Letting The Air Out Of The Google+ Balloon


Critics say Google+ will one day be a ghost town. Clint Boulton thinks this is too harsh a judgement and too early

You have to have guts or a crystal ball to proclaim the death of a multi-million-dollar software project undertaken by one of the world’s premier Internet companies.

Give credit where credit is due to Farhad Manhoo, who does just that in his column in Slate.

Full of hot air

Never bullish on Google+ from the get-go, Manhoo blasts the balloon of hot air that Google+ has been riding since its limited field test launch June 28, following onto its glorious public beta launch, ascension to 40 million users through mid-October, all on the strength of strong marketing and over 120 new features in less than five months.

I dare say Google has done more in five months with Google+ feature-wise than Facebook has ever done in its seven years.

No matter, as Manhoo wrote:

Although Google seems determined to keep adding new features, I suspect there’s little it can do to prevent Google+ from becoming a ghost town. Google might not know it yet, but from the outside, it’s clear that G+ has started to die – it will hang on for a year, maybe two, but at some point Google will have to put it out of its misery.

Manhoo goes on to argue that Google’s failure to accommodate brand pages out of the chute – it just added them on 7 November – engendered a bad first impression and ill will with users. “And in the social-networking business, a bad first impression spells death,” Manhoo wrote.

I disagree. One could argue that ANY product or service that doesn’t get it right can create a bad first impression. And there are plenty of products that aren’t solid at launch that get better over time. Most of Google’s products, in fact.

And if you want to extend Manhoo’s metaphor to real life, people make bad first impressions all the time. Those failings won’t get you jobs, but it doesn’t mean you have to jump off a cliff or close up shop. This isn’t zero sum in the social sphere.

But let’s get down to practical cases. Sure, Google pissed off Mashable, Search Engine Land, Ford and several others by shutting down their brand pages. But some of those, including Search Engine Land and Mashable, have bounced right back to get Google+ Pages. No harm, no foul.

That’s a pretty slick looking brand page, and I’d bet a lot of money thousands of companies will follow suit, just as they did for Facebook and Twitter.

Brand pages aren’t all. Global Equities analyst Trip Chowdry thinks that Google+ Pages, Google+ Hangouts video chats, and the easy on-ramp to Google+ through Google.com will boost Google+ membership to 60 million users this quarter, if it hasn’t happened already.

So excuse me if I’m a little sceptical of the anti-Google+ scepticism. Google has pinned its future on Google+ as its brand, according to long-time Google Watcher John Battelle. It’s not going to let it die without a fight.

Indeed, as a Google spokesperson told me last night:

With just a little over four months since we launched Google+, we’re thrilled by the response and usage so far. It’s still early days but our goal is to transform the overall Google experience,making it beautifully simple because we understand what you want and can deliver it instantly. This means baking identity and sharing into all of our products so that we build a real relationship with our users.

Eventually, you won’t just be socializing on Google+, sharing info. You will be buying Google Offers and God knows what all else. Google+ will be a huge autonomous search, social and e-commerce hub.

It’s just getting started.

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