Table of Contents Hide
It was fun while it lasted.
Something new and shiny popped into our social media lives in the last month that offered nearly everything we’ve ever wanted. Much like a new significant other, we fawned over how cool this feature was or how amazing that feature was. We declared our undying love for this new network and vowed to someday completely transition away from the old hag run by Mark Zuckerberg.
We only saw the good. There was nothing bad other than a few bugs here or there and some quirky taste-choices. It was great.
The shotgun wedding that saw 20 million users flock to Google+ in three weeks (versus the 3 years, 2 months it took Facebook to achieve the same number after launch) went on a quick honeymoon. Now that we’re back to reality, the holes within and challenges facing Google+ are starting to become apparent.
Honeymoon’s over. Time to get to work.
Profile(s) not found
“Let the deletions continue until everyone is so scared about their accounts that they won’t dare to use them.”
That’s not an actual quote from anybody, but it’s how many perceive the way that Google started deleting accounts on Friday. By applying a very swift and powerful hand to enforce their community guidelines regarding the use of real names, Google has, in essence, become the social media equivalent of the Seinfeld character, “The Soup Nazi”.
As of the writing of this article, Techcrunch founder Michael Arrington is no longer appearing as a Google+ profile. There is no word from Techcrunch, so this may be a planned maneuver. Or, they may simply not know about it. Arrington, known for being fiery, controversial, and willing to speak out against anyone, either has something up his sleeve or is currently unaware. The good thing is that it’s showing “Not Found” – those that are completely deleted become 404 error pages.
Those who were suspended received this:
“After reviewing your profile, we determined the name you provided violates our Community Standards.”
In some instances, people had to prove that they really were who they said they were through scans of photo IDs or other means. It is turning into a major public relations faux pas, forcing many people to resort to drastic measures. In this instance, Google didn’t just turn off G+ – they completely deleted everything in the account. Those who use Android phones tied into Google accounts – BEWARE! Back up your data somewhere other than Google.
What they should have done
This massive deletion spree is a debacle. Spam protection is extremely important, particularly to a company like Google which relies on real data by real people, but taking the “guilty until proven innocent” road less than 4 weeks after launch is a devastating mistake that should have been seen from a mile away.
Instead, they should have flagged the accounts with a public warning visible on their profiles prompting them to act. They should have kept it polite, possibly even humorous:
“The name on this account, _________, has been flagged by our system as possibly fictitious. If it’s your real name, please help us sort this out. We have to be careful because of the growing popularity of the network, but we also know that nobody (not even us) knows everybody by name. If this flag is an error, please contact us here [link]. If your username does not meet the Community Guidelines [link], please save us the trouble and delete or rename your account.”
No response for 30 days – delete. Hire temps (you have enough cash available, Google) to manually review and contact suspicious accounts that are flagged by the algorithm or through user reporting.
Speaking of user reporting, even that could have been fun. They could have created “Spambuster” badges for users who report accounts that eventually get removed. Reporting too many accounts that are not spam disables the reporting button for that person. Reporting a certain number of accounts that prove to be spam earns a message on their profile page:
“Everyone who knows _______ should thank him/her. She has successfully reported 14 accounts that were proven to be spam and has helped keep your favorite social network free from bad people. Give her the kudos she deserves!”
There are certain personality types that would rise to the occasion and have fun getting accounts deleted.
Unprepared for business pages
Google should have followed the Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared.”
For business pages, they were anything but prepared. Similar to the accounts deleted recently, business pages started getting deleted two weeks ago and it took the blogosphere to get the word out about not making profiles with your business name. Then, they reinstated some pages that had successfully applied for a business page beta.
There is a terrible amount of inconsistency associated with the way they handled it. Entire industries were wiped out completely while others seem to still exist against terms of service. There was very little rhyme or reason surrounding the way businesses were selected (at least not publicly) with some large companies getting the shaft while smaller companies stayed in the mix.
Today, we still have very little understanding about what the offering is going to look like for businesses. There seems to be no direction communicated other than, “Just wait.”
What they should have done
This all could have been handled efficiently and easily. All they needed was a write-up posted on a page, perhaps at plus.google.com/business. The write-up could have clearly explained that business pages are not allowed to be created as profiles and would result in deletion, but if you are interested in participating in Google+ as a business, please follow these instructions:
- Create a personal Google+ account with your real name and information.
- Fill out this form indicating your business name, physical address (if any), website URL, and your current position with the company.
- If your business is already verified on Google Places, please include the email address used to verify it. We will send an email linking that account to your Google+ profile email.
- If your business is not verified on Google Places or does not have a physical address, fill out this form [link] telling us about your business. There are verification options on that form.
- Sit back and enjoy Google+ as a user. Once we begin our roll out of Google+ for Business, we will send you further instructions.
As people are creating accounts, include a link to this page. If the link or button says, “Are you creating an account for a business?” those who are doing so will likely click on it. If they don’t click or somehow missed it, sending an email to all of those Gmail accounts titled “Google+ for Business” would be another way to get their attention. Either way, you would have much more understanding and would have been able to avoid many of the problems Google+ is having now.
Understanding the demand
One thing is clear. They knew they had something big. They just didn’t realize it was THIS big.
At launch they sent out a ton of invites. They had a number in mind based upon analysis about how many of the invites would actually activate. When I received my invite, I didn’t attempt to activate for a couple of days. The way was shut. I had missed my chance.
Invites normally do not break. It was clear that Google had dramatically underestimated the percentage of activations and had to slow down. Then, the internal debates started.
On one hand, you had some developers, project managers, and executives saying, “Whoa, horsey. Let’s take it slow.”
On the other hand, you had some different developers, project managers, and executives saying, “The buzz is peaking. Now’s the time. Carpe diem!”
Eventually, the latter group won out and the people started flooding the joint. Most were happy, Facebook’s demise was being predicted, and the blogosphere and Twitterverse were trumpeting the amazing sounds of joy in social networking. Google had finally created a social media product worthy of attention.
Then, the problems started showing up and the solutions (including the 2 above) were flawed and extremely poorly planned.
What they should have done
They should have prepared. It’s easy to write that now after it’s apparent that they weren’t prepared for it all, but Google has more experience with failing at social media than any other company. They’re experts at it. This should have been the rallying call for the team to make absolutely certain all of their bases were covered.
It’s that simple.
We would have rather waited an extra month (which would have meant thousands of man-hours of further development and preparation) rather than receiving a flawed product. The technology is strong. The solutions to the non-technical challenges are weak. They should have known. We should have known.
Life after the honeymoon
In the end, Google+ will still succeed. The challenges they face are speed bumps, not roadblocks. They can fix these issues relatively quickly while only losing a very small portion of their current and future users.
Still, the momentum had been so strong for the first 3 weeks that it’s a shame they are experiencing these speed bumps at all. They didn’t have to. The honeymoon could have continued for another month or two, which would have accelerated the rate at which they would be able to start dominating local, mobile, and social the way they dominate search.
To put their pace into perspective, we’ll look at a visualization of the speed in which they skyrocketed to 20 million. When will they get the next 20 million? 100 million? 750 million? It all depends on how they handle themselves over the next few weeks. If they continue to be obtuse about accounts and start damaging more people’s lives by deleting contacts, emails, and the like, they may never reach that last number, the number that Facebook has achieved already.
Here’s hoping they get smart again.