And by YOU I mean YOU Internet marketers, B2B, B2C, and B2E experts, PR masters, and SM junkies in general who are raving about the stuff. Yes guys and gals, YOU are –mostly– alone in this one. Here’s my take on the why, using a cool example to draw parallels from.
Consider these two sets of competing products: Sony’s PS3 (console) and PSP (handheld) vs. their Nintendo counterparts, the Wii and the DS. Despite being technically superior in many aspects that pertain to gaming, both of Sony’s devices were never neck to neck in the race against those from the big N. Hell, they were never even close. And why? Because Nintendo’s creations were actually groundbreaking; they represented innovation at its most exquisite level. And that, friends, draws customers in: 87.5M vs. 51.2M on home consoles and a staggering 147.5M vs. 68.5M on handhelds [Source: VGCharts Network]. You can call Nintendo’s strategy gimmicky, but the features it bestowed upon their products were unmatched for a long time. Even now, with the addition of motion control on Sony’s home console front, the dynamics introduced by the Wiimote and Wii Motion Plus controllers are legendary.
[Edit: thanks to Danny Brown for commenting upon something that was missing from this comparison --price. Nintendo's gadgets have always been priced way lower than Sony's. Still, if we consider price as a feature, Sony did fail at attracting buyers in THAT specific area, which, in such a competitive arena, can prove quite damaging.]
What we are dealing with this face-off (ha!) between Facebook and Google+ is what I like to call “Race of the Features.” Unlike the aforementioned example, where the hardware limits the ability to improve upon a shipped product, integrating –and enhancing– features from Facebook into Google+ and vice versa is a relatively easy task.
Besides that, we have an inescapable issue here: Google is not a groundbreaking platform; not by a long shot. So, even though there might be differentiation at some point or another –sharing, notifications and video in Google+ are, for example, very well thought out– the competing guy will always be quick to catch up. This could be a very drawn out case of the proverbial pissing contest.
YOU might like these shiny new/improved features because they suit YOUR purposes best. But on this race, Facebook can turn the tide at any moment.
When Nintendo’s Wii console came out, it drew in thousands of new players that were previously oblivious to electronic entertainment; it practically defined the term casual gaming. Housewives, top execs, teachers; they all jumped onto the bandwagon of Wii Sports and Wii Fit. Almost overnight, the Wii was in more households than the PS3 could ever expect to. And, although it has struggled with stains like shovelware (kiddie movie tie-in games, anyone?), most of these casual gamers just don’t care. What they have is good enough for them and, in the long run, only numbers matter. Lemme try to be funny here: My name is Legion, for Wii are many.
Facebook has the whole social media thing pretty much nailed down and has a subscriber base that ranks in the hundreds of millions. Now, I’m not saying it does everything right; we know better. But for the large percentage of users that don’t mind what it does wrong, Google+ offers no compelling reason to do the switch. There’s no real, overwhelming benefits for the brunt of these individuals.
Now, returning to the subject of YOU. YOU might want to trade the blue for the multi-colored because YOU are smart, because YOU are mindful of privacy, because YOU care about the value of networking, and because YOU simply adore engaging and sharing. I know I do. But, you know what? The moms and the teachers and the co-workers… not so much. For them, Facebook fills a more primal purpose: just being social. They will, I think, choose the Like over the +1; they will remain within Facebook’s ranks and files.
Let’s look at this real quick: Nintendo has a perpetual collection of aces down its sleeve with the oldest and most revered franchises in the gaming industry: the Marios and the Pokemons, the Metroids and the Kirbys, the Zeldas and the Smash Brothers; Nintendo owns exclusivity for all of them. These fellas –in any of their incarnations– have only been available for the big N’s devices and they move numbers without failure because people know and love them.
In the subject at hand, Google’s perceived strength is search. Yeah, Google Docs has its followers because it has proved to be a powerful tool with zero to little competition, and Chrome is slowly gaining ground as the prettiest kid on the block, but this doesn’t mean much in terms of profitability. Even Google’s first peripheral property, Gmail, has not yet attained the elusive No. 1 spot when compared to old, established brands like Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail (or Windows Live, whatever you wanna call it). The thing is, the G has had trouble gaining traction as a brand on fields other than search. Google+ is up against a giant that has a choke hold on the social media market, and removing it from the topmost place will prove to be a monumental task.
Now, back to YOU. YOU have only recently started using Facebook for professional reasons. YOU have been using Facebook as a marketing, engagement & networking medium for a relatively short time. YOU have had no chance of developing a strong bond with Facebook or have chosen not to, for maybe YOU move quickly with the times and the trends. But the mainstream does not. They love and then they settle, at least for a while, and marketers know that: it will be a long time before Google+ becomes fertile ground for ad revenue.
What does Google+ want to be?
If we look, for example, at Twitter’s inability to be profitable and assume it’s because there’s just not much buying power and message reach due to its numbers, we can extrapolate and visualize Google+’s short/medium term future IF they only want to be up in arms against Facebook. But go ahead and read this post by Jeff Nolan on how it could stack up against other players: G+: Twitter and Tumblr are Biggest Losers.
What I think is that, with some focus and direction, Google+ can be something other than what it’s trying to be right now: a Facebook killer. But for the time being, only YOU think it can be so.
In the end, it’s all speculation, right?