What Keeps Google Awake at Night?

Google+ Commentary by Gina Smith and teamBYTE members.

Gina Smith, Contributor

July 21, 2011

6 Min Read

Google's social network Google+ is showing astounding growth. In just 26 days, the beta service claims 18 million registered users. It's taking off on mobile platforms, too. The Google+ iPhone app hit the No. 1 spot in the App Store within 24 hours of its release.

What's keeping Google execs awake? The answer is: Engagement. The main challenge Google faces is keeping the momentum going – and keeping the magic number of 10 percent of users returning and engaged. That's the common industry benchmark of success.

Engagement and avoiding churn are the same challenges all social properties share. Media properties face them, too. It’s not enough to get people in the door. The trick is to keep them inside.

Early engagement appears stellar for Google+. Check out this link -- showing an active tracking of hangouts.

Can Google keep it up? Signs are positive, but our IT pros and editors are taking a long look at how Google+ deploys. Soon there will be more apps. Here's perspective from some teamBYTE editors and contributors who've been using Google+ and testing it since its launch. I'm one -- I'm all about fresh beginnings. teamBYTE:

Ron McCarty:

I had written off Google in the social networking front. I use Linkedin for my IT and other corporate professional associations. I use my Twitter, newsletter, and blog for anyone that will listen. I use Facebook for friends.

But a major drawback to most social networking sites is their support of groups and privacy (issues). It looks like Google is taking on this challenge with Google+ through its Circles feature. You now select only the contacts you want. We'll see how it holds up.

This sounds like a great idea, in theory, but I wonder if my users will really understand it and use it correctly on our (corporate) networks.

I do (expect) many users here will sign up for the service when it's available, especially if Google pushes it via Gmail integration. Privacy will be my shop's major concern.

Tom Sloan(original BYTE cartoonist): I say it all in my cartoon, below. Glad to back at BYTE! Welcome back.

Todd Ogasawara:

Facebook is where most of my friends are. Now I use Google+, too, for pro stuff. The loser, in terms of what I use less often now, is Twitter.

My biggest problem with Google+ is a lack of a way to deal with interesting people – my stream is either overwhelmed with voluminous posts -- or full of voluminous comments to posts.

Muting isn’t sufficient. I want a Black Hole Circle that would let me partition off these people to an area. That way I could see what they are up to and (reduce) my Google+ stream.

Dave McCabe:

Google has jumped into the social networking scene in a big way by launching the Google+ project. I was lucky enough to get an early invite and wasted no time setting up my profile.

My immediate thought was, “Facebook killer.” But after using it for a few days, I’m not so sure. What about privacy? I'm still investigating.

Most of my techfriends are on Google+. So I've now got the pro version of Facebook that I always wanted, via this new social net.

I don’t see the distractions that normally surround a Facebook session. No games, polls, or distracting photos of food and so on. All that stuff has its place in Facebook, but I sure am enjoying purely technical contents my contacts are sharing in Google+ so far.

It also doesn’t hurt that the invite system was up and down initially. My tech friends stuck it out. Time will tell if this is a techie hangout or just another giant distraction. I like it for now.

Serdar Yegulalp:

There are real obstacles here. One is user stasis and indifference. Why move to Google+ when you already have something that does the job just fine, like Facebook and Twitter?

Even considering its initial pop in growth, Google faces two giant behemoths here. Given the size of those services, Google+ has to get at least 40 times its current user base before it’s a real threat to Facebook -- just by numbers alone.

The other big obstacle is how the services themselves could stymie efforts to allow easy migration or cross-integration among services.

I just finished looking at Start G+, which consolidates Google+, Facebook and Twitter postings into a single console in Google+.

What are the odds Facebook or Twitter block that add-on because it's an alleged violation of their Terms of Service?High. When you're dealing with services that write their own rules and shift their own goalposts around at will, the competition can get very ugly pretty quick.

Eric Finkenbiner:

Just three weeks after its launch, I'm optimistic about the longevity of Google+. I'm an avid Android user, so the tight integration with the rest of the Google ecosystem makes the inclusion of Google+ seamless for me and perhaps the company I manage. Security is still unclear.

Personally, this social service quickly became one of those services that I can't believe I lived without.

Circles or Hangouts, though not new concepts, demonstrate Google's growing ability to implement such concepts in ways that are exciting and natural.

Especially in regards to Circles, G+ benefits from the fact that users get a fresh start. They can segregate their personal networks as they go, rather than performing cleanup. That's what you have to do with Facebook's lists feature.

I like Hangouts, too. My brother and I often chat on the phone for extended periods of time, just exchanging IT war stories, talking about our latest tech, or catching up. Even Skype doesn't feel as natural as just starting a hangout on Google+

Chris Miller:

Everyone is putting such a high bar on the launch. Most any other network would start with a small beta group and ramp up slowly.

Google definitely has made huge improvements over what it did with Buzz.

I think the main (userbase) here will be those who are not heavy Facebook (users) or who want work and (personal contacts) totally separate.

Also add in the fact that the overwhelming majority of Facebook users do not have established groups nor understand its security abilities. It's (too difficult) to go back and make them.

The UI ability in Facebook makes setting up groups more (difficult) than it is with Google+. Here you start with a blank slate -- dragging and dropping (people) into Circles is easy. You can even hover over a name to put (someone in a Circle.) Google+ is just warming up.

BYTE will be covering Google+ closely for you. BYTE's team of editors and contributors is actively testing the service and engaging there.

Based in San Francisco Gina Smith is the editor at BYTE. Follow her @ginasmith888 or email her at [email protected].

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