How Google+ Can Grow Without Killing Itself


Let’s be frank – we’ve all gone completely insane, right? I mean, it’s not surprising because this is what we do here in Internet marketing, but we’ve definitely gone and done it again. And it’s a little embarrassing. It’s also destructive, if we’re not careful.

On June 28, in honor of my birthday (you’re welcome), Google launched Google+ and the Internet lost its damn mind, fawning over something we haven’t even had time to understand or figure out yet.

Suddenly, everyone has Google+ tips and tricks and best practices for how to optimize it. Google+ Business Profiles aren’t out yet, but expect that 100-page eBook on how to get the most out of them to be written just 13 hours after they are.

This past weekend Robert Scoble deemed Google+ the best thing since sliced bread the same way he did with Quora before he denounced that and left it for dead. Now he’s moved on to offering Twitter tips on how it can come back from the supposed-dead.

Only problem is, Twitter isn’t dead. And Robert Scoble has again forgotten who he is – an uber geek. A power user. The type of person who pushes limits and breaks things on purpose. As MG Siegler pointed out yesterday – if Google actually listened to Scoble’s advice, they’d essentially be committing suicide with a dagger.

Because Google doesn’t want Robert Scoble.

Google doesn’t want me either. It’s after my mother. And my younger brother. And that guy across the street who uses Facebook to upload pictures and has no idea about his privacy settings.

But that’s only the tip of the crazy iceberg. We’re now stalking Facebook employees who have Google+ accounts as if that means anything. Chris Brogan has moved his online presence away from Facebook and over to Google+. He even has a webinar for how to use Google+ for business taking place tomorrow afternoon.

Someone hold me!

Chris is a smart guy and I don’t doubt there will be value in that webinar. Plenty of it. But there are a couple of things to remember.

Twitter and Facebook are not dead. Also, Google+ has been live for 21 days.

Twenty. One. Days.

The truth is Google has given users (and soon business owners) something really great with the first iteration of Google+. It’s going to become more relevant, it’s going to help Google gain favor in the social wars, it’s going to enter in different ranking signals, and it’s going to matter. It already matters. What I like most about Google+ is its ability to not only let me control my content hose, but its potential to act like my social media aggregator.

See. I like that. And if users flock to Google+, then that makes my life easier. So I’d like them to do that.

But for that to happen Google needs to work some kinks in their next iterations. Small things that will help to increase functionality and usability, without forcing Google to choke on it’s own Kool-Aid and murder itself in the process. Because if Google+ falls on its face and dies, it won’t be a result of Facebook or Twitter or anything else. It will be because Google+ killed itself.

Google’s biggest worry should not be anyone else – it should be Google. Because we’re talking about a company that sometimes has a really difficult time getting out of its own way.

What can Google+ do to help itself growing without committing social network suicide?

1. Let me search: Yes. I know this is coming and I’m hoping its delay means we’re going to get a powerful search with some Advanced query options. This all makes me very happy. However, I’m also impatient and I’d like it now. ;)

2. Better spam controls: If I haven’t driven the point home enough – Google+ has only been live for 21 days. And still, I’m getting blasted with Hangout and Share spam. We’re three weeks in. If this is already a problem, that needs to be addressed and there needs to be some sort of safeguards there before Google+ becomes MySpace. There’s no better way to kill a viable network than leave it open to spammy people. Like SEOs.

3. Ability to leave comments via mobile: One of the best usability moves Facebook made was when they allowed people to respond to comments and messages via mobile devices. This encourages instant interaction and prevents people from having to visit the site in order to have a conversation. Google needs to adopt the same technology quickly. When I’m on the go, I don’t like that there’s no way to be part of the conversation that’s brewing on my Google+ page. Let me be there.

4. More prominence for things I +1: Social users are motivated by ego. Okay, not entirely by ego but…pretty much. If we take the time to +1 something, I want that to go somewhere. I want people to be able to see the content that I like (See? Ego.) and I want to know my work to help push that content around. If I +1 something on the Web it shows up in my +1 profile tab. But that doesn’t appear to be the case for content I +1 inside Google+ Why not? I don’t need it to look like Facebook or Twitter’s version of content vouching, you can be your own identity, but give me something for my trouble.

5. Let me default my home screen to the Circle of my choice: This may sound silly, but this is what the average user is concerned with – seeing the information they want to see when they want to see it. Personally, I’d like to see my Friends Circle first, not simply what’s most recent chronologically. I love my SEO friends and colleagues, but, well, let ease into their spam unique content.

