Google Plus (Google+): The Painful Realization

jgibbard
Jeff Gibbard President & Chief Strategist, True Voice Media LLC

Posted on July 1st 2011

 

Yesterday was an awesome day.  I played with Google+ all day.  I’ve had a blast on it experimenting with features and building my social graph from scratch.  Today however, was a different story; I had a moment of uncomfortable clarity.

The honeymoon high is over for me, not because Google Plus is any less awesome, but because of several other realizations.

Realization #1:  Google+ isn’t replacing Facebook

During yesterday’s exuberant geek-high I almost believed that this was the end of Facebook.  Not realistically, but somewhere in my mind, I felt that maybe, soon enough, we’d all look at Facebook as a distant memory of the MySpace successor.  Even if that weren’t the case I had pipe-dreams of ditching my personal Facebook profile and moving to the Googlesphere.  I dreamt of Mark Zuckerberg sitting with Dateline talking about how he “almost” ruled the world, but got too cocky.  I picture him crying saying “I wish we hadn’t been such assholes.”  Sadly, these are all fairy tales.

Facebook has 700 million users.  It’s not going anywhere.  That means that unless my 30-50 closest friends all migrate to Google+ then I’m stuck checking my Facebook.  And for my 30-50 closest friends to migrate, the majority of their closest friends and family would have to migrate, and so on, and so on.    It’s just not going to happen.  This leads me to my second realization.

Realization #2: I haven’t replaced an inbox, I’ve added one.

Google+ doesn’t mean that I no longer need to check Facebook, it means I now need to check Google+.  And you can believe me when I say I’m not giving up Twitter.  Hell no.  I love Twitter and I’ll stand on the deck of that ship until it sinks deep into the ocean of lost social media sites.  So now I have three, very active communities to pay attention to, and to nurture.  I’m already pressed for time with all of my social activity.  I’m approaching a breaking point of what I can participate in.

Realization #3: Every Google+ key feature is a Facebook “update” away

Facebook has proven time and time and time again that it will copy features and products from other companies.  You can bet your ass they will have something similar to “circles” and something similar to “hangout” in the next 6 months.  That’ll be just enough to keep 98% of people using Facebook.

Final Realization: Too big to fail

I’ve wanted for so long for my friends to adopt Twitter, but most don’t “get it.”  And instead, I’m stuck dealing with all of the crap that comes along with Facebook.  I struggle to stay objective as I work with clients on a Facebook strategy when I’m tired of Facebook and just want to ignore it.

Facebook is, unfortunately, too big to fail.

So now, I have Google+ and I really like it, but it’s just one more place to spend time and one more set of notifications to check.

The honeymoon is over for me.  Now I wait…

jgibbard

Jeff Gibbard

President & Chief Strategist, True Voice Media LLC

Jeff Gibbard is the President of True Voice Media. With keen insights on Social Business, Marketing, Relationship Building, Communications and Creative Problem Solving, Jeff has helped numerous business people see the value in embracing social tools and processes to drive business value.

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Comments

Any chance you can extend me an invite to Google+? I would love to try and juggle three social media sites! I'm also real intrigued to see if this one becomes more "professional" like Twitter compared to Facebook. From what you have played with so far, do you think this is probaly going to ring true?

@Trockr,

I wish I could but in all honesty I have a list of 75 people waiting for invites from me and Google+ hasn't given us any.  I have a feeling it will be open soon enough.  The buzz about it is great and they certainly have the capacity.  I know it sucks to wait for it but my guess is you'll love it once you've got it.

Well, they said MySpace was too big to fail, as well.  Look what happened.

Facebook has reached its peak.  Its already bleeding some users in the USA.  In another 5 years or so, it will probably still be around but nowhere near the level it is now.  People will be saying "Oh, you still have a Facebook?" in that polite but slightly patronizing tone they now use for MySpace.

Personally, I hate Facebook. I wish it would die.  Now.  But since it won't, I'll just have to keep tolerating it until someone invites me to Google +.

I've heard this comparision a number of times re: MySpace and Facebook.  Here's a HUGE difference: MySpace was bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Facebook is still owned by (primarily) the founders (minus the ones that got screwed).  MySpace's decline is as attributable to Facebook as it is the acquisition by News Corp.  Once it becamse corporately owned, it ceased being MySpace (Our Space) and instead became another corporately owned place where we didn't feel safe to play amongast ourselves.

