You widely advertise your restaurant opening and you have a long line of hungry diners snaking around the block waiting to taste your fare. At the appointed time, you select one person from the the line to come in and eat, then an hour later you pick another one, and an hour later yet another. By the time you throw your doors open, everyone’s gone home. That sounds like a launch strategy that not even the worst restaurant consultant in the world would have suggested, but it’s surprisingly similar to how Google+ launched. When the service premiered, millions of people were thrown into a frenzy trying to weasel an invitation from the lucky few who were already in. By the time Google+ finally threw open the doors to all… nothing but crickets.
Google+’ Molasses Lethargy
With a molasses lethargy that certainly does not befit a corporation with a market cap of $170 billion, Google recently announced that its engineers are still busy “building an optimized business experience” for brands. Although much was touted about seamless connectivity to the other parts of Google that businesses rely on, we’re still essentially discussing nothing more than a web page template: one that many kitchen table programmers could have zapped out in one Jolt Cola-fueled overnight coding marathon. Having learned nothing from the crater caused by their piecemeal “elites by invitation only” public launch policy, Google+ is introducing business “Fan Pages” by… wait for it… inviting only a small group of companies first.
Too Early for the Epitaph?
Although Google+ claims more than 20 million users, it is questionable how much “use” there is in those users. Google CEO Larry Page has not posted a word on his account in over a month, and although there are many luminaries sharing their pearls of wisdom on the network, critical mass is still many millions of users away. With the Google+ adoption curve flatlining, many industry gurus are already writing the nascent social network’s epitaph.
While sad echoes of the Google Wave and Buzz failure were “buzzing” in the background, Facebook was running into a morass of its own. The new features the leading social network has just announced have been creeping out many of its users, with the introduction of Timeline, Ticker and Open Graph not only holding a permanent record of everything a user has ever done, but also showing your friends in real time exactly what you’re doing right now. Dismayed by this autobiographical approach to divulging every mouse click back to 0 A.F. (Anno Facebooki) while turning all your friends into cybervoyeurs, some social media pundits claim that over a million people jumped ship.
The Big Mo
Facebook is proving itself to be the ultimate Teflon social network; with its over 800 million users, losing a mil of them is somewhat akin to billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg dropping a quarter out of his pocket. But the fat lady hasn’t sung yet over at the Googleplex. You can never count out the 900 pound gorilla in any market, and Google can rely on its incomparable name recognition, which has been embedded into billions of people as the very face of the web. Social media participants on both sides of the chasm may be left to wish for the ultimate network, one that lacks Facebook’s “I saw what you did, I know who you are” stalker wishlist but integrates what Google+ is currently sadly lacking: sufficient users to create a self-sustaining momentum.
The future of social networking seems to be firmly in the hands of these two megacorporations, as the feasibility of some young brash upstart-startup seizing the high ground fades with each passing day (and failed IPO). Online marketers are waiting with bated breath for the launch of Google+’ business pages, as the potential still exists for the achievement of “killer app” status, but the bottom line in the social media sphere has always been the numbers game. The network with the most users wins, and, at least for now, the social marketing future is still emblazoned with a blue and white F icon.