This is what social media was designed to do in the first place. Heck, it’s what the internet promised to be able to do all those years ago. It has the right company building it, the right technology supporting, and is coming out at a time when it is not only desired but also needed. Why, then, has Google Hangouts not exploded into a tool that everyone from family members to international corporations use ever day?
In a quick survey of friends and business relations, I discovered that only one person out of nearly a hundred acquaintances had used it more than once. Keep in mind that this is a tech-savvy, forward-thinking group of people. These are the people that said they wanted something more social than Skype, easier to use than Webex or GotoMeeting, and with an interface strong enough for geeks and simple enough for grandparents.
Why isn’t it more widely used? Here are some hypotheses.
The Google+ “ghost town” problem
It’s been said since a couple of months after launch that the service isn’t being used. With over 100 million members one would think that the engagement would be picking up by now, but it isn’t. Instead, we have a service that is better than Facebook but that has very few of our closest friends and family using it. As a result, we go back to Facebook “where everybody knows our name.”
It’s a catch-22. They need people on it to get people to stay on it, but they need people to stay on it for other people to get on it. Google is 7 years behind and needs to catch up in a hurry, but so far they haven’t cracked the shell.
If Google+ picks up, perhaps that will be the signal for Google Hangouts to find its rightful place in daily communication.
Fact-to-face is so 2009
There is an impersonal attribute that is making its way through social and mobile, particularly amongst the younger generations. We have these amazing phones but many people ext more than talk. We have the venues to post pictures of ourselves, but all-too-often the pictures that many people post are of things or other people and not of us.
We now have a place to communicate the way that Star Trek once promised, but we aren’t using it the way we thought. It’s as if face-to-face communication through technology became an old notion before it became truly possible.
People simply don't know how cool it is
This is the likely culprit despite hours of analysis trying to find a deeper core challenge. Most people simply haven’t tried the service. If they did, many would immediately hit up their friends and family (possibly through Facebook) and get them to join them for a hangout.
Google Hangouts is incredible technology that fits in with the speed of social media advancements but may be ahead of the game while being behind on the times. Can it make it into the mainstream? Will we start seeing more celebrities using it? Will businesses eventually stop using antiquated business conferencing products that cost way too much and start using the free Google Hangouts service?
The real question: will Facebook trump them with a wider-spread service before Google can pick up steam?
- What is Google Hangouts on Air? (smartblogs.com)
- Experimenting with Google+ hangouts – live, interactive broadcast conversations (psmithjournalist.com)
- Google+ Hangouts On Air: broadcast your conversation to the world | Official Google Blog (philbradley.typepad.com)
- Conan O’Brien Does His First Google+ Hangout [Video] (socialtimes.com)
- Recording Google+ Hangouts (freetech4teachers.com)