Beyond that, your hatred of Facebook is blinding you to the obvious fact that as strongly as you hate it, there are more that LOVE it.  Personally, I hate Facebook too and that is what triggered my painful realization.  It's not going anywhere, anytime soon, so you might as well get used to it.  

This is what I do for a living and I struggle with my own personal bias against Facebook daily.  The truth is that in business, that doesn't matter, you advise your clients based upon what "is" not what you "wish is."  If that day comes where we say "Oh you're still on Facebook" I will grin ear-to-ear as you will, but the reality is that 750 million users aren't going to mass migrate overnight, keep checkingyour Facebook notifications.  

There's so much to like about Google+. I really, really hope you're wrong. I would *love* to dump Facebook entirely. Unfortunatly, I think you're bang on. I hold out hope that it will evolve and make it worth switching, but it's probably a long shot. I'm going to stick with it for a while, though, despite feeling kind of resentful of Realization #2.

Julie, I'll be honest: I hope I'm DEAD wrong.  I love G+ and I just don't like Facebook.  I don't trust them and when I lost my ability to trust them I never felt comfortable there.  

There's also something about Zuckerberg that I just can't stand.  He's arrogant, cocky and condescending.  I'm just hoping for all his dirty laundry to get aired out paparazzi style.  

But look at how long it took Facebook to catch on...YEARS. I had an account there at least a year prior to most of my friends so I never used it. People are going to use whatever their friends & family use, even if it's a terrible product.

I agree with you on most of the point. Facebook will copy features soon.

I'm with you Jeff. My friends are all over Facebook, so every day I have to bow down to the Facebook gods for a few minutes in order to see what my friends are up to. Just the other day one asked me what Twitter was all about. If you get the right people in your Twitter circle it can be a great tool!

Love the article!

Thanks Terry, glad you liked it.  

I love Twitter and find it to be my most valuable and well connected network.  It's by far my favorite, with G+ taking a close second.

I'm not sure what will ultimately happen, but I think you ignoring one major thing: Privacy.  Facebook has taken the stance that your data is fair game and will be sold to the highest bidder.

 

I know people are concerned about sharing photos and info about family in particular kids. 

Steven,

I'm not ignoring privacy, trust me, I've written plenty on the topic of Facebook and privacy. Personally, it's the biggest reason I can't stand Facebook.  They are shady and constantly push an opt-out model.  But that's not my point in this article and for a very specific reason: The vast MAJORITY of people on Facebook are uninformed average internet users.  They don't even know how their privacy is being violated and in most cases when they do know, they don't care.  Many of us care because this is our industry, we are responsible for thinking about these things.  

My painful realization isn't an opinion about the services merits or features but rather my perspective on the actual state of social media usage.  If Social Media was only full of tech geeks, Facebook might already be dead.  My painful realization was that I can't swap one for the other, instead I'm adding a new set of notifications to check on.    

I'm already spending much more time on G+ then on facebook and most of my friends are migrating to.....so I don't see the problem. G+ rules! 

Jeff - I couldn't agree with you more on each point.  Facebook isn't going anywhere, and Google+ is just one more site we need to incorporate into our daily routine...

I agree but hopefully Google+ is too big to fail as well.

Any opinion on LinkedIn? The potential to have different circles for friends and colleagues could be a worry for them. 

 

 

My guess is, Facebook is actually going to attempt to tear Google+ apart within the next 6 months. 

The truth is, there are going to be plenty of people who use it simply because it's "Not Facebook" not because it's better or worse.

It reminds me of when Facebook was rising up, and people were having the debate of Facebook vs Myspace...

Though, thinking about it the "too big" arguement was applied to Myspace back then too, but we saw where that went.

One thing is for sure though, no matter what happens, we the users are going to be in for an interesting ride ! 

I think you couldn't be more wrong. The privacy features in Google+ are not necessarily just an update away at Facebook. And the rest of your post is extremely reminiscent of the kinds of arguments people were making about (the) Facebook (remember when people called it that?) when MySpace ruled the social web. I've written about all this from a privacy perspective ( http://jasonmillar.ca/ethicstechnologyandsociety/2011/07/04/what-is-goog... ) and I really think you are 1) overestimating Facebook, and 2) underestimating Google and Facebook users.

Only time will tell ;-)

Jason,

I appreciate that you fervently disagree with me.  I'd like to push back if I might.  

1) Do you REALLY think that MAJORITY of the 750 million Facebook users are concerned with their privacy enough to leave the network "everyone" is using?  

