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What's All The Google Plus Fuss?

Unless you've had your netbook / laptop / iPad / iPhone / Android / desktop PC (do they really still exist?) switched off in the last week or so, you would have noticed many people tweeting and blogging about Google's new social networking project.  Google+ (or Google Plus as there isn't a consistency afaik) is the so called death eater of Facebook, the overnight disease of Twitter and for the recently Microsoft acquired Skype who knows?  If the hype is to believed of course.

With features that take arguably take the best out of the most popular of the existing social networking platforms, it's easy to see why the hype and attention that has been placed upon it.  With any product though, there are benefits to be realised from having the first-mover-advantage.  In the case of Google+, you can just argue they've let other players iron out the market before they've come along with a more succinct approach.  If it wasn't for the Wright brothers we wouldn't be enjoying the A380.  Google's argument is they can provide better privacy through 'Circles' and better connectivity through 'Hangouts'.

So for that argument to hold it assumes that Google+ is firstly a competitor of the likes of Facebook / Twitter / Skype (lets say FbTwSk to save my poor fingers from typing) and that their features are at worst comparable and at best an improvement.  The features don't need to be new.  Biggest mistake number 1 of many entrepreneurs trying to enter a market: nothing needs to be new, it's just needs to be better.

Assuming the features are at least on par, will Google+ be able to take over, or at least leverage the same user base, as FbTwSk?  Well it would be unlikely that any new user to Google+ has no social networking presence at all. It's more likely Google+ will be aimed at existing users of socnet sites offering them an improvement on what they already have.  So this must be where the competition angle starts?

The launch of Google+ was done with restricted signup.  Although a pretty old trick, it was nonetheless pretty cute.  This is just the same as making people queue to get into the boutique shop sale.  It creates a funnel effect which creates a false sense of want, amongst those who cannot get in.  By simply restricting access to something, Google instantly made a marque good, reducing supply to increase price via excess demand.

Those who did have access became the minority.  To amplify their minority status what would be the best way to tell others about being in the minority?  You utilise your existing social network.  So instantly Google leverages it's so called 'competitors' to promote it's own product.  Nice.

"Mark Zuckerberg has joined Google+" was a headline I saw tweeted yesterday and he was the user with the largest number of followers.  A lot of people seemed surprised.  He is the probably the biggest name (I don't mean the 14 chars) in social networking so why wouldn't he have an account on a new social networking site?

I guess there's a few ways of looking at that:
  1. He doesn't join every new social networking site.  There's probably several hundred a day starting up.
  2. It increases brand awareness of both Google and FB.  So mutually beneficial / damaging?
  3. By signing up he keeps his enemies close.  Or at least sees their ammunition
  4. Does it encourage existing FB users to sign up too?
  5. Leverages an interdependence between the two products.  How many real estate agent shops / car dealers do you see working right beside other real estate agent shops / car dealers? 
What does it all mean?  Well Facebook relies heavily on advertising.  Advertising works when you have a large pool of people to aim your adverts at.  Facebook has got a few users signed up by now.  Google is first and foremost a search engine, which relies heavily on advertising.  Advertising works when you have a large pool of people to aim your adverts at.  Google has got a few users signed up by now.  Hmm. 

Both doing the same thing, but coming from different angles.  From a purely business related viewpoint, what Google has done is not that surprising.  They've looked at their existing customers and provided them with a value added service based on what's best in the industry.  No different to say BMW adding in a free generic MP3 adapter.  But do we need another social networking outlet?  Time will tell but you can only improve something so far before it needs reinventing.


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