With many in social media declaring Google+ as a valiant effort that simply came too late to the game to make a real impact, Google CEO Larry Page released March data that showed a sharp turn in the total visits after flatlining from December to February.
I want Google+ to succeed. I don’t want it to be the ghost town that keeps forcing me back to Facebook to see what my non-tech-savvy and non-Google-employee friends are doing. I prefer the interface, the organization of the data, and the company itself more than Facebook. The challenge has been in getting friends and family on it.
For Google’s part, they seem determined to not be a Facebook challenger. They have declared numerous times that the social networking component, which on the surface appears to be the majority of the service, is secondary to their goals of integrating Google+ into everything they have. Advertising, Google Places, reviews, YouTube – they want all of their web assets to be tied together through Google+ to make it more than what Facebook or anyone else could match.
To that end, they don’t need people on it. They need them using it in the background while doing other things. That’s the part that worries me.
Google is activating 850,000 Android devices daily. Every Android device is tied to a Google account, which means that everyone with an Android device has at the very least a dormant Google+ account. Their desire to integrate may end up being the best thing for them in the long run in a play that is almost opposite of the Facebook plan as they were growing.
With Facebook, they felt the best way to grow was to start off with exclusivity and advance it to the place where everyone needed to be. Google+ is taking the approach of “sneaking” people onto the service by default and then eventually pulling them into the networking component. It may work. It may be the only thing that could possibly work with them coming into the game so late.
This isn’t Pinterest. It’s not even Twitter. Success for Google+ will be measured in hundreds of millions of users, even billions in the long run. Today, it’s still somewhat of a ghost town, but there seems to be the potential for light at the end of the tunnel. If that light doesn’t go out, Google can be a serious player in social networking this year. If their plan fails and people create accounts that never get used again, this will be the biggest bust in a long line of huge busts that Google has managed in social media over the years.