2)  What's more important to the AVERAGE Facebook user: Privacy and selective sharing OR Farmville and having an existing network?

I read your post, and I don't disagree with the benefits you outline about G+ and for the record I LOVE G+ and generally despise Facebook and their shady ways.  But if we step back for a moment, out of our own shoes and think about this realistically, how soon do you think Google+ could take down Facebook?  MySpace never had the kind of numbers Facebook does.  The point of the article, the "painful realization" is that, in reality, it is unlikely that I will be abandoning Facebook in the near future.  This is what I do for a living and as much as I'd liek it to change, my clients have spent a ton of money getting into Facebook. 

I am not overestimating Facebook, they have too much money to protect and will fight with every dollar they have to replicate popular features and keep people on their site.  This is true whether we like it or not.  

Response?

What a great post. I'll never leave Twitter. I do minimal FB only for Empire Avenue. Deleted my real account ages ago. My blog is my home. I'm not particularly interested in Google+. No mas por favor.

 I think the problem was we were expecting (and we were told it was) a facebook killer, and after trying it, I now know it's not ever going to harm facebook.

 Just a quick statistic, I know about 90% of my frinends in facebook (and by know, I mean I actually meat them in real life, I also have some frineds internet gave me). that percentage goes down to like 10% of the people I follow or follows me on twitter. I know none of the people in my circles in G+ (not even the one that handled me the invitation).

 During the first 2 days of using G+, I was afraid of adding people, I thought of it just like facebook, were the user would get a message say "This little guy from Argentina wants to read what you have to say", and then Larry Page would directly trash the invitation. Then I realized it was not facebook, I can see what Zuck or Page have to say, and they won't really care, I've even see some people joining Hangouts, and I'm sure they didn't even know the host.

 It's a great tool, but it won't replace Twitter or facebook, and based on the recent changes on the google universe (specially the google bar on top of all pages) I think Google it's trying to make a social network of google it self, where you can rapidly share documents, videos, pictures, even maps, with your circles, and everything it's reachable using the links on the bar (which obviously, open in a new tab/window).

I hate to be a follower but I was reticent to join and even more reticent to care... I finally gave in yesterday and now in full agreement with you - I will not give up Twitter and I will remain on Facebook.... oh and Justin Timberlake may have brought sexy back... but I'm not going back to Myspace either.

Cheers!!

Jeff,

I have not yet had the privilege of playing around with Google+.  However, I want to say that your words above are exactly what I picture I would say if I had the opportunity!

While Facebook serves it's purpose, it is like.....the Walmart of social media:

 

* It's huge.

* Everyone's there.

* The customer service is crappy.

 

Surely this is not the first time you've heard that.  For many reasons, I try not to have to go into Walmart.  But...it's too big to fail -- exactly like your point regarding Facebook.

I've been trying to keep up with posts with information about Google+ - so that when I get my chance, I can hop right in.  Also to be prepared with details on how businesses will interact.

Clever post - thanks for the information.

~Keri

Cool post. I haven't experienced Google+ (yet) but it might be worth interjecting this point:

Google is a 'bread and butter' brand for the average internet user, and generally will not instigate any emotional response from its consumer base. Facebook, like Myspace, has created a brand in which an individual associates the platform with their personal networks. Google's functionality for the typical internet user is that of an anonymous entity directing them towards information. Facebook is now widely associated with interpersonal digital relations. I imagine that Google's foray into social networking will initially be received with a) indifference and b) (ironically) mistrust.

Essentially, I don't think the Google brand is "sexy" enough to compete with Facebook in the current social market.

My experience is the opposite. A great number of people I know feel a similar affinity as they do with a company like Apple, whereas FB is considered decidedly unsexy! Just look at sites like Failbooking. I just had this conversation with someone yesterday who was excited to get a G+ invite, because as he said, "I just love Google." Google also has instant name recognition from die hard techies to your grandparents, plus "googling" was part of our vocabulary long before "facebooking" so I think it stands a chance.

Good article ... who knows? Only time will tell ... but why isn't Google Plus trending on twitter LOL - do the search, and see the tweets? WOW.

