-The stats on Google Plus indicate how it’s important to pay attention to what metric you’re paying attention.
-A wickedly exciting tool with wickedly exciting features – brought you by the guy who brought you the original Mac interface.
-There’s no social like big social – does Google have the juice to attract an entrenched audience?
It’s been an interesting few weeks in the social networking world, what with this little upstart called Google Plus rattling everyone’s cages. So far, a few ringing pronouncements have been made. Paul Allen of Ancestry.com (no, no, not that Paul Allen) estimated 11.5 million users in just over a week. He figured this out by comparing user surnames on Google Plus against his own database and compared percentages. Well – I assume it was more than just that, but either way the methodology is silly. But it did get his name (and his site’s name) all over the news. There have been a few other approaches as well. Some have used comparative metrics between Gmail and Google Plus, estimates based on Web queries, and one brave study estimated that the large majority of Google Plus users were men.
Here’s what we know for true and certain: Google Plus has over 10 million users. Larry Page confirmed this on the July 14, 2011 earnings call. In what has been touted by Google as a “very limited beta”, that’s a pretty impressive number – considering that the invitations started bouncing around a scant few weeks ago.
Why has it grown so quickly? Let’s be honest – if you’re reading this blog, you probably know me, and know that I like to get my hands on all sorts of tech goodness the minute I can. Or – you are just like me and like to get your hands on all sorts of tech goodness the minute you can. 10 million plus technorati doesn’t sound like that many, especially when you factor in a generation that’s been trained to seek out the newest (importantly – coolest) stuff first. Consider that the iPad sold 300,000 units on day one – a “meh” number for an Apple launch, and one that required you smack down $500 +. Based on my visibility about who has joined Google Plus, the users fall into one or both of these two groups.
The feedback I’ve seen: Google Plus is cool. Google Plus is easier to manage than Facebook. Google Plus is a contender. The common theme is that the usability is there – thanks in no small part to lead designer Andy Hertzfield, one of the designers of the original Mac interface. But, I think the early buzz is a bit skewed toward the appreciators of technological subtlety. For Google to make this work, they’re going to need more than just me, my friends, and people like me and my friends. They’re going to need the people I went to high school with. They’re going to need my parents and siblings (who are all somewhat older than me and are just catching on to DVRs). They’re going to need to have an entrenched audience dig out of Facebook and, ostensibly, dedicate themselves to managing multiple sets of social networks, etc. when managing multiple email accounts is a pain. All this, when the reason they signed up to Facebook was to check out pictures of the grandkids or nostalgically see if their girlfriend from high school was still hot.
The question is, “Will it play in Peoria?” Can Google present something so compelling to get the (very) large majority of non-tech head Facebook users to migrate or – at the very least – manage two accounts? It’s a daunting prospect, where best case scenario we end up with a multi-tiered social networking structure where a small minority socialize on multiple sites, and the vast majority utilize but one (see Orkut vs. Facebook in Brazil). Worst case, well, remember that one month we all had to manage Facebook and MySpace before MySpace fell off a ledge? Google is going to have to work very hard to recruit the audience it needs to obtain critical mass and lure the small businesses that are its best growth prospects to muddle their social efforts.