Could Google Plus Create Its Own 'Facebook Effect?'

By Jackie Cohen Comment

Facebook can weather strong competition because of the network effect: the value of a product grows in proportion to the number of people using it.

What keeps people from leaving in favor of, say, Google Plus, is the 130 friends the average Facebook user has on the site, half of whom log on daily.

Facebook now tallies more than 800 million users, up from around 750 million when Google Plus launched at the beginning of July. That’s a growth of 50 million users, more than what the search giant amassed in the same time period.

Like Social Times’ Managing Editor Neil Vidyarthi aptly points out, Google Plus hopes to catch people who become disgruntled with Facebook, but the stakes are really high due to the network effect.

He suggests that Facebook would have to make a mistake of epic proportions, such as “a massive security breach or an accidental data loss.”

So far, nothing has reached the kind of magnitude required to tip the scales in favor of Google Plus.

For instance, this week Facebook users didn’t react to the privacy settlement with the Federal Trade Commission by leaving the site. People shared links to stories about the agreement, and some may have noticed comparisons to Google’s own wrangling with the FTC over the now defunct social media product buzz.

In the meantime, the Google Plus product managers can continue to fret over which features might improve the emerging social network — such as more games or document sharing — but none of it will make a difference without some kind of network effect in play.

Sowing a network effect on Google Plus invokes comparisons with the chicken-and-egg predicament. Good luck with that.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.