Monday, July 18, 2011

Behind the Google+ Hype [Survey Results]

In late 2009, Google released Wave, a real-time collaboration tool. A number of my social media friends rushed to test the platform, and many declared it amazing; one even announced she was leaving Twitter because tweets were dead and waves were the new hotness. I checked out Google Wave, scratched my head, and returned to Twitter, wondering what I missed and if I was being left behind. A year later, Google suspended Wave. Google+, the new social offering from Google, certainly shows a great deal more promise, but the results of a small survey conducted today suggest smart social media professionals will approach Google+ with more patience than the blogosphere might suggest.

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. 


rt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Indeed the content I was thinking.
We all rushed in to spoil wave! It wasn't supposed to be social but a collaboration tool.

Hope we don't rush in our impatience and leave G+ also.
Even though there is nothing really great /striking feature I feel given patience and some more smart thinking from Google and we would have a FB alternative. I still have doubts how can it replace Twitter!

Anonymous said...

Your "survey of 137 people" isn't unscientific. It's just based on a relatively small statistical sample.

I certainly resonate with your avoid-the-hype message. All we know is that it's all but impossible to predict social behavior on a grand scale, and that the only thing constant is change. If, over time, people get value from Google+, they'll spend more time there, and (probably) less time on other networks, such as Facebook.

Suggesting that organizations neither hide nor rush, but prepare, seems like sound advice to me.

Good stuff.

- Matthew

Shelly Kramer said...

Bravo :)

Davina K. Brewer said...

"We're not normal people." Someone wrote that in a soloPR chat and I quipped that I resemble that remark. It's true.. those of us who are social to hyper-social are the quick adopters. I still have more friends NOT on Facebook and Twitter than are, and most of them hadn't even heard of Google Plus or aren't interested. Yet. Which is the operative word for marketers.

You fish where the fish are biting, where your audiences are and while yes those online are prime fish with money and time to buy stuff, we can't assume that's everyone. Even if you're trying to lead folks to the new waters, there's still time to learn G+ and see if it will work for your business. FWIW.