Plus-One This: Proof That Google Plus Will Prevail

Google Plus has been written off as a universal flop—but a deeper look proves that we will all eventually succumb to its siren song.

Remember when Google Plus “flopped"? Well, it didn’t. In fact, it was, and still is, just part of Google’s plan—but everyone (including the media) has trouble seeing it as anything other than a swing and a miss for the explosive overtaking of Facebook, which is what most people believe was Google’s intention with Google Plus. Sure, I bet Google hoped in the back of its mind it would get lucky and eclipse Facebook, but Google certainly wasn’t counting on it.

99% of the people in Silicon Valley I’ve talked to about this, including some very, very bright folks with quite a bit of money and clout, will tell you that Google Plus flopped. They have, in their own minds, written it off entirely. The remaining 1%, while willing to consider that it didn’t flop, are still so tepid that they refuse to stake any credibility on saying it will be successful (which I would measure as having the same level/range of active users as the other big social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). Articles written by that 1%, like this one, are all chock-full of “mights” and “maybes.”

But I'm willing to stake my reputation on the following statement: If Google Plus doesn’t have a staggering number of active users by the end of 2013, you can all come over to my office and pie me in the face.

Google knows when they have failed (Buzz, Wave, etc). It shoots those products in the head like zombies, and they move on.

So then why didn’t Google shut down Google Plus if it was purportedly such a colossal flop? Why is the team working on it the size of the contracting team building the Death Star? And why is Google integrating its other products with Google Plus at a freakish, breakneck pace? Is Google just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? No—because it wasn’t not a flop at all, and its adoption rate was what Google expected.

Google Plus never was, and will never be, only about competing directly with Facebook.

From its launch through today, everyone viewed Google Plus as "Google’s version of Facebook," because that’s the only sticky, simple headline that we can wrap our brain around. Most people believe it’s just another social networking service where all of our friends are supposed to join and share photos, status updates, and messages with each other. But it’s really not that at all.

Sure, there’s a social networking aspect to it, but Google Plus is really Google’s version of Google. It’s the groundwork for a level of search quality difficult to fathom based on what we know today. It’s also the Borg-like hive-queen that connects all the other Google products like YouTube, Google Maps, Images, Offers, Books, and more. And Google is starting to roll these products all up into a big ball of awesome user experience by way of Google Plus, and that snowball is starting to pick up speed and mass.

We all glommed onto the concept of “Google’s version of Facebook,” and focused only on comparing the similarities and differences between the two (such as number of users it had, whether “Circles” are “good,” and how “hangouts” are weird). But in reality, none of that matters. I happen to think Circles are a slightly smarter way to organize your personal connections, but it’s a “feature” that Facebook could copy with their eyes closed in a single hackathon. It is not the kind of thing that decides success or failure.

What makes Google Plus different is that it is the new backbone of a company that does search better than anyone already—something Facebook could never compete with. You use Google to search, right? Well, imagine if Google knew every piece of data about you that Facebook knew. Imagine how better equipped they would be to serve you what you are looking for. Google Plus is a way of entrenching Google’s dominance in that area, not a way of stealing Facebook users. If you are in first place, that’s the time to accelerate your lead.

Google Plus’s brilliant method of gaining new users is playing out right in front of our eyes, but no one recognizes it.

When talking to smart people (some of them technology-based venture capitalists) about Google’s method of getting new users, the same thing happens every time: First they chortle. Then, after delivering a two-minute explanation, they hem and haw for a bit… and for a fleeting moment you can feel the struggle of trying to reconcile some rock-solid logic coming from an entrepreneur whom they know is not an idiot, and their own very concrete impression of Google Plus as a widely known failure. It’s like an immovable force is meeting an unstoppable object inside the brain. The easier answer and the incumbent usually wins in this situation. Here’s that two-minute explanation for the rest of you:

Google Plus’s user acquisition strategy is to methodically absorb certain verticals using the carrot instead of the stick.

