I started as one of the first Beta users of Google+ with great skepticism. The main reason for it was because of a) Google is not known to be a social business, b) Google is not known for having a great product marketing and c) the company is so focused on its advertising business that it maybe too difficult to create a sustainable social network arm within the company.
On July 8, I wrote my first review and in the following weeks I was surprised to see a well designed and well thought out concept of circles, a smart launch marketing initiative and a growing number of friends either joining it or asking for an invitation.
Now – 4 month later – the hype settled down and the social media reality ts catching up with Google+
The traffic analysis from Chitika may not represent the actual usage of the site but is a great reference and matches my own experience. The engagement on G+ is slowing down significantly and conversations go back to Twitter or Facebook – where they came from.
The biggest advantages with Google+
In my opinion, "Circles" was the most innovative concept in G+. As our networks grow enormously we need better tools to segment our networks. Circles was a great starting point. G+ is circles
The second most important innovation was Hangouts – I do one next Tuesday at 4pm (PST) 7PM (EST)
It allows people to hang out in a video conference. Even though just 10 people at the same time – but again a great start.
Other than that – the clean appearance maybe really liked by some people but mostly ignored and sometimes even make it to "cold". The rest is business as usual.
The most significant problems with Google+
Google+ was constructed by engineers – not social nerds. And that is one of the biggest issues and here are the consequences:
1) Dialogs & Conversations
Apparently nobody in the G+ product team has really gotten into the concept of conversations and dialogs. G+ has no dedicated functionality to have a conversation with another person. Well you can create that situation by having that particular person in the post and only that person – but this isn't very intuitive. More so the other person doesn't necessarily know that it was just a dialog. This was already a very confusing thing in Wave – and just extended here.
The next version of G+ need a two level communication stream that allows a dialog between one or multiple people in either a closed and clearly defined as such manner or the same discussion in an open way but understood by everybody else as a dialog or conversation of a dedicated group.
2) Group Dynamics
While circles is a great idea and had a great start it didn't evolve fast enough. Content is pumped into G+ and only earns a few comments and +1s . Discussions don't really fire up – with the exception of a few people who master to motivate masses to follow. What's missing is the support and sensitivity of group dynamics.
The next generation of G+ needs to have a much more sophisticated circle system that allows circles to be publicly shared and people to apply joining a circle with some detailed product strategy to provide mechanisms and levers to support concepts of group dynamics. Those new versions also need to consider customization of groups and a sense of openness as well as protection.
3) API & Integration
The API is just released but that was really last minute. Now – looking at the API structure inside Google one may find it very impressive because enormously rich. But Joe developer used to the Twitter API is hopelessly overwhelmed by the structure and complexity of the Google API world. Check this out: https://code.google.com/more/table/
The next generation G+ API need its own, easy to approach API section and provide more developer support than any competitor. Registering, asking for $100 fee and then explaining that it must comply with many other requirements is a real down turner.
4) The team eating its own dog food
One of the other issues is that the Google team isn't enough in love with its own product to use it internally. Coming back to the starting point: The Google culture needs a remarkable culture shift to actually become a social (not a socialistic) company. Only then the love for the product, the product's functionality and its evolution can find a solid base to grow from.
There are a bunch of other social dynamic flaws in G+ but those aren't as significant as the above four.
The social media landscape needs diversity and needs to support freedom of choice. If we only support a momentary leader we will end up like the software industry with one operating system, one database vendor, one CRM system… or the automobile industry which collapsed from 26 world class car makers competing for the best to a two company industry loosing not only it's world leadership but even it's local competitiveness.
OK – Only time will tell if G+ is getting into line with Buzz, Wave and many other less promoted shut downs or not.