Onetime Apple chief evangelist Guy Kawasaki has found another product to believe in—an underdog of a social network called Google+, for which his latest book, What The Plus, acts as a primer. Fast Company talked with the author and venture capitalist about why Twitter is like MS-DOS, how to establish a social media following, and the right kind of company to start.
FAST COMPANY: You’ve described Google+ as your second religious experience?
GUY KAWASAKI: In technology anyway, yes.
So what about Google+ gave you a feeling of divine revelation?
To put it in context, which is a year and a few months ago, if you were focused on Twitter, at 140 characters, text based, if you wanted to post a picture, it was an embedded link in your tweet. So that was kind of like using MS-DOS or Apple II your whole life and then one day you get to use Google+, and all of a sudden the pictures are inline and it’s beautiful, that’s why I said what I said.
And you were speaking at photographer’s conference...
And I’ve said that in many places, not just for photographers.
Is that because you would say the web is an image-based medium?
Well, it wasn’t. I think it became a lot more (of one) because of Google+. Going forward, it truly is.
You have to pardon my resistance, but Google+ is kind of considered this also-ran among the social networks, a distant fourth behind Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. How is that you see it coming around in a way that Macintosh did when it was written off?
From 1985 until maybe 2005, Macintosh was considered an also-ran. I’m not saying that Google+ will achieve worldwide domination because I compare it directly to Macintosh. That comparison is not meant as purely positive; it’s negative, too. I thought that Macintosh was better, less popular, and most experts said that it would die.
I think the same thing is true of Google+. It’s less popular, better, and most experts say it will die.
So what’s the plot that’s going to be revealed that shows Google+ prevailing?
Essentially, its product superiority will come out. Or not that it will come out—it’s already there and people will realize it. But also, Google+ is more and more integrated into Google’s search.
Right now people are judging it against Facebook because there’s a billion people on Facebook, all my friends and family and my high school classmates are there. But once you look past that, you say "wow, there’s a lot of impact"; if I’m active on Google+ it helps me on search, it helps my business. So it’s not about finding out that your ex-girlfriend from high school is now pregnant, it’s more about going forward with your passions and your interests and your business. I think it will just catch on.
So how does it help out with search?
Google has this concept of social search. When you are signed into Google+ and you search for a topic, let’s say SXSW. In the old days SXSW would bring you the traditional results, but now you see the results of the people that you have circled and the people you are affiliated with, and their pictures from SXSW—arguably a very useful thing.
Why is that so useful?
Back in the old days, searching for SXSW, you would just see what the "experts" would have shown. But now you get to see that this person that I follow on Google+ named Guy Kawasaki, these are his personal pictures from SXSW, and those pictures could be more interesting than the pictures that the Associated Press and the wire services have put out.
You also spoke of product superiority, in what ways is Google+ superior?
Well, compared to other social media, I think the inclusion of pictures is better, I think that the overall cleanliness and white space of the design is more aesthetically pleasing. With Facebook, until very recently, you could not edit a comment once you posted it, and I think with Facebook to this day, if you post a story, you cannot edit the story post-post. Whereas with Google+ you can edit a story or a post, post-post. Which is very useful. I edit almost every story. And obviously, with Twitter, you blast it out there and it's gone. There’s no changing a tweet. So these are some significant advantages.
To zoom out a little, you have healthy followings on Twitter and Facebook. For an entrepreneur or a leader, what’s the best way to approach building a brand—either a company or personally—through social media?
Regardless of the service, I would say the best way to use social media to build a brand or a business is to become a sector expert. Let’s take the hypothetical case of a restaurant. The goal here would be to become recognized as an expert in food, so you would post stories that have to do with food, as opposed to your restaurant. So what you’re trying to do is gain credibility so that someday when you do promote your restaurant, these are people that have been following you because of all your food posts anyway. So I think it’s much more credible for a restaurant owner to post about his restaurant once his followers have given him the benefit of the doubt and have faith in him that he’s posting good stuff about food in general.
Let’s go from there and circle back into your career. The relationships between the brand and the product and the customer seem to integrate with your long streak of evangelism.
Yes, yes, I am consistent.
So why has evangelism remained a core part of your life?
Probably that I fall in love with stuff and I want to spread the good news. In this case, I fell in love with Google+ and I wanted to tell more people about Google+. With Macintosh, definitely I fell in love with Macintosh and I wanted to tell more people about Macintosh.
To close, if you were starting out as an entrepreneur, which field would you begin in?
Let me give you a complex answer. You should go into the field that you really know or really love, so every entrepreneur would be different. If you really love chips, I would not suggest that you start a Facebook killer. On the other hand, if you really love Facebook, I would not suggest that you start a chip company. It depends on your expertise and your interest.
I think that the richest vein for successful tech companies is when two guys or two gals in a garage create a product that they want to use. That’s certainly the case with Apple. It’s not like Steve Jobs and Woz read an article in Businessweek that predicted the future of personal computers and they said, "Well, let’s go build a personal computer." They wanted to build a computer that they would use. I think that’s the genesis of most great tech companies.
[Image: Flickr user Stefano Corso]