The beauty of Twitter is is that it gives you an opportunity to download your momentary thoughts uncensored. You don’t have to worry about grammar, syntax, etc. But sometimes, when someone responds to your tweet, the opportunity it presents is tremendous if you have the time. Tremendous in terms of how it gives a wider platform for you to continue to download your chain of thoughts, uncensored.
One of my tweets triggered responses from two different people today, that I thought this is a good topic to blog about as at some point I would have talked about it in future anyways.
I consider myself an early adopter of social media tools. I may not be a social media guru but I have been doing this both personally and for my business for more than 5 years. Also I have been following the trends for a while. Whenever a new product comes to the market or whenever a new tool or feature is added, I try to take a look at it, even though I may or may not decide to use it. From that perspective, right from the time myspace or orkut or facebook or twitter or buzz or pulse or netlog..or whatever you name it has been introduced, I have been a user (sometimes active) in all of them at some point or the other. From that background, I have a reasonable feel for how effective each one is. It is in this context that I am going to try to offer my thoughts on G+. Although a little too premature to call this post a review on G+, it is just an initial analysis of what I have experienced till now and how I perceive this tool to play in the marketplace.
The very fact that G+ has made me think about writing an analysis and share it with the blog world is in itself a big first step for any tool in my books. I haven’t really thought about reviewing or analyzing any other tool except Facebook and Twitter so far. So, right here,G+ scores a point.
Now, one of the persons who responded to my tweet (in which I said that I just couldn’t get myself to embrace G+ in the last week and a half I have used it, other than check the few updates of the few people in my circles), said that it is good for the market and for the customers to have so many choices in products and features.
Fundamentally, I am against monopoly of any kind..so I am all for competition and I am all for fair trade. But I have to use a different parameter when it comes to G+. Because social media in general is a totally different kind of product market. Unlike a regular product which you buy for yourself or for your family and you use it personally or for your family or is used by someone in your family, a social media product is not about you. At least “YOU” and “YOUR USAGE” is really a small portion of how the social media product is going to be useful to you. To me, a social media product is about how many OTHERS can use the product along with you. The more the number, the better it is for you. The more the number, the more beneficial it is for you.
Of course you could create a Facebook account and have 5 friends. Or no friends. The product is still being used by you – but doesn’t meet the broader goal of what such a tool is supposed to. A business, when it creates a Facebook account, will have to make sure it has enough people to reach out to..They have to constantly try to increase that number. Else, having a presence in any social media platform is as good as not having a presence. Same logic applies if you are using a social media tool for your personal use.
Now, Facebook as of today apparently has over 750 million users. This to me, is close to the peak for FB. May be they will get to a billion and then it is going to plateau or hit a dead increase mark. Unlike other product markets, where more choices mean people can use one product for sometime (like a cell phone let us say) and throw it away after a year & buy another model by another manufacturer because they like it better. This is absolutely fair and this is how a typical product market works. And sometimes, people may actually buy two different products that cater to the same needs, just for the heck of it. But when it comes to social media, specially for the purpose facebooks/orkuts were created, people are not going to use multiple products at the same time as it just doesn’t make sense. And it is not like they could use one for a year and then switch to another because they like that better. They could switch but the whole purpose of networking is lost if they can’t move their entire network with them to the other platform and make them crate all their photo albums/videos/notes/etc. (and also some of the trail of interesting notes exchanged among a group of friends or family members). It just is not practically possible and the appeal of being able to connect to family & friends is lost and becomes a chore.
In this context, let us look at how G+ is going to play in the marketplace. I agree that G+ has some uniquely new features such as circles and hangouts. And it is also clear that G+ still may be working the kinks out on some of these and waiting for feedback. Of course, the most interesting aspect is how Google claims G+ is all about privacy..(yes, the same Google which worked so hard to fight all piracy motions/laws around the world both in their search engine business as well as their maps business, both of which I am a big fan of by the way and I use google.com and maps.google.com at least 100 times a week). To me that is hypocrisy but then I won’t hold that against Google.
Now, for most of us who have signed up, we relate to G+ as an alternative to Facebook to start with. But it is obvious (and hopefully for the sake of Google well wishers) that G+ may be looking beyond being an alternative to Facebook. May be a combination of Facebook and Twitter perhaps. Even then, for someone who has worked so hard to track down friends from the past and build a network on Facebook like me during the past 3-4 years, G+ doesn’t offer anything spectacular that I already don’t have in Facebook. Privacy? Sure, Facebook has already upped the ante in the last year and a half. You can pretty much have a profile on Facebook and have everything blocked from everyone. Period. Certainly, some features like Circles (equivalent of groups in Facebook which is already well used), Hangouts (probably the exact same concept doesn’t exist in Facebook exist yet, but with a design for groups already being in place, they could easily create something similar) and Video chats (Facebook has partnered with Skype already) are appealing in G+ and they probably are their major selling points. But nothing as indicated above, that Facebook can’t replicate.
My take on G+ is simple. As much as they offer great features and other bells & whistles, unless their business model can endure the wait for a whole new generation of social media users to be born and wait for them to start building a brand new social network, I just don’t see enough usability reason for them to replace Facebook in near future. On the other hand, if G+ has a revolutionary new use that none of us has thought of till now (other than it being a replacement for Facebook/Twitter), then I would give it six months to understand it better and see how it evolves. Let us not get carried away by the number of initial users who have signed up. It is mostly out of curiosity – given that a new product came out of the Google warehouse. There are probably a few hardcore google believers who will swear by anything google does, who will cling onto it. I am not one of them. There are probably a few who will continue to use G+ because they just hate Facebook for whatever reason (you know how it is..you start hating some company from the get-go and can’t seem to change your perception on the product or their services even after they have made amends). I am not one of them either. The rest who signed up just to check it out (which I am sure is the majority), will probably lose their interest in G+ after 6 months if G+ hasn’t found a way to entice them or if Facebook does something extraordinarily stupid to make people turn their faces. I am not sure if I am one of them as yet and I hope, for the sake of some of my friends (very very few in my network) who want to swear by G+, that I am not.
For the moment though, you can look me up on G+ and add me to your circle. If I know you, I will be happy to add you to one of my secret blog circles and we could hangout at a bar. I have not given up on G+ yet unlike Buzz, which I did within a week after signing up. I am happy my inclination was right at that time because most critics today say that Buzz was dead on arrival.