PhillyDissent

I agree, I doubt on the issue of Google+ over taking Facebook. However heres what i see happening, that is Google+ becomes the more computer savvy type crowd. I don't see the baby boomers and older generations switching from facebook to Google+ after learning facebook over the past few years and now mastering it. Heres another thing however, I do love Google, and for the most part I respect Facebook, 750 million users is something one oughta tip their hats too. I opened my facebook ...excuse me...my thefacebook account in 2004, I had a friend at Harvard who sent me a special invite with a dub email with a Harvard edu. At this time - there were really no other schools attached to the network. Over the years I watched it grow, eventually I switched my dub to my real and experienced facebook as it went from college hub to a hub for family, friends, employees, etc to all connect. The problem is however what took me from myspace to thefacebook was its exclusiveness. Myspace's bubble bursted when the junior high kids and the 35+ crowd began to take it over, basically as the masses over took it. This is great and ideally the way social networks typically want to go however in the process of gaining the masses you alienate the ...excuse my description, the college kids, the hip, the cool, the ones that make such sites thrive. Facebook is in the same spot that Myspace was. I see the site growing but there is a growing dislike on campus regarding facebook. That is, it's no longer "thefacebook" a college hub, without parents, employers, aunts, uncles and little ones. Twitter is seen as the new median but not as a permanent one, that is, most students I know have 2 twitters, one connected with their facebook act that is ok for others to see, another is closed and not really met for parents and relatives to see. Google+ promises an answer to this problem with circles - but fails to understand one of it's distastes. That is Google is attempting to get into everything - "Google music" vs "Itunes cloud music", "Amazon", "Audiogalaxy" etc. Picasa is being ended but at the same time - that was an attempt to compete with Flickr and Photobucket. Google Voice, Gmail are great services but the appeal regarding to facebook is - they are not publicly traded, they are not attempting to get into everything (besides facebook mail - oh no!) So what is occuring with people I know on my campus is well, the hope diaspora will be launched soon, or ideally a network that is similar to thefacebook where you only can register with an edu address, ...collegeonly(.com) is like this, however the site is too much lime Myspace and has a horrible visual appearance. 

 

So will Google+ survive? It might in a niche form but it's not going to take out facebook, and I hope not since it's good to have the two competing, it wont gain the populist as the populist is older and not about to switch to a new network. Diaspora will add a unique touch to this competitive field. In a related topic - I've jumped ship on search engines and main emails, that is I am now using DuckDuckGo and GMX. Boy I can not wait for diaspora. 

Well I disagree with almost everything in this article. G+ will catch on and it will hurt Facebook and Twitter. Will it take both down? I don't think so but it is certainly going to hurt them.

How many of your friends have Gmail? They will see what is happening right in the menu bar and end up on Google+ and forget about Facebook.

Time will tell I guess. 

 

Vinny,

I'm glad you took the time to comment and I appreciate that you disagree.  One thing for clarification though.

I don't believe I said anywhere in the post that Google+ wouldn't catch on.  

I absolutely LOVE Google+. The point of this post was not to say that G+ has no future, but rather it is unlikely that it will REPLACE Facebook, especially in the near future.  Will it hurt Facebook?  Probably, but it's also going to push them to create more features and fight tooth and nail to keep their users.  It's probably going to hurt Twitter more than Facebook.

My painful realization is mostly that because of my business I am unable to replace one for the other and instead I'm forced to add a channel.

In response to your question about friends with Gmail, I would respond with my own question.  How many of your friends, family, acquaintances and others still use AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo, in spite of the obvious superiority of Gmail as an email platform?

As much as our personal preferences may want G+ to overtake Facebook and Gmail to be the dominant email provider it's important to recognize that the vast majority of people just "don't know any better."

Lol, I have been telling my wife gmail is better for YEARS and she still won't leave Yahoo. So that comment made me laugh pretty good. I thank you sir.

People said MySpace would never die, because it had hundreds of millions of users...

And Facebook CANNOT replicate Google+ with an update, becuase the inherent structure of their relationship data is different.

I honestly believe that the mass migration could happen, I just think it's unlikely.  If you look at the demographics of Facebook and who it appeals to, many of them aren't ready to jump ship for the new, hot thing in social.  Over time it could happen, but I think for right now Facebook still enjoys a very active and satisfied userbase.  Facebook has far surpassed any success MySpace once had and has offered many more iterations and features and I think it's obvious that theywon't go down without a fight.

What I want to know about google+ is if the people I put into a circle get a messege.  FB likes to think it's "group" feature is just like "circles", allowing you to seperate work from personal for example.  But on FB everybody I put into a group gets a messege that I added them to a group.  I don't like that because now my mother will want to know why I filtered her.  Is she not good enough to be around my other friends?  Am I embarrassed of my own mother, who spent 33 hours in labor with me and stayed up all night whenever I was sick??  So thats what I want to know about Google+.  Can I filter people into different circles without them knowing it?

On G+ people are notified that they've been put into A circle, but they don't know the name of the circle.  Your mother is safe from knowing how often you really want to share with her.  This graph should help: https://skitch.com/jgibbard/fe4im/circles

There's an easier (and confidential) way to do what you're doing with Facebook. Click on Account, then Edit Friends, and create a list. When in chat you can close certain lists, giving you the ability to show you're offline to some and online to the others. When you're posting, you can click custom edit, and choose "hide this from" and enter the lists. That way only certain people see certain posts.

Or you can go into privacy, and edit your settings so that certain people cannot see certain aspects of your activity or content. Google+ is obviously easier, but at least these methods allow you to customize facebook without offending anyone, including your mom who went through 33 hours of labour with you.

I have had google + for less than 8 hours. It seems rather simplistic, but I haven't examined the nooks and crannies, if there are any. It will be tough checking a third SM network, but perhaps there will be a new API that integrates the new network with what MS has and tweetdeck uses. I opine it is going to take some time for all to add their demographics to google +  or google may develop an import API from FB if that is legal. I am sure FB Google wars have only begun. Me, I am going to continue to use twitter and facebook and also use google +. My circles look pretty limp and lonely, so everyone please circle me...

I am in the social medi business, I have to say google+ is for sure worth to look at. I haven't fully experimented with yet but from what I have seen so far this is far from replacing Facebook and it will prob end up being just another sm site to check..I don't see many value added to google + that wil Make it over rule facebook or twitter. The truth is Facebook has bcome part of our Everyday life, personal and business and I wouldn't be surprised if they come up with new features that over rule the ones from google. Not to forget what really boosted up Facebook was their focused strategy on businesses not only individuals or else Facebook would have been a lost story b now...

Interesting that you should say that, I don't think Facebook's success is a result of their business focus.  In fact, I think that could ultimately be their weakness.  MySpace fell once people perceived it as changing from "my" space to "their" space.  Once the News Corp merger occured, MySpace ceased to be a place for friends, and instead became just another place for companies to serve ads.

Facebook has been successful by integrating social gaming and by extending Facebook out into the world with FB connect, like buttons, like boxes, etc.  

I think that if you don't see value added from Google+ then you aren't looking quite hard enough.  G+ has taken many of the best features of Facebook and Twitter and merged them into a network.  Facebook owns the social graph, and Twitter the interest graph, G+ does them both, and quite well.  Hangouts is exciting, Huddle on the mobile version is neat and a better implementation of a cross platform messaging system than FB messages.  

Nice article but your statement here kind of puzzles me.

Final Realization: Too big to fail

Nobody is to big to fail. If that were the case the U.S and the world

monetary system would not be in the mess it is in.

Tell "to big to fail" to all the countries and corporations that have fallen apart

over the last 20 years, let alone over the last 200 years.

Tell that to myspace.:)

I use facebook on a daily basis and it works very well, except some areas

that are not user friendly still.

I recently made a Google+ account and as usual google sometimes is more

user friendly than facebook, or maybe I should say easier to use.

I dare say folks many years ago said the same thing when Google released

gmail or their Chrome browser and today the market share they have is quite

large.

Curtis

750 million people do not migrate immediately.  I stand by my statement, at this point in time, Facebook is too big to fail.

Many people take issue with that by bringing up MySpace.  MySpace never got this big, not even close.  MySpace had no such thing as "MySpace connect."  MySpace never had an entire application eco-system. Businesses never really adopted MySpace.  To compare Facebook now to MySpace then is to fundamentally misuderstand the current social media landscape and how far it has developed.  It took years for MySpace to finally die off entirely.     

In the context of this article "My Painful Realization," saying that Facebook is "too big to fail" means that in the forseeable future, Google+ is not going to replace Facebook, it is simply added to our channels.  Think about your own network and tell me that your mother and less tech savvy friends are jumping ship from Facebook where "all of my friends are" to go to a new network populated, currently, by techies, geeks and early adopter.    

I know that the concept of "too big to fail" is political-charged given our subprime mortgage meltdown. In this particular case, I'm willing to stake my reputation on the theory that Facebook is too big to fail and here to stay, at least for the near future.

I personally love G+ and think it is 100 times better than Facebook, but that doesn't mean that the average user cares enough to leave Facebook.