Yes, of course Google could force most of us to use Google Plus begrudgingly tomorrow if it wanted to, but that’s playing with big, big, brand fire. And that’s not really who Google is at its core anyway. It has shown the will to resist sexy, positive impacts to the bottom line in order to hold onto who it is as a company and this is a good example of that. So how does Google do this?

Step one: Corral every single blogger. Have you used Google lately and noticed faces appearing next to certain posts? That’s called Google Authorship—bloggers can link their Google Plus profile to the content they create. Guess how many online writers see that and say “Eh, I don’t need to have that.” If you said “zero” you win a prize. All you need is a Google Plus account with a headshot to glue this up to all your posts, and it adds tremendous value to bloggers who can now claim their posts instead of having Google show a “stolen” version ahead of their own. Not only a tremendous value to the person searching (who is finding the person who truly generated the content) but also the content generator who no longer has to worry about this infuriating issue. In short—huge value and a 100% adoption rate of a specific vertical.

Step two: Attract every single small business and at least one of their employees. Want your business to appear on Google Maps, Google Local, et al., so that you can tell your prospective customers where you are, what you sell, and when you are open? Yup, you guessed it—you need a Google Plus Local Business page now. But again, Google isn’t forcing your hand, it’s adding value. Reviews, hours, pics, videos, local search—all housed in one place. And this account must be managed by a real person with a real Google Plus personal account. Now you have all small businesses as well as a new person in each business using Google Plus. See where I’m going with this?

Step three: Convince you, because all of those other things that you already love get better. Maybe you’re addicted to that new augmented reality game Ingress. Maybe your Google Plus profile makes it way easier to win. Or maybe you want better music, movie, or book recommendations—look no further than Google Plus. Want to find a community of skiers or chefs or race car drivers with a flick of the wrist? Or perhaps that hilarious video about that thing that you once emailed to a friend but can’t quite remember enough about it to find again? When you have Google Plus, those communities and that video just appear when you search for your best guess.

The point is, once Google Plus has every blogger, every small business, lots of gamers, lots of YouTubers, etc., actively using the product, they will continue to use all that new data to make even more of their products more awesome.

I know. You are still in the “no freaking way am I joining another social network” mode. But one day soon you will wake up and find out about that one little thing and it goes something like this:

Your buddy, “Hey have you heard about this one little thing?”
You: “Oh. My. God. That’s Awesome. That’s so Awesome. How do I get that?”
Your buddy: “Oh, you need to have a Google Plus Profile or it doesn’t work.”

I’ll see you around—on Google Plus.

Dave Llorens is a two-time entrepreneur currently running One Block Off the Grid. If you are interested in starting a business, circle him on Google+ or join his business community, The MBA of Hard Knocks.

[Image: Flickr user Laura Thorne]

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254 Comments

  • Couldn't agree more than Google is using gentle (not really) persuasion to push us all into using Google+. What is sad is they caused so many problems like every YouTube channel needed a unique gmail account, but now they don't give us tools to clean up the mess.

    I'm also frustrated that my posts are getting to page 1 more frequently, but the click is going to Google+ posts and not the original articles on my blog ... so someday I'll get this sorted out.

  • Jamie Anderson

    I really like Google Plus. I have joined some great communities where I've met wonderful people and accomplished a lot. However, Google Plus has a MAJOR SECURITY FLAW. It allows people to add you to their circles and there is nothing you can do about it. I was added by a pervert who started "sharing with me" (meaning photos). To this day I am "in his circle" (I will always show up on his pornography-laced page). My requests for Google to go in and remove me from his circle have fallen on deaf ears. It's creepy, a bit scary actually, and Google couldn't care less. If they intend to retain their customers, they might want to consider taking their security more seriously.

