The mandate here at Social Times is to predict emerging social networks (i.e. not Twitter and Facebook), and I’ve been watching Google Plus very closely since it launched. Many saw it as the third major ‘social’ product, after Google Wave and Google Buzz, which both were ill-fated and poorly executed from the start. However, Google Plus was in fact the first major, concerted social product released after CEO Larry Page tied every single employee’s bonuses to the success of social. This is why I think the network is here to stay, and that’s why I believe that the people who call it a failure already may be speaking prematurely — but what can they do to steal users from Facebook?
Surely, Google Plus had a fantastic launch… and then quickly sputtered out of juice. I won’t go into detail about the many powerful features of G+, like Circles, Hangouts (a personal favorite) or the integration with YouTube and other Google services, because what I want to emphasize is that Google is pulling out all the stops to try to get you to switch over. They’re integrating new services almost every week, and simplifying their user interface across all their services in a very positive way. My theory is that with a company like Google, it’s only a matter of time before they hit some killer feature that has users — many of whom already have accounts — flocking back to the service in just a few clicks to try out.
I’m sure they know it won’t happen overnight, but one thing Google is doing well is they’re setting up the best alternative to Facebook on the web, and I bet they’re hoping they can catch some of Facebook’s users when Facebook makes that dreaded mistake. I really think that one of the main reasons Facebook is impossible to leave is because we already have a ton invested there. I have years of photos, comments, shares and wall-to-wall relationships already built up in their site. So the kind of mistake Facebook will have to make would be massive for me to leave. It could be a massive security breach or an accidental data loss. I’m not sure, but I do know that when that happens, Google Plus will turn up the volume on their already aggressive television campaign.
As for the killer feature, I’m not sure what it will be, but I can speculate a little. Google have access to some of the best free document services available on the web, so Google Plus may be a fantastic way, eventually, for people to plan trips together on spreadsheets, or review a financial document together. Their games service is in its infancy, but we may see some cool games that leverage the real-time video elements of Hangouts around the corner: imagine charades in real time in just one click. Obviously, if I knew what it was I’d make it myself! What do you all think? What feature can they make that’ll make you switch over?