly, hasn't updated its profile in almost two weeks). You can also learn a great deal more about Google+ from Mashable's Guide.
Don't hide from Google+, but there's no need to go rushing in, either. As a marketer and communicator, it's important that you understand the social sites your audience uses. And with Google+ offering little to nothing for business thus far, there's plenty of time to monitor the situation and make sound decisions later. Listening to the hype, it would be easy to think you're already behind the curve. Rest assured, you're not.