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Why I’ve not fallen in love with Google+ quite yet….

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
11 July 2011

Unless you’re an avid Twitter user, or one of the “early adopters” who either received a beta invite or have been invited by a friend, you may not have had the chance to try out Google+ yet. But you’d be forgiven for imagining to be “the next Facebook” if you’ve read any blog posts about it lately – but is it really going to be “the next big thing” as so many commentators would have you believe?

I won’t go in to too much of the cynicism – i.e. “they said that about Quora” / “Google are no good at social products” etc, as I’m sure you can find a lot of that elsewhere if it’s your thing. What I wanted to look at is what Google+ can offer that you can’t get elsewhere.

The reason I’m so keen to look at it with a slightly more rational view than some have is that I like to look at these things from the perspective of an average user – not from the “this is the next revolution in blah blah” viewpoint that a lot of social commentators offer up. The reality of any new social network is this:

You’ve got to be significantly BETTER than the current favourite in order to persuade people to move over. And that’s exactly what I think Google+ need to persuade people – to MOVE, not just to double-up (or triple, or more – depending on how far you spread your social butter) their data.

I’ve been using Facebook for almost 4 years now, so they have a LOT of my information stored there – and I don’t mean that in a negative way, it’s just a fact. I’ve got literally thousands of photos and videos uploaded, connections with over 600 friends, over 1,000 “Likes” and more. If I want to get the same experience out of Google+ as I do Facebook, it’ll take me a LOT of work – unless of course the two offer some sort of data-transfer option, which seems unlikely.

So for me (and I imagine most users) it’s got to be about what Google+ can do BETTER than Facebook, or it has to become significantly different in order to persuade me to replicate all that work.

Currently, I can’t see many differences at all. The big one people keep heralding is “Circles” – the ability to group your friends in to different, well, groups. As far as I can see (and I’ve been using the site for a week now) this is exactly the same as Facebook lists – albeit slightly prettier looking, and a little easier to use.

In terms of the people who are using Google+ at the moment, it’s just the same old faces – the broadcasters (people who post the same content – usually advertising their site of blog – to every network going), the trend-setters (the sort of people who want to say they were there at the start) and the social media set (including myself I suppose!). It’s the same people who I still get FriendFeed notifications from, and who I find on my friend list whenever I start using ANY social site or mobile app.

Other people I’ve talked to about it have cited it’s “newness”, and the lack of “my mum” on there. To think that this is a sustainable differentiator is niaive at best – when I first joined Facebook it was pretty-much just a few friends and cool people who I knew – if Google+ takes off like Facebook did (and you just KNOW Google want it to) then your mum will eventually join too. If this is the way you choose your social networks, you’re going to become the eqivalent of a traveling hobo, moving from site to site…

The other thing people have mentioned is the lack of adverts. This one almost made me cry with laughter – there may be no ads now, but if you know ANYTHING about Google at all, you KNOW it’ll be monetised faster than you can say “record mid-year profits”.

I don’t mean to sound quite this negative about Google+ – it’s probably just that I’ve been burnt by other much-lauded Google products, and am wary of spending too much time doing the same until this one proves itself…Anybody still using Google Buzz? Wave? How about non-Google “revolutions” like Quora? No? Didn’t think so…

I’d love Google to prove me wrong, but for now I think I’ll keep a safe distance from falling in love with Google+. That way, it won’t break my heart…

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