I really wanted to love Google+, I really did. I wanted a smarter Social network where people could share relevant information that had substance; where I could finally be among my peers and not have to spend every day ignoring and unfriending people who share useless facts about reality TV shows and partisan politics.Google listened to people like me and gave us what we wanted, but they probably shouldn’t have done that.
Google+ was a gamble that needed, and still needs, to payoff for Google. I’m sure there are some Google execs at this very moment scratching their very smart heads, wondering “how the hell did we mess this up?”
In my opinion, the problems began at inception. I assume the first thing they did, as I would have – minus the hindsight – was to determine the true thought leaders and influencers in the Social space, and invite them to test drive the product early. I imagine the Google folks rubbing their collective hands together in glee as Robert Scoble and Pete Cashmore joined the Google+ ranks and started to shape its online culture. Little did they know, with that one move, Google crippled itself permanently before ever going live.
To really dig into why this mistake was tragic, we have to look at the birth of its competitor. Facebook started in universities with college students having conversations. When you look at Facebook vs. Google + there is a subtle differentiator that is easy to miss. The students they started with may have been ivy league, but they were still students. I imagine the early conversations were as much about beer and relationships as they were about sharing high-level thought. This is the wave that drove to the Facebook we know today, where people login a million times per day to do basically two things: brag or complain.
Back to the folks at Google. Their problem is that they are too damn smart. If I was hired at Google the first thing I would do is hire some “simple-minded” (dumb if I may be honest) people. The problem is that Google would never hire me, I’m too dumb. If they had dumb people on staff they might have caught the fact that Google+ makes the average human feel unintelligent and unimportant. People can’t brag on this Social channel because they are intimidated by the “gurus” (a term which I use very loosely), and they can’t complain because no one cares about how you feel – only what you know. Google is a victim of overestimating their target audience. That may mess with your sensibilities, but the bottom line is that a miss, is a miss.
I get that Google+ is growing, but at the same time it is ignoring a pretty important segment of the population, people that don’t really care all that much about what smart people have to say.
In the end I feel like a traitor because I got what I wanted; and, as it turns out, I find Google+ to be pretty boring. I guess I didn’t really know what I wanted. Apparently what I want most is to brag and complain amongst sympathetic peers.