  • Jamie Anderson

    I really like Google Plus. I have joined some great communities where I've met wonderful people and accomplished a lot. However, Google Plus has a MAJOR SECURITY FLAW. It allows people to add you to their circles and there is nothing you can do about it. I was added by a pervert who started "sharing with me" (meaning photos). To this day I am "in his circle" (I will always show up on his pornography-laced page). My requests for Google to go in and remove me from his circle have fallen on deaf ears. It's creepy, a bit scary actually, and Google couldn't care less. If they intend to retain their customers, they might really want to consider taking their security more seriously.

  • Jeff Pinkston

    I don't think anything Google has done should be written off as a flop. Both Buzz and Wave, while not viable standalone applications, unveiled functionalities that are almost now ubiquitous in other Google applications and products. The initial releases in their standalone form can be equated to other products like Chrome Cast, which is pretty much an awesome product that allows Google to test video streaming usage as well as hardware and applications to be used in the future with Google Fiber. I don't think Buzz, Wave, or even Chrome Cast were released with the intent to always be offered as standalone products, but more as a way to put new technologies in the hands of consumers to see how they end up using them.

  • Romulo Pulcinelli Benedetti

    Well, you can be pissed off... or you can make a favor to yourself and try it...

    Google plus was really cool to me, I have art as a hobby. I have some posts with more then 2000 view and 50 to 100 plus in some of them, I get some relevant and easy dissemination, something Facebook, bloated with memes and self help and personal crisis post can't do to me...

    Its like G+ give a different value to content... I cant call G+ a fail if I'm inserted in a art community with more then 23 000 users, made by users, when what you get in Facebook are queen islands, more like magazines, where you sit and look.

    G+ is vivid, interactive, and stimulating to what I call "enthusiastic breeders", and my theory is that a lot of people don't like it because they aren't "enthusiastic breeders", they need known persons to feel happy and connected, and they didn't talk to world and about knowledge passions, more about themselves.

    I didn't know if it is good for Google, but I loved.

  • Feels like facts, fiction and success are getting blended being better does guarantee success: Beta was better than VHS, Mac was better than Windows, Canada is better than America and New Zealand has a better accent than Australian. All facts but not indicative of success or perception, people work on emotion. It is like saying if we had women presidents there would be less military and more stability, probably true but right now the data shows us that they currently they lead dysfunctional: Argentina, Bangladesh, The CAR, Liberia, Malawi, Thailand and Pakistan didnt go too well under Bhutto or India under Indira Gandi, The Philippines the same, popular logic and facts are not married. Google+ is better at search and profile acquisition than Facebook so, people seem to like Facebook and not so much Google+..... nokia and blackberry are better made than most Andriod products and have a better history of success.........

  • Dave Llorens

    I feel like the acquisition strategy is playing out like I thought it would. The may be twisting an arm here and there that I didn't account for but I would say I'm right that A. it's not about being a competitor to FB, B. their acquisition strategy is smart and works and C. they claim to have a billion active users now which I would go so far as to call staggering indeed (being I think it in practice they are playing loose with the word 'active').

    Which all sucks cause like, this really was all just a clever ruse to get pie, which I love.

    -D

  • When your billion of user is on a social network because it's being force to register in order to use other services…should I really continue? :)

  • There are an awful lot of very occasional social network users accounts, most almost dormant. Doesn't the rapid growth of Whatsapp suggest that complex offerings that are like Google+ aren't what the majoority want? In any event given Google's track record of starting up and shutting down services - Google Reader comes to mind - why would anyone put faith in Google+? Just sayin'

  • Dave Llorens

    I think in general - maybe, but it's not about that. It's about that Google Plus will tie things together in a way where sooner or later, there's a thing you're gonna want that they do better than anyone else because of that fact - and THAT's when YOU will begin to begrudgingly start using it.

  • Why would he get a pie...they got all those active Youtube comments/accounts. People keep trying to compare Google+ to Facebook. It's more like a social back end to every service they could offer. In a lot of ways it does what Wave was going to do.