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Why Google+’s rapid adoption doesn’t impress me

Over the last week or so I’ve seen the below graphic a number of times and heard a lot of noise about how awesome Google+ (Google Plus, Google +, G+: what is the proper write up?) must be because of it. I started a little banter based on a G+ post from Chip Rodgers and decided to continue it here because I think that not only did Google have a much easier row to hoe than either Twitter or Facebook, but that this is a perfect example of a dangerous analytic.

So, why is comparing the adoption of Twitter and Facebook to the adoption of G+ not apples and oranges? Just off the top of my head.

  • Facebook started out handicapping itself by only being open to University students. G+ was also pretty selective but only for a few days.
  • Facebook and Twitter were both revolutionary. Before Facebook there was MySpace, but it had a totally different interaction paradigm. People had to get used to it. Twitter was a huge departure from that, because it started as really a broadcast tool and it took a long while for people to utilize the conversational potential of it. If you’ve used Facebook and/or Twitter before, Google Plus is pretty easy to figure out, Circles aside. Social networking is now largely a known commodity. You don’t have to sell anyone on it
  • Facebook and Twitter started from scratch. Google already has millions of users with logins and passwords and profiles and trust. Dipping your toe into the G+ waters has a significantly lower transaction cost than testing out either Facebook or Twitter.
  • People are generally more comfortable living in the cloud now than they were when Twitter and Facebook came out. A lot more people are willing to create a site account on a lark than they used to be.
  • Google Plus had a mobile component from day one, with 30% of adult Americans already having a smartphone. When Twitter first came out I didn’t even have texting on my cell phone plan.
  • Virtually everyone has an internet connection somewhere now (mobile and/or otherwise). That wasn’t true even a few years ago.

My basic premise is that the second or third gas station company probably grew a lot faster than the first, because there were a lot more cars on the road. Same with Google Plus. I’m not saying G+ isn’t amazing (I think the jury is still out on that) I’m just saying it would have been more amazing if Google hadn’t ramped up that fast, provided of course their offering wasn’t as abysmal as Buzz.

So, what makes this a dangerous analytic? Because most people may not take those enumerated factors into account when evaluating the success of G+. It would be easy to look at the raw numbers, out of context, and assume that Google Plus is 50 times better or more popular than Twitter and Facebook, and that just isn’t fair. Does it have promise? Absolutely. Unless we have a graphic that the ten million people who signed up for G+ also turned off their Twitter and Facebook accounts, I’m not sure we can say anything about its comparative value.

In another 6 months we can look at measures of engagement (how many posts, comments, replies, etc. per user per time period as an example) across the networks and then start to evaluate how successful G+ is once the shine has worn out a little. And that could be some valuable information.

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  • Jamie,

    You are raising several good points. You’re correct that facebook and Twitter are revolutionary. However did they come up anything new recently? That reminds me “Who moved my cheese?”. Unless they come up with something new quickly, it is going to be really difficult for them to compete with Google+ IMO. Google+ is one-stop shop for all of social networking services.

    Does facebook or twitter offer anything Google+ doesn’t offer? Going forward, this is probably going to be only question relevant

    My 2 cents.


    • Bala,

      Thanks for the comment. To me, Google Plus and Facebook are the most similar services. I’m not sure I see a huge advantage of one over the other, besides of course that everyone is already on Facebook. Twitter to me is sort of its own entity, and if weren’t going to be so integrated with iOS I don’t think I’d like its chances since you can do most of what you can do on it on Google + now.

      • The problem also that the 10 million represent the early adopter crowd instead of whether the service can attract a mainstream following like facebook.  Notice I did not say twitter, because twitter is not a mainstream service and is probably still in the late phases early adopters/early mainstream.

        Google+ is open to everyone, then we can see if it really takes off.  Remember adoption does not mean if the service is bad, it just indicates whether a mass audience will use it.

        The ultimate litmus test will be whether google+ can get all of us to dump facebook like myspace was dumped by most everyone.  There is no point in maintaining two general social networks of your friends.  That’s why myspace got dumped, when people realized that facebook was easier to use and most of their friends ended up over there.

        Take care,


        • The problem is that Facebook was radically differnt from MySpace and its ease of use offered a clear point of differentiation. I think Twitter will still hang around for things like tweetups (trying to figure out where people are at TechEd based on scrolling through a G+ feed sounds simply awful) but it hasn’t innovated enough to offer too much beyond that (plus, that would be easy for Facebook and G+ to mimic if they wanted to). The problem is that 30% of your friends will be on Facebook, 30% will be on G+, and 30% will be on both (and will probably cross post you to death).
          • Agree, but the problem right now in doing a comparison is that google+ does not also represent a decent cross sample of potential users.  I have seen several articles about how the gender ratio for google+ is still skewed.

            Agree on twitter, I think it will be best at “niche” social media service that does one thing best, because facebook/google+ etc tend to allow too much noise in their feeds.  Now if both services would just allow a “pure status update timeline” that was mobile friendly then twitter might not be as useful.

            Take care,

    • Google+ really is mostly a Pepsi to Facebook’s Coke in terms of features, but the problem is that with half your network on one and half on the other, you almost half to be on both. If your network is important to you.
  • Jamie,
    Thanks for sharing the “popular wisdom” on the street in the form of that graph. I have a Google + account and see all my SAP friends there, such as you. It’s a question of critical mass. 99.5% of my contacts on Facebook and Linked In (including late adopters who aren’t comfortable with FB but are getting swept in by the momentum). I gravitate to FB and LI and force myself to peep at G+ every few hours. With the number of beeping, tweeting, blinking, ringing gadgets/accounts we all have, G+ has to gain more critical mass fast to hold our attention. Despite what that graph shows, I do not see the mass building fast enough to matter. The graph IS misleading and a false comparison – agree with you totally!
    • Yep. And I’m already pretty sick of seeing the same post on twitter, facebook, and google plus (which I totally also do because I’m not sure where people are!).
  • Hi,

    when I saw this graph I had the same impression. How this statistics are really true.

    I would like to add an other point: currently many people are connecting to G+ just for curiosity, their are trying this platform that it is natively integrated in their mail.
    How may will continue to use it on a regular basis?

    Currently I prefer G+ instead of Facebook: it is possible to follow people without any friendship request and to post updates with limited visibility and for its native integration with Google services; but I still prefer Twitter for instant messaging because G+ stream currently makes me confusion.

    Thanks for sharing

  • Great blog Jamie! Understand what you mean about it being very different — because of context. Taking off in an established market can happen a lot quicker than creating a market where half the battle is helping people “get it”. On the other hand, still a remarkable achievement — and Google has had other launches (Wave, Buzz) that fell flat. G+ still hasn’t pulled in the mainstream audience. That’ll be their next battle.  One thing they have going for them in this next phase is that Google is ubiquitous and between +1s, Gmail, Gtalk, search, SEO, Youtube, etc, etc, they have the other hooks to keep drawing people in and make G+ a “natural” place to be for social.  We’ll see!
  • Good blog, you have raised an important point. Numbers are misleading in this case. Yes 10 million users might be good to have, but question is how many of the 10 million are active users? I am one of the early adopters of G+ (probably second or third day) however I dont see tremendous activity there even though I have almost the same number of friends in G+ as I do on FB. Having said that we still have to give enough time to G+. Time is an important dimension in data analysis.
  • Hello Jamie

    I agree with your statements in your blog.

    I have seen the picture around as well and it didn’t impress me either. I’m still looking into google+ and perhaps even more looking into applications that can display/manage all the social media in the way I want.

    Kind regards


  • Whether I used FB or not is irrelevant, but I like the competition. Well, early to market have their own path to tread and make inroads to the other. If we all feel Google+ exploited the experiences of FB as a social media tool, to its advantage, what’s wrong in that. If FB is popular and has 10 million user-base of teens and college kids, I still needed one for a stricter sharing.  I am not one of those social animals who want to share their dinner menu with the rest of the world – most of the times without even realizing that FB does that…!!

    Hope Google+ targets its product and builds features to a sector where social is not “whole world”, but MY CIRCLE.

    Easwar Ram

  • The problem with statistics is that people don’t think about them. Adoption rate doesn’t mean anything when adoption is not clearly defined.

    At lot of my friends logged in Google+ so we are probably in those numbers somewhere. Too bad nowadays none of them post in Google+….

    For a social network retention rate is a lot more important.

  • In business context, google provided quite a number of online service for free.
    E.g: Google Calendar + Email + Documents = Microsoft Office
    Google Waves = Cloud Office
    Google + with Hangout feature = FREE group video conference calls (you have to pay for on Skype)

    I personally join google+ for Hangout feature!!!