How Google+ Can Grow Without Killing Itself

July 19, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Social Media

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?


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