To be sure, your mother's adoption of a social media tool is likely a lagging indicator; if you wait for most mothers to use a new social media site before you give it consideration, you'll probably already have missed a trend. However, when evaluating new tools, it's vital to focus on your mother's needs rather than the needs of early-adopting, big-name, influence-exerting, social media evangelists. What matters isn't that I, Jeremiah Owyang, or Chris Brogan love Google+ but whether G+ satisfies fundamental needs that your mom has.
Google+ is here to stay; in fact, I shared with my social media team at USAA that I expect before the end of the year we will be maintaining a presence and monitoring member needs on Google+, just as we do on Twitter and Facebook. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean I believe Google+ is poised to go mainstream as quickly as some are predicting.
|Charts like this aren't inaccurate, just wildly misleading.|
It isn't users that matter but usage, and there Google+'s early stats aren't nearly as impressive. Experian Hitwise noted that both traffic and users' average time dropped from one week to the next; a Bloomberg/YouGov study indicated Google+ could sign up fewer people in the next year than it did in its first six weeks;
|Experian Hitwise notes that "Colleges & Cafes" are |
decreasing on G+ while "Kids & Cabernet" are rising.
My expectation is that Google+ will be rapidly embraced within certain circles (no G+ pun intended) but it still doesn't meet my "mom test" for mass adoption. While social media pros have been quick to promote the wonders of Google+, I believe they are failing to remove their own biases from their evaluation. Here are five reasons social media professionals may be forgetting their moms in their rush to recommend Google+:
- Social media professionals love the new; moms do not: Social media pros never meet a new site or tool that they don't love; their race to (and in some cases away from) Wave, Sidewiki, Digg, Izea, Triiibes, Hashable, Instagram, Quora, Flipbook and the like has been dizzying. Your mom is different--she simply isn't as interested in the new. She doesn't want to learn sparks, streams, circles and hangouts, and she doesn't have the time or patience to recreate her social graph in another tool. Facebook is just fine, thank you--it does everything it is supposed to by helping her keep in touch with her kids, high school friends and coworkers. For G+ to pull mom away from Facebook, Google's going to have to offer a lot more than Google+ currently does.
- Social media professionals want more influence; moms do not: To social media pros, influence is a currency as real and desired as gold (even at $1,742 per ounce). They track it in Klout, trade it in Empire Avenue, and monitor it on the Ad Age Power 150. The barest hint that a new social tool may catch on is enough to send social media pros racing to establish a presence; heaven forbid someone get there first and amass a larger audience! But your mom has all the influence she needs and couldn't care less about the size of her social graph. She doesn't have any desire to be seen as an early adopter, and unless and until a significant portion of her friends (and not just her crazy early-adopting son or daughter) shifts to G+, your mom won't either.
- Social media professionals travel in packs; moms do not: Do you know what it takes for Robert Scoble or Chris Brogan to build a healthy network in a new social network? They show up. These two well-known speakers and bloggers have large networks who want to stay connected, so when Scoble promotes his Google profile on his site and Brogan shuts down his Facebook profile with an "I have moved to G+" message, they can be assured a vibrant community will quickly develop on their new preferred social venue. But what happens when your mom tries to change social networks? Do all her siblings, her high school swim team and the members of her PTA group immediately follow in order to keep in touch? It's a very different (and much lonelier) experience for the average consumer to join a new social network. A mass shift may never occur from Facebook to Google+, but that is what it will take for most moms to change their social media habits.
- Social media pros love to share everything with expansive and complex networks; moms do not: One of Google+'s most interesting features is Circles, which permits users to post messages only within specific networks or sub-networks of contacts. Social media professionals have enormous and complex networks containing thousands of people--they have different relationships with different sets of peers, influencers, coworkers, readers, clients, family and friends. And the promise that Google+ could make their Google calendar, email, or search results shareable is enough to cause social media pros to explode with glee. But your mom not only doesn't want to share her calendar, she's deeply suspicious of having her entire life that wired together. And while she certainly has different sets of relationships, your mother has nowhere near the same need to manage those different networks in unique and differentiated ways. It's okay that her high school friends see the pictures of her grandson or that her family sees a book she shares with her book club. Google+'s Circles suit people who care to manage complex networks of contacts, but your mom is just as happy to stick with the simpler if cruder sharing mechanisms of Facebook. (That said, I still expect Facebook to follow Google+'s lead and begin to offer more controls based on Friend lists.)
- Social media pros hate Facebook; moms do not: I've never quite understood the level of disdain the people who make their livelihood from social media consulting have for the world's premier social network. The reason most often cited is that Facebook often violates users' privacy, but the list of entities that make money selling customer data is a huge one that encompasses credit card providers (though not USAA), cell phone services, cable TV, online ad networks, GPS device makers, supermarkets and even physicians. There is no doubt that Facebook has a vast image problem that it would be wise to take seriously, but mom simply doesn't share the same animus toward Facebook that is common among libertarian, open-source-loving, terms-and-conditions-reading early adopters. The irony of social media professionals leaping from Facebook to Google+ is that there is no indication Google will be any more open than is Facebook--after all, Google didn't become an $182-billion company by open-sourcing search and mobile platforms.
Google+ will be important; it will be necessary; and eventually it may even become a true mass social medium; however, that will only happen when moms start making the switch and not just tech and social media professionals. I simply don't foresee that happening any time soon, no matter what some breathless chart of adoption statistics shows.
It is said that good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that could have been avoided if we had listened to our moms. It's time for social media pros to listen a little more to their mothers and a little less to each other.