6. Decide who you are: Ideally this has already happened internally, but I want to see some better division in what Google wants Google+ to be. It’s not a “Facebook killer” or a “Twitter killer”, it’s a separate service with a separate mission and a goal for its users. As the kinks get worked out, I’d like to see that more solidified. I’m really impressed with the functionality Google was able to unleash right out of the gate – but what does Google+ want to be when it grows up? I’d like to know that before I truly invest.

Those are some common sense things I think Google+ needs to focus on to grow its user base without committing social media suicide and running around completing the power user demands that will ultimately derail the service.

What do you want from Google+? I posed this question over at Google+ yesterday and received some great answers. Many of which echoed my own sentiments, but there were also some other issues I wasn’t expecting. Where do you fall?

Your Comments

  • Josh

    You really hit the nail on the head when you said Google is after your mom, your brother and the guy across the street. The reality is as awesome as the video hangouts were on G+ when it launched those were the people that didn’t know about it unless we told them. And even if we didn’t when Facebook rolled out that similar feature our moms/brothers/neighbors were the ones excited about it. Not the tech community. So while all the geeks were going “meh” over Facebook’s announcement my mom was going “cool!”. I think G+ is gonna be another option for people to use and it’ll be really interesting to see how businesses use it not only in terms for promoting their services but handling customer service as well.

    As always awesome post Lisa!

    • Lisa Barone

      Agree it’ll def be interesting to see what businesses do with it. I read this morning that Dell already wants to use Google+ for its customer service, which seems totally bananas. It’s crazy how quickly we are so willing to stop what we’re doing and move to something completely new and untested. But, we’ll see what happens. :) Because, again, Google doesn’t really want to attract the tech crowds. They want the normal folk. They’re not gonna use the Hangouts feature to talk to remote employees…but they may use it to talk to their grandchildren who live across the country. First they have to know about it.

  • M_Roberts82

    So far, Google+ bores me. Its not for lack of people though… I have a surprising number of friends, who are not in SEO, that had access to it prior to its more open launch. It’s just that so far it offers me no interesting usability that I don’t have elsewhere and not enough incentive to move away from other things.
    The bulk of my friends still use facebook to let everyone know what they’re up to whether it’s a status, event, or a post… and those all get pushed to my phone. My FB fan pages I followed got absurd a long time ago so I stopped caring about them but the important people I was fans of there are also people I follow on Twitter. And Twitter feels much more manageable to me plus its on my phone.
    For all the fun events and games and other things I do, I have my groups and the events sync to my calendar on my phone.
    Google+ does have Hangouts which seem cool… except I can do that on Skype and my friends are all already there. So far the only Google+ thing that could be useful from my phone is Huddle… but most of my friends would rather text anyway.
    So, for now it appears my Google+ profile will predominantly languish in obscurity… lonely and forgotten… at least until it offers me something I don’t already get everywhere else.

    • Lisa Barone

      I’m interested in Google+. Right now the engagement there is WAY higher than anywhere, but much of that is likely because it’s still new and shiny and people are enjoying playing with it. I also tend to get a bit lost there. There’s too much noise for it to be productive. Google needs to find a way to limit that a bit. Too much in the stream to digest.

  • Vinny O'Hare

    Great article as usual.
    Thanks for linking to my tips page, I understand Google+ is way to new for any serious “tips” pages but I figure why not share with the rest of the word the stuff I have been using. I am sure they will be searching for it. Might as well be my site where users find that info.

    #3 I find interesting since I have the mobile app which is the fastest app my Droid phone has. I believe that Apple IPhone app will be out some time today or tomorrow. I have all my info on my phone just like Spambook has.

    Of course the tech geeks are going to love and be all over G+ as it is spiderable, not locked behind some wall for only Bing (who uses that anyway) to see. Is it a Facebook killer? No. Is it a Twitter Killer? No but it is a place where you have to have a presence especially if you have a business.

    • Lisa Barone

      I believe it was Missy Ward who tweeted your post and it was actually quite helpful because it’s all about the shortcuts people can use. Just figured I’d throw you in with the rest of ’em . ;)

  • 3iCreative

    Lisa, great post. Nice to see someone taking time to evaluate before jumping on the bandwagon.

