OK, Google+, Time for Your 90-Day Review

Oct 2011

GoogleJust over 90 days ago, Internet giant Google announced that it was finally getting into the social media business—again—with a new network called Google+.

Yes, Big G has been to this rodeo more than once before. Remember Google Wave, Google Buzz, and the most bizarrely named network ever, Orkut?

But this time, the clever Googlians (Googlites?) took a different approach: Gather up everything people hate about Facebook, rework those aspects, and build a network around them. And on June 28, 2011, Google+ was beta-launched on an invitation-only basis.

If you’ve missed on some of the buzz (pun intended) on Google+, check out my Scoop.it page, All Things Google+, where I’ve been curating articles, how-tos and op-eds over the last few months. What I want to do today is look at Google+’s performance over the last 90 days (standard evaluation period for any new team member, no?) and see if that gives us any hints about where the network might be headed.

Member Count Grade: A+

Just a few days ago, Google+ reached 50 million users, a milestone it took Facebook three years to attain. And, given Google’s stringent policy on using real names, we can be reasonably assured that a great majority of those users are actually real people.

Innovation Grade: A

Since its launch, the Google+ team has been quite diligent about providing regular updates, which have most recently included the ability to watch YouTube videos on Hangouts, the ability to share Circles, and some very nice privacy features. (Check out their What’s New in Google+ page for a complete rundown.)

Business-Friendliness Grade: C-

Since Day 1, Google’s been promising us business types a super-awesome presence on Google+ that would blow Facebook Pages right out of the water. At first they were taking requests to be included in a beta-launch, then that idea got scuttled and it appears they’re just going to launch the thing sometime this fall.

Whenever that launch comes, it’ll be interesting to see how many takers will step up. I have to wonder how many businesses out there just got tired of waiting for an opportunity that may or may not be the greatest thing since Nutella. Even today, when I mention Google+ among social-savvy business types, I sometimes get a blank stare followed by “Oh yeah, it’s been a while since I heard anything about it.” It really makes me wonder if the magic moment has passed for courting businesses. If it has, it’s a real shame.

User Activity: D-

You knew there was a punchline in here somewhere, right?

We haven’t (and likely won’t) see any official numbers that represent the level of actual activity (posts) on Google+. But there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence, like Omaha World-Herald columnist Rainbow Rowell describing her Google+ home page as“worse than a ghost town.” And then there are the observations that even Google senior management isn’t using the network as often as you’d expect.

“So, miss smarty pants, how often do you use Google+?” A very valid question, and the answer is, not much. I do use it to link to my blog posts (alongside Facebook, Twitter, Cinch, etc.), which makes for 3 updates a week, and it’s a great place to connect with fellow social-media geeks. But that’s about it. Sure, Google+ has many merits, but let’s be real: a social network is only as good as the people on it, and when it comes to the people I care about connecting with, that’s just not a big number.

So, where does Google+ go from here? Many have opined that it may as well be dead, but I think it’s too early to make the call. Keep in mind that (1) the network has just recently opened to the public and (2) there’s still the wild-card that is the elusive business profile—will more people engage when they start seeing their favorite brands there?

I say we give Google+ another 90 days and then see where we are.

OK, enough of my opining—what are your thoughts about the future of Google+? Will it settle in as a worthy Pepsi to Facebook’s Coke? Will it continue as a niche network for diehard social-media wonks? Or are you not so optimistic? Let us know in the comments—we’d love to hear from you!

Update: Speaking of Google’s execs’ activity (or lack thereof) on Google+, check out this article (with infographic) from Michael DeGusta over at The Understatement, just published today, and Mashable’s related op-ed piece.

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