    • Lisa Barone

      Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that people are excited and that they’re experimenting to see if there’s value here. But it’d be nice if we could wait and SEE if there’s value before we declare ourselves all experts and fill the blogosphere up with more eBooks telling the same information. Or maybe I just woke up in a bad mood today. :)

      • Chris Miller

        My 2% of a Washington – you’re right, in that they want our moms on G+ as their target, but they released it to the geeks first to test it out and come up with opinions like these. They want us, too! Just in a use-us-for-our-expertise-and-not-call-the-next-day kind of way. That’s why it’s invite only. We’re supposed to go crazy so we can win at the internet, then when we leave for the next shiny thing, our moms will finally get around to joining (for example, my mom joined Facebook three weeks ago).

  • Courtney Ramirez

    The Internet *has* lost it’s damn mind – again! That being said I love Google+ for the fact that I’m able to better segment my shares and feel less fragmented. The changes you outlined above would be wonderful – especially w/ giving +1 weight.

    • Lisa Barone

      There’s A LOT that I really like about Google+. Probably the biggest thing is exactly what you mentioned – being able to segment people. Google+ is the first social network where my real friends are put into one specific group where it’s easy to share things with them and only them. I really love that.

  • netmeg

    Weird people are following me!

  • Joe Hall

    “Ability to leave comments via mobile”

    I can do that. You can’t do that? I can leave them, I just can’t see others. I am using the Android app.

    • Lisa Barone

      Maybe it’s just me and things are buggy? If I try to view the comment thread on my phone, I get redirected back to the main page…which is annoying because then I have to scroll through my feed to find it. In a perfect world, I don’t even want to have to click through from my phone to the site, I want to leave the comment straight from my email because THAT’S how lazy I really am. :)

  • Vinny O'Hare

    Netmeg are you calling me weird lol

  • Michael Dorausch

    OMDTTD (One More Damned Thing To Do) on my list. I don’t even have my gmail account fully optimized and now this? So far, I like Google+, but I’ll wait a few months before I give it any real attention.

  • Lisa Barone

    Heh. Yes, there’s always that complaint, which is valid. :)

  • Christina

    Love everything about this post. I think Google+ has the potential to be valuable, but I think that there are some functionalities it needs and some things they need to not need. Like Games for G+ needs to never happen in my book.

    However, I’ve heard my friends pronouncing that they’re not planning on following or granting access to any brands with G+. Whether or not they succeed in that, who knows, but it’s interesting that people are already making that distinction.

    I think G+ will earn a place in the social strategy eventually. And I’m really excited to see what they’ve cooked up for businesses. But I don’t see it replacing anything anytime soon.

    • Lisa Barone

      That is an interesting distinction about the brands. Do they say anything in regards to why? Why is Google friend-only? It’ll be interesting to see how the tone changes over at Google+ once brands get access. Will it kill the fun parade?

  • Suzanne Vara


    As always you rock and this article shows that even more. Let’s for a second focus on the 21 days, 21 – hell when I turned 21 I took full advantage of that and went to every single bar humanly possible, drank with anyone who would drink with me, I shared my thoughts on every bar I went to and with anyone who cared to listen to me. Google+ feels just like that. My stream is so filled with spam that I can barely bear to go over to it and the worst part is that I like Google+ but like with the having one too many hangovers that had me dead in the bed and hugging john, I have to find a happy medium.

    This is a new tool. It is all access and people love that. It feeds the ego to have x amount of followers. We are in the party phase which we know after a while slows down

  • Gabriele Maidecchi

    Everyone talks about it, I did as well, even published a blog post about it (who hasn’t?). But let’s face it, it’s better to just use it. What will happen in 6 months? I don’t know, and I doubt anyone can (perhaps not even Google people). For now, let’s have fun, then, we’ll see.

  • Byron

    Count me as social media burnout. I’m not interested in trying to sway the contacts I communicate with on FB over to Google+. In particular, I’m not about to get family and relatives to switch over to Google+ just when they have finally become comfortable using FB. Not going to happen. FB and Twitter are sufficient for me.

  • Jeanne Mayeux

    Google+ will be wildly successful because it is so intertwined with the Google tools most everyone uses all day long. Google+ will always be there lurking and following you everywhere. It will be irresistible to click the button and check in. The button is inside your Gmail, on the search page, in your Google Docs etc. I really like it so far.

  • Henry Louis

    Great insights! Hopefully google comes out with these and a lot more to make themselves standard in